Is it possible to ditch the idea of making resolutions, but still make changes in your life? YES! Learn how to choose one word and see the impact it can make.
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I’ve always loved beginnings. Whether it is the beginning of the calendar year or a school year, the idea of a fresh start has always appealed to me. It’s a time to think about the things in my life I want to change or improve. To look back and look forward.
For many years I would try to make New Year’s resolutions. I say try, because even though I made them, I rarely followed through. I didn’t really have a plan, depending instead on that illusive thing called willpower. I guess you could say that I was more in love with the idea of making changes than actually making the changes.
Being more intentional…
But I’m drawn to the idea of being more intentional with my life. And as I get older one particular verse seems more urgent to me than ever before.
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
The average life-span of a woman in the United States is 81. So let’s do the math:
365 days a year x 81 = 29,565 days. I’m 50 years old and have used up 18,250 of those days, so that leaves me with 11,315 days. Obviously it could be more, or a lot less. Only God knows the days written for us (Psalm 139:16).
Does it put it in perspective, though? To number our days like that? But the idea here isn’t simply to count how many days we may have left, but to make those days count.
And that requires intentionality. It requires discipline.
…by choosing one word.
So I traded in my short-lived resolutions several years ago. Now, I choose one word and set goals filtered through the lens of that word. The idea comes from the book My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word by Mike Ashcraft. Instead of being about resolutions, Ashcraft explains that choosing a word
…provides us with a lens, with a new way of seeing. It’s a tool to train our eyes. It helps us frame the way we process the world around us and what happens to us.
In looking through the lens of a single chosen word, I found a new approach to personal change and spiritual formation—one that is doable, memorable, effective, and sticky.
Choosing My One Word Through the Years
One Word for 2017
2017 was the first time I chose one word. That year I chose the word cultivate. It was an easy decision. The word seemed to confront me wherever I looked—in what I was reading, seeing, and thinking about. At the beginning of that year I didn’t know I was going to start this blog, but God did. And even before I started it, He was planting the seed and ideas that it would grow from.
One Word for 2018
At the end of 2017, I began reading a book by Elisabeth Elliot, Discipline: The Glad Surrender. And once again a word confronted me. Discipline. I’ve always struggled with it. But I love the way Elliot frames it a bit differently. Discipline isn’t about willpower; it is about obedience. She says,
Discipline is the wholehearted yes to the call of God. When I know myself called, summoned, addressed, taken possession of, known, acted upon, I have heard the Master. I put myself gladly, fully, and forever at His disposal, and to whatever He says my answer is yes.
So in 2018 I wanted to say a wholehearted yes to the call of God. To make choices. Choices to obey or disobey. To get up and do the work or to choose comfort. To do the easy things or the hard things. To be intentional with my time or allow distractions to derail my days.
And I saw a lot of growth in that area. But I’m still a work in progress and so…
One Word for 2019
Over the past year I’ve realized that to be disciplined, it helps a lot to get rid of things. My word from 2018 has naturally progressed to another word. So this year I’ve chosen the word declutter. Whether in my heart, home, or life, I’m finding in order to be disciplined it a lot easier when I have less.
Related: How to Be a More Productive Homeschool Mom
How to Choose Your One Word
Would you like to join me? To choose one word for 2019? If you don’t know where to begin, let me encourage you to do the following:
1. Start in prayer.
Ask God what he desires for you to focus on. Seek Him first. And take your time. You don’t have to have all of this figured out on January 1st. Spend the first few weeks of your year in preparation—in looking forward—not in feeling like you are behind.
2. Ask yourself a few questions.
- What do I get excited about doing? How has God designed me? Am I living in that?
- How can I glorify Him right where I am? In the areas He has already placed me in?
- Is there a weakness in my life that is keeping me from doing what He has called me to? Is there a strength that I’m not working within?
- Is God impressing something on my heart and mind?
- Is there something I’ve been reading or studying that inspires me to change or grow?
- What do I want the coming year to look like?
And then after you’ve asked yourself those questions…
3. Dream a little.
Yes, dream. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your life looks like right now. And it doesn’t have to be anything “big”. This isn’t someone else’s dream, it is yours.
Let me give you an example. Are you tired of feeling like your house is always chaotic and you can’t find what you want? Do you shy away from asking people over, but long to have a home filled with family, friendship and laughter? Then dream a little. Picture what you want your home to look like without even buying anything new. And allow yourself to imagine what it would be like to be organized. To be out with friends and not hesitate to say, “Hey, why don’t y’all come on over to my house for a cup of coffee?”
Some people use the term “visualization” for this idea. But for some reason, I don’t really like that word. Maybe because it feels like some mystical way to make things happen. As if seeing something as different and believing it will happen somehow makes it happen.
That isn’t what I’m talking about here. Instead, whatever area of life you are struggling in, take the time to picture what it would look like if you did the hard work to change that reality under God’s direction and through His strength.
Then brainstorm some words that go along with the dream. For our example, the words might be declutter, simplify, or hospitality.
4. Make your choice.
Know there isn’t one “right” word to choose from which you will grow. This isn’t some magical formula. It is simply a tool for transformation. And ultimately that transformation is done by the Holy Spirit.
Pray, be in the Word, and let the Spirit lead you. You will never go wrong with a life focused on Him.
Related: Having Mary’s Heart in Martha’s Homeschool World
An Intentional Year
Yes, this is a new year with new opportunities. I want to invite you to walk alongside me, to decide to be intentional with your new year. But there is more to being intentional than just choosing one word. There are two other tools for this transformation process: setting goals and prayerful planning.
Have you chosen a word for 2019? Share it in the comments below!
I’ve created a FREE printable to help you with every step in the An Intentional Year series—for both you personally and your homeschool.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.
I decided today that my word this year is hope.
Love that, Susan 💛
Thank you so much for sharing this. I only started doing the one word a year thing and I’m glad I did . My word for last year was giving but this year, I have two words. They go together but are oh so important for me right now.
Love that! One word, two, a whole phrase—whatever help us focus on Him 🙂
I haven’t tried choosing a word of the year, but I’m really interested in the Elisabeth Elliot book you mentioned. I haven’t seen it before and love her other writing! I’m just getting started planning for the year, but I may try to think about a word that I can use for inspiration this year. I appreciate your thoughtful questions!
You are so welcome 🙂 It is a thought provoking book!
For me, it is a phrase than a word. This year, I am focusing on what it means to Stand a little taller in life. If I were to narrow it down to one word though, it is cultivation.
Cultivation means to prune, to prepare, to be in the process of growing. That is what I’m focusing on.
Last year when I chose the word cultivate I came across this definition on vocabulary.com:
“To *cultivate is to nurture and help grow. Farmers cultivate crops, fundraising professionals cultivate donors, and celebrities cultivate their images.
When you cultivate something, you work to make it better. Originally, the word referred only to crops that required tilling, but the meaning has widened.
No matter what is being cultivated, the word implies a level of care that is reminiscent of gardening. Sometime friendships come naturally and sometimes you have to cultivate them. To cultivate anything requires an attention to detail, an understanding of what is being cultivated, and a lot of patience.”
That one word year became the inspiration not just this blog, but how I viewed the time of transition I was facing in my life. I hope your year is productive and fruitful too.
I love the word discipline! Last year my word was connection and this year my word is thrive!
Love those words too!
I like these suggestions or guidelines to get someone thinking about their word would be! I chose the word COURAGE for my 2018! This is a fun tradition that I will continue….
I found it so helpful in my own life last year, and have heard so many people say the same!
My word last year was intentional. This year I’ve decided to link that, with Joy. Joy has been only flickering lately, and I need God’s restoration in that!
I love the choice! (Actually both of them.) To choose joy despite circumstances 🙂
This was such an encouraging read! I’ve decided to ditch resolutions this year, so this is a great alternative! I’ll be taking our suggested steps to find out what word the Lord has for me for 2018. Thank you for this!!
Thanks Melissa! I’d love to hear what it is when you decide!
Thank you for this post! I am trying to live a more intentional life, it definitely is a daily decision. The word I chose this year is “focus”. I find I get distracted often, so I want to work on that. Focus on Jesus more, my family, my calling He has given me. Basically everything lol.
You are welcome, Amanda! I understand the need for that word. It is so easy to get distracted in today’s world. Love it!
What a great post! I like your tips on how to go about picking a word for the year. My word for this year is Fearless.
Thanks so much, Jessica 🙂 Love the word Fearless.
My word is HOPE. Hope for health for my loved ones, hope for work for my husband and me, hope for my family and my dad’s alzheimers – and the ultimate hope that only our Lord can and has already provided for us. Hope in the new year ahead.
I am looking forward to your book and living “intentionally” – thank you!
I love your word Katie! Saying a prayer for you all now 🙏🏻