The Best Word For It

Around the time this edition is published, most readers will have surrendered to the bacchanalian overindulgence that marks the silly season, letting keto, paleo and possibly even vegan disciplines slide and having that ‘just the one’ glass of champagne — every night. As they reach for just another canapé, their guilt is assuaged by reassuring nonsense conjured up by their ego: “It’s rude not to”, or “you only live once”, or “I don’t want to be boring”, and of course the real kicker, “I’ll deal with it in the new year”.

But with research proving that the vast majority of change efforts fail (consider yo-yo dieting as a case in point), it’s time to consider that the casting of New Year resolutions is not only unhelpful but the problem itself. In other words, if you don’t want to still be a fat boozer this time next year, read on.

Resolutions are usually stated in a success/failure, goal- setting way – get a new job, lose 10kgs, stop smoking. Dull and uninspirational. While they are to the point, they miss the point. They assume that once that goal is achieved, it will leave room for this incredible life to appear. But what if the reverse occurred?

What if you focused on a different way of being, that then impacted positively on your relationship to your health, lifestyle, work or whatever the original goal was?

I have a practice developed after years of unachieved resolutions. It’s to choose a ‘word of the year’ to anchor the year ahead, in a way that leaves plenty of room for the universe to conspire and expand what is possible. In 2012, after leaving a frankly exhausting career, I had a long list of resolutions that I had to tick off — the ‘lose weight, take up yoga, stop drinking’ variety. But it occurred to me that not only was this nothing new, but it was totally boring and ordinary, when I wanted a life that was anything but. What was I hoping for after I achieved all this? Probably a better version of my current life and that seemed a bit limiting. What if I couldn’t actually imagine how life might be?

So I decided that I would go for one word as a theme and leave myself open to possibility. That word was ‘play’. I wanted to play more and ignore tight binary constructs like ‘work/life balance’ to see what would happen. Eight different years and words later (they include ‘gender’, ‘flourish’, ‘teamwork’, ‘collaboration’), I now run a practice called Play that seems to have scooped up all my previous words into one beautiful experience.

My word for 2020 bubbled up when I was meditating recently. It’s ‘movement’. This has many connotations for me. Not only about physical movement but also the effort I put into the movements I am committed to creating and contributing to. A colleague has the word ‘global’ pulling her, and we are excited to see what happens when she breathes life into that word.

Another started with ‘plastic-free’  but soon realised this was a worthy, even boring, goal orientation. A few days later, the word ‘green’ presented itself, and she realised it was her life philosophy calling her in, and calling her out. It’s time for her not only to live more gently on the earth and be more connected to nature, but also be open about securing a role that supports a sustainable planet.

Many people angst over not knowing what they want to DO next, but don’t realise that their thinking process will not reveal anything interesting, as it’s limited by past experiences. What would be more helpful is a fundamental shift so they could experience life differently. And it’s precisely from this new experience, a new idea might emerge.

So if you want to play, don’t overthink your word. This is a creative process, not a linear, rational one. Let the word come from a deeper place within you. Throw a direction out to the ether and see what comes back over the following few weeks. Be curious, calm and creative. When the right words appear you will sense or feel excited, or even at peace with it. Words like ‘balance’ and ‘family’ are good starter words, but in a couple of years, you’ll see this is kind of bread and butter stuff versus the real deal. A special word for the year might not change your life radically in the first 12 months, but it will at least make you a hell of a lot more interesting to talk to next December when someone asks, “how has your year been?”

This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of The Hobson Magazine.