It’s that time of year again when you ask yourself:
How will I make this the best year ever?
You look back on what went well last year, and what didn’t go so well.
On the whole, 2019 turned out to be a good year for me. I published a book, started a rigorous fitness routine, and landed a new job. But this wasn’t by chance. I’m convinced my 3 words for 2019 played a key role in my success.
As the originator of this exercise, Chris Brogan points out that:
Words are software for the mind. They serve as signposts for your actions.Chris Brogan, author
Viewed this way, words are more powerful than New Year’s resolutions, simply because they let you focus on your day-to-day behaviour over simple outcomes.
Your words hold the key to your full potential. But how do you go about choosing them? How do you know they’re the “right” words? And what mistakes should you avoid?
How to choose 3 words
I’ve been doing this exercise for the past eight years. If you’re new to this approach, check out Chris Brogan’s instructions here (he introduced me to the concept) or follow my guidelines below:
- Pick three values you wish to live by.
I like to consult James Clear’s list of core values as a reference. Think about what values matter most to you.
- Find verbs that help you live out your core values.
Core values become empty holes, unless you fill them with day-to-day behaviour. In my experience, verbs are the most powerful words because they help you focus on an action rather than an end result.
- Write down your words.
Make your words visible throughout the year: keep them handy on your phone, your journal (if you keep one), and at your office, etc.
Important: Choose 3 words (not 4 or 5) that will serve as your guideposts for the year ahead. The simpler the word, the more powerful it is.
(Sidenote: In 2015, I tried to be smart and chose “Kaizen” as one of my three words, when “small” would have been a better option. Kaizen is a Japanese practice of taking small steps.)
Want to see a few examples?
Previous 3 words from me
Feel free to steal any of these words for your own benefit.
2012: Listen. Act. Inspire.
2013: Live. Learn. Do.
2014: Dream. Create. Explore.
2015: Wellbeing. Kaizen. Leadership.
2016: Start. Observe. Adapt.
2017: Growth. Self-respect. Contribution.
2018: Simplicity. Primility. Creativity.
2019: Jump. Improvise. Recharge.
And here are my 3 words for 2020…
My 3 words for 2020
It took awhile for me to reach these words. They’re simple, but powerful reminders that will serve me well over the coming year. I hope.
Kids ask questions all the time. They know the power behind a curious mind. If they don’t ask, they’ll never know.
Questions also form the basis of modern science. As adults, we must learn to question old assumptions, beliefs, and past knowledge. There is so much we don’t know!
Bottom line: It takes courage to ask questions. To look vulnerable in front of others. To admit you don’t know something.
My first word Ask calls me to be more brave. It awakens my inner child and helps me remain curious and humble.
This word serves a few purposes for me. Years from working behind a screen have revealed a need to connect with people in person and build relationships.
Build is also a reminder that the results of work I do each day may not be evident each week, month, or even year. In fact, it may be years before I enjoy what I am building today.
This is, in particular, true when it comes to building new habits. For example, my meditation habit has been years in the making; I first wrote about it in 2016. The same goes for my newly published book. That’s the result of writing regularly over a period of several years.
In short, building takes time, energy, and above all commitment. It teaches me patience and the ability to trust the process. What we build now and in 2020 will have an impact for years, or even decades. But the hard, slow work to build it, happens every day.
I stumbled upon this great word as I was reading Matthew Walker’s critically acclaimed book Why We Sleep.
Professor Walker is a researcher who’s fighting against today’s sleep-deprived society, where we celebrate burning the candle at both ends. He has convinced me to join the sleep revolution.
But why do we spend nearly one third of our lives asleep? It turns out that sleep boosts our immune system, relieves stress, and helps us learn, among other things. Put simply: without sleep, we die.
If you’re looking for one “magic pill” that will supercharge your health this year, look no further: get more sleep. Period. (No sleeping pills required.)
Sleep will be my signpost for resting, relaxing, and letting some things take care of themselves. I will allow myself to “sleep on it” because I know that I have a tendency to overthink things. To worry in vein.
Sleep will be my medicine this year; it will give me the energy and clarity I need to move forward. It’s going to be a busy one.
Indeed, it was after a good night’s sleep that my brain made the connection…
You’re getting some “ABS” this year:
I like it when my words work together like that 😉
Your turn: what are YOUR 3 words for 2020?
Sharing this exercise makes it a million times more fun. 🙂
So, drop by the comment section and share your words for the year ahead.
I look forward to seeing yours!
A favour to ask
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