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For two weeks now, I have seen posts all over Facebook asking people to choose one word to guide this year and to share it. Strands of eager readers happily wrote their personal word of the year for the whole world to see.
At first, I tried to remember the word I had thought of just days before as I sat in a chair watching my mom wrap Christmas presents.
What was that word? Why can't I think of it? I'm too young to have completely lost my memory, right?
I hoped that by clicking to read what others had written, it would help me to remember. There were lots of brilliant words listed by commentors:
Suddenly, my poor brain started recalling the conversation I had had with myself while sitting in that green chair in my mom's room. Random words started jumping out at me and I strained to make sense of them. I mean, I clearly recalled that I had come up with this one fantastic word that miraculously described everything that I wanted this year to be.
Nope, that's not it. Wait, that's part of it. Come on, Tam! Why can't you think of ONE word? You can recall entire conversations with your therapy clients and you can't think of one word that's supposed to guide your entire year? This is a joke, right?
As my vision for the next year of my life slowly started to come back to me, I had one overarching thought that just lingered:
Tam, you aren't who you used to be. You feel more bitter now. You aren't as optimistic. You're still determined. Oh yes, that stubborn nature hasn't disappeared. But you used to be able to look right in the eyes of the naysayers and not bat an eye. You told them you would prove them wrong, and you did. Now, you're just proving yourself wrong. What happened?”
Yeah, it's totally OK for you to say, “Ouch!” I have actually spent the entire last year of my life feeling the weight of that thought. As the year drew to a close, I wanted to just arch my back and throw it off of me.
However, it wasn't until I faced some other situations and allowed myself to fully feel the misery that I was able to leap to my feet and throw up my tiny, middle finger to the doom that wrapped around me.
For almost two days, I did everything I could to remember that one, perfect word that would guide my life towards happiness and success for the next 365 days.
And for 48 hours, I had tons of wonderful insights. There were so many goals, ideas, and conversations I've had with myself throughout the past year that came to mind. I even recalled some of the words that I had hoped would guide me in years past.
I remembered how Chris Brogan, a popular business blogger, would choose three words to direct his year. I did fine with three words. When did everyone start narrowing it down to one word?
If I couldn't remember what my one word was, how in the world could it change my life? Even in the past when I have written them down- ask me how often to refer back to those one-word lists whenever I needed to make a decision.
That's when it hit me…
Just Because Everyone Else Was Going to Choose One Word for This Year…
It didn't mean that I needed to do it, too.
I'd tried it.
It didn't work for me.
No change in my life plans. In fact, I felt further away from my goals when I did all of these other things that everyone said was the best way to be successful.
Doing What Everyone Else Did Make Me Feel Like a Failure
All at once, everything slid into place. After pouting and wallowing in my feelings of disappointment, trying to figure out why I felt like the most hopeful days of my life were two decades behind me, I knew the answer. I knew what went wrong and what I needed to do differently:
STOP doing what everyone else is doing!
Never, never, EVER in my life had I ever done what everyone else did.
In 2nd grade, I wanted to read a biography. No one else did.
I was overwhelmed learning how to ride a bike and cried! Who else gets stressed out riding a bike? No one. But me.
I cried on the last day of school because I would miss my teachers and couldn't stand the thought of not learning all summer long. I know. It's totally fine for you to have just a tiny bit of vomit in the back of your throat. I get it.
When I left in the middle of my senior year of high school to start college right after Christmas, everyone thought I had lost it. I couldn't wait to jump into a vice grip instead of coasting through the easiest semester of your life.
Over and over, I had met naysayers throughout my life who raised an eyebrow at the faith I was raised in or my decisions to live my life on an accelerated scale. Each time, I instantly didn't care what they thought.
Don't get me wrong, with the exception of two or three, I truly didn't want to be rude to any of them. I kind of enjoyed being the odd person. Truth be told, I savored proving them wrong when I did whatever off-the-wall idea I had. I was happy with my life when I did what no one else did.
I was happy being ME!
Instantly, I lost the urge to come up with one word to guide the new year ahead.
Instead, I had three math equations to guide me. It didn't matter if no one else was doing it. Not ONE word. But THREE math equations. You know, the things that everyone runs from and cries about?
Yup. They are my guiding forces.
These math equations captured how I used to live and make decisions. They made me giddy with excitement. In fact, over a week later, I am still ecstatic about them. I have taken a good chunk of every day to work on those goals that I have been yearning to do for years.
The goals I have set for myself may take much longer than a year to come true. But already, I declare this year a success because I have felt happier and more connected to the me that I thought I had lost 20 years ago. I can sense that surge of optimism and determination surging through my veins. By following these 5 steps to set wildy successful goals, I know that I can and I will do it.
All because I decided NOT to choose one word for the year.
Two roads diverged in a wood and I-
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”