A couple years ago I started pre-defining my years with a single word.
In 2014 my word was Transformational: I wanted to become a different, better person than I was. In 2015 I chose the to Compose my year: I was writing my first book and I was building the life I wanted. So far both terms have accurately described my last two years.
Because I stated how I wanted my upcoming years to be lived, I had a compass for decision making. For example, last year I faced the dilemma of continuing to work with the web design company I was freelancing with or focusing on my book full time. I chose the book. And in retrospect it was an easy choice, a non-decision, really.
Defining your year – or any other period of your life for that matter – is akin to giving your company a guiding mantra. Former Southwest CEO, Herb Kelleher, used the tag line, “The low-fare airline,” to help his company make decisions. Here is an example of how this strategy plays out in an excerpt from Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath:
Tracy from marketing comes into your office and presents survey results indicating that passengers on the long flight from Houston to Las Vegas might enjoy something more substantial to eat than peanuts. She thinks a chicken Caesar salad would be popular. What do you say?
You ask her if adding that chicken salad will help make us the low-fare airline. If not, we’re not serving any chicken salad.
I made the choice to stop working with the design company well before the fork in my road arose. I made the choice when I decided to Compose my year and make finishing my book my top priority.
This year is going to be tough. I have massive decisions on the horizon. I have hardships in sight. I am torn between the path of entrepreneurship and the comfort of a stable income and I know I’m going to struggle with that for a large portion of the upcoming year. I’m not one to follow the rules just because they’re there so you can probably infer from my word what my year will be like.
In 2016 I will Persevere.
Persevere – “Continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.”
I know that sounds bleak, but that’s what I need to keep in mind. This year is going to be tough and I need to prepare myself to not quit before all possible options have been exhausted. Someone once said, “The time to decide retire is not in training camp when the work is at its peak.” I can’t be wavering in the midst of struggle with the option to give up, I’ll quit every time. I have made up my mind that I will persevere.
Goals in 2016
I typically talk about goals around this time as well, but I’m going to set those on my /now page. This is something I’ll periodically update throughout the year so you’ll be able to see what gets crossed off and what gets changed.
I believe everything we do is a reaction to what came previously. In 2015 my goals were all over the place, this year I’ll be paring it down. To help me set these goals, I will focus on a quote from a guy named Dieter Rams (that I discovered through Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less): “Less, but better.”
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If you’ve used this exercise, I’d love to hear about your experience. What one word will define your 2016?