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Guiding Words for the New Year

So, 2015 is gonna be kind of a big year in these parts. 🙂

A couple of years ago I saw a post about foregoing New Year’s resolutions and instead choosing “guiding words” for the year. I believe this concept originated with Chris Brogan, who, in any case, has been doing it for a while. Though I can only speak for my own take on the practice, I think of guiding words as a way of articulating intentionality, in terms of attitude as well as action.

Brogan advocates choosing only three words, but when I chose mine in 2013, I picked five, and defined them for myself as follows:

Openness = Being open with and to the world, sharing honestly and generously, and welcoming new ideas, people, and experiences.

Love = Being a loving person, letting love and compassion for self and others guide my actions.

Follow-through = Completing what I start, following through on commitments made to myself and others, while honoring time’s fleetingness.

Gratitude = Wanting what I have, expressing thanks for the gifts of my life, and keeping joys and challenges in perspective.

Sparkle = Living a life filled with wonder, adventure, and beauty, shining light on the world and seeing how the world shines back.

I wrote longer descriptions for myself, connecting each word to more specific aspirations. I still like these words, yet, looking back, they’re a bit lofty. Maybe that’s why I didn’t create a list of words in 2014—and why three might in fact be a better number.

It’s tough to choose. I considered “change” or “embracing change,” since there will be some profound changes in my life this year. “Health” or “wellness,” to remind me to take care of myself and others in the midst of that change. “Calm” seemed relevant, as a likely much-needed mantra!

I narrowed it to five: Flow, Discipline, Creativity, Health, Love. Then I thought of three more possibilities: Write, Art, Practice. Brogan makes the point that it’s ideal to choose something that will cue you to act toward your goals, which makes sense (and that’s why “practice” comes in, as it makes me think both of keeping up a daily writing practice as well as re-committing to yoga). But if guiding words are simply shorthand for a single specific goal, why not just state the goal?

I’m still pondering and may yet change my mind, but if I have to go with three, the three that keep sifting to the top are Flow, Discipline, and Love. “Creativity” will still play a big role in my world, I feel sure, but both “Flow” and “Discipline” address creative acts in a more deliberate way.

The three words that resonate for me in 2015:

Flow = Keeping calm and open in the face of change; creating open space in home, heart, and mind to allow me to move freely with the rhythms of each day, to allow change to move through me; slowing down and taking time to breathe; moving and stretching my body in yoga, dancing, running; moving forward; going with the “flow.”

Discipline = Discipline of mind and body; writing daily, making exercise a regular practice; eating healthfully while still enjoying the pleasures of good food and drink; spending money carefully and thoughtfully; using my time well, prioritizing my commitments.

Love = Performing loving acts for others; responding to others from a place of compassion; “turning toward” my partner and others I love; taking care with and of myself as act of self-love; committing to acting with love, understanding that “love” is more action verb than feeling; sharing stories of love in a world that needs to be reminded of the goodness in us all.

That last piece is one of the major inspirations behind Forty-Something First Time Bride, the blog. This world-wide-web often seems a whirlwind of anger, fear, and bad news. We can all use a few more smiles, a good old-fashioned love story—and at least the occasional happy ending/beginning.

Hope your New Year is just that!


Do you choose guiding words? What words will guide you in 2015?

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