One Word for a Year

By January 9, 2014Theology & Culture

On the Today Show a few days ago, they were discussing New Year’s Resolutions. Motivational expert Jon Gordon said 9 out of 10 people don’t keep their resolutions. 50% of people fail to keep their resolution even to the end of January. In other words, resolutions don’t work. There may be rare exceptions where people make a change for the new year that sticks, but usually we just end up frustrated with ourselves for our inability to make positive changes in our lives.

Then Gordon started talking about choosing one word for the year. I have had friends tell me they choose a theme for the year, so the idea of choosing one word was not a brand new concept to me. I was, however, really surprised by the language Gordon used to describe the way he selects one word each year. If you would like to watch the original clip from Today, you can find it here.  Jon Gordon also wrote this blog post about it, if you’d like to read more. But, the basic idea is that there is one word out there that is meant for you. This word will help you work on the things you need to improve upon to become the kind of person you hope to be.

Selecting the word follows a three step process. First, you look in – look inside yourself and ask yourself what you need. Second, you look up  – look to God and ask God for your word. Finally, you look out – look at the world and see how this one word will change the way you live.

As I thought through this three-step process, the word “love” came to me immediately. Love. Several years ago while I was processing some difficult stuff, someone told me, “April, you show love and kindness to others, but you usually don’t show any to yourself.” As hard as it is to admit, it’s true. I often give myself very little grace. I’m a perfectionist, which means I nitpick everything about myself that isn’t perfect, which leaves me plenty of things to nitpick.

But, there’s a problem with this. Well, there are several problems with this, but I want to start with one of the main problems lack of self-love has caused for me. When Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest, he answered,

“…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Mark 12:30-31a

There is an intimate connection between the way we show love to others, and the way we show love to ourselves. We often focus on the part about loving others, but if we don’t love ourselves very well, we won’t love our neighbors very well either. Loving our neighbors as we love ourselves means we are constantly learning how to love both ourselves and others. I have noticed in myself that the less loving I am toward myself, the less loving I become towards others. The more harshly I judge myself, the more tempted I am to judge others harshly.

Love. That’s what it comes down to. And for me, this year, I need to be intentional about the way I show love to myself and to others. It’s not really a resolution, but a theme to focus on. And so far, it’s been really challenging, which tells me it is important for me to continue working on. Loving others means being patient, not jumping to conclusions, not having unfair expectations, not setting others up to fail. Loving myself means being patient, not filling myself with negative self-talk, not having unfair expectations, not setting myself up to fail.

It’s tough, but I think this is going to be a really important year for me.

What do you think about the idea of choosing one word for a year? Have you tried this before? Are you going to try it this year? If you are, I’d love it if you would share your word in the comments, and tell me a little bit about why that is the right word for you this year.

About April Fiet

April is a pastor, wife, mom, and lover of words. She finds inspiration under the big Nebraska skies, in the garden, in the yarn aisle, and in the kitchen. Learn more about April here, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Rev Susan Hetrick

    April, Check out Abby of the Arts online. Their online Abbess, Christine Valters Paintner, does a yearly “Give me a word” challenge. She even has a little 12 day retreat exorcize to help your word choose you. [www.abbyofthearts.com] It’s apparently an ancient Christian practice to have a word to meditate on all year!

    • How awesome is that?! Thank you for passing that info along!

  • Mine is “fearless”. No fear, fear *less*, without fear. Because that’s what the perfect love that I’ve been given crowds right out of me. Right out of my life. There’s no room for fear in the face of perfect love.

    So….closely related to yours, I think.

    • I love that word! It’s so powerful and inspiring! I’ll be interested to hear how this “one word” project goes for everyone!

  • Last year my one-word was fortunate. At first I expected it would mainly be a reminder to count my blessings, but it turned out to be more than that. I gave more thought to counting even troubles as part of my good fortune, like this Good News translation of James 1:1-2 “…consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way,” Not that I’m all that good at doing that, but it did open my eyes to new possibilities and the challenged my trust that God was working for my good through every circumstance.

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