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Word of the Year

December 20, 2017 - Stacey Sacco
So many people have completely forfeited the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. They know that “I want to lose weight” means they will join a gym in January and then try to fit in a whole year’s worth of exercise in the week between Christmas and New Year twelve months later in order to come close to achieving their goal weight. Or maybe it’s “spend more time with family,” but having no idea what on earth we will do with those extra Friday nights when everyone really just want to relax in front of the TV.

Sometimes we just give up. It doesn’t work anyway so why bother? While it’s tempting for me to fall solidly in this camp, I love the idea of having goals. I need to be working toward something, to feel a forward momentum in my life. Feeling stagnant and stale is a sure way to trigger negative thoughts and withdraw for me. I need to be engaged in my own inner life to be engaged with anyone else.

This time last year, I read a blog post about foregoing “resolutions” in favor of a word of the year. This would be a single word to base my decisions on during the following year. While it is not a specific goal, it is a spirit to embody.

A year ago, there were a lot of things in chaos in my life. My mom had recently died. My kids had just switched from homeschooling to private school. I had started a part time job after being a stay at home mom for ten years. I often felt disoriented and confused about my own life. As Type A as this sounds, my word for 2017 was CONTROL.

It was to remind myself that there are things in my life that I can control and taking responsibility for those things will make my life infinitely better. I am in control of my beliefs, thoughts, emotions, reactions, exercise, diet, free time and schedule. While we all learn quickly that we can rarely control other people or our circumstances, we have autonomy over ourselves. If we don’t, it’s because we have ceded it to someone or something else. We made a choice to let someone else be in control. That is not what I want for my life and my legacy. I want to be live my life and not just let it happen to me.

So in pursuit of control, I made hard choices. I spent a lot of time thinking about what things matter to me and deserve my time and which things are worthy, but are not MY THING. I can’t do it all and making the choice to release control in some area means that someone else can step up and use their gifts.

I also looked at the things in which I have no control. I can not control other people. And instead of spending my time and energy wishing and coercing people to change, I have to accept the things that I have no control over. Sometimes it means just accepting things I don’t love but can’t change. Sometimes it means choosing to eliminate things from my life because it is too toxic. Either way, I’m releasing my poor attempt at control over other people and asserting control over myself.

For 2018, I have chosen the word ORIENTED. When I hear this word, I think of a compass. That is what I want to be. The compass that remembers north. I want to be focused on the things that are important and not constantly distracted by the next shiny thing. This will involve goals (possibly remnant of New Year’s resolutions?) and achieving them, but it will also mean honoring my priorities through the control I’ve just spent a year cultivating. This seems like a natural progression in living the intentional life I desire.

I’m also hoping this word will remind me to let go of the small, unimportant things and remain focused on the most important. In a home of six people, it’s easy to get sucked into always focusing on small details and the minutiae of everyday life. Dishes, laundry, ballet class, dinner prep, clean toilets- all thing that need done. All things that do not warrant panic and stress. They have their place, which is not primary.

I want to remain fixed on the important and not spend my time and energy (and mental health) being distracted by repetitive tasks. Putting those things on auto-pilot so I don’t spend time thinking about them will be a priority. Then my mental focus can go toward nurturing the kid’s interests, my own passions, my relationships and my community. What I WANT to be a priority should actually have control of my time, not just the scraps that may be left after the chores of family drudgery are complete.

Having a word to focus on during the year means I will never say I’ve forgotten about my resolution and totally failed. It ensure success because anytime I think of it, I can adjust my actions to match it. If I forget about it for a few weeks, I can pick back up where I left off. It’s not one specific behavior to change and berate myself next December if I didn’t do it. It’s a shift in priorities. It’s the change I need at the moment. It may mean one thing to me in January and another thing in October. Yet it still gives me a way to measure progress. Am I oriented to what I want my life to be like? Am I on the right track? Do I have a goal I’m working toward? For any decision I have to make, it gives me a bar by which to measure it.


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