It’s February, and by now, I’m guessing some of those New Year’s resolutions have gone by the wayside. Every year it’s the same: We make them, we break them, we amend them, we forget about them, and then as we toast to new beginnings, we start the process over.
It was the summer of 2004 when my starter marriage ended. As I sat at my desk changing all my passwords to ensure my ex would no longer have access to my online accounts, I found myself replacing our anniversary date and dog’s name with words like “change,” strong,” and “live.”
Each day as I logged into my accounts, merely typing these new words encouraged me to personify them. And before long, they were no longer just passwords; they represented the way I felt. They had become my touchstones, resonating with me every step of the way. Suddenly I felt alive, strong, and ready to take on major changes.
That is when I first appreciated the power of words. My whole life, I’d heard the expression, “Actions speak louder than words.” But what if words actually spur action? What if instead of resolving to lose weight, you picked a word like “health,” which would guide you toward healthier choices, exercise, wellness, and cleaner living? What if instead of living vicariously through other people’s Facebook feeds, you picked a word like “adventure” to encourage yourself to get out of your shell and explore the world a bit more? What if we ditched resolutions altogether and replaced them with touchstone words to set our intentions with clarity and focus, to guide us through the year?
In 2015, author, entrepreneur, and Guesterly co-founder Rachel Hofstetter did just that. She told me that she selected the word “hustle” as a reminder that, to paraphrase Thomas Edison, "Success is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." She even created her own hashtag. According to Hofstetter, “#yearofhustle was time to do the work, grind out the details, and be proactive day in and day out.” She made a concerted effort to hustle by reaching out to more people, taking more meetings, sharing more on social media, sending more emails, and thinking bigger overall.
“It was a year of doing lots of small, unexceptional things — lots and lots of them. Hustling is not really glamorous,” Hofstetter admits. “But in the end, those small things added up to something: A conversation led to a speech, a tweet led to a meeting, and all those hours building a great software company called Guesterly led to its acquisition from a company I love called Chatbooks.” What a way to end the #yearofhustle!
This year, Hofstetter has chosen to focus her efforts on her new home state of Utah. The #yearofutah will be about immersing herself in and learning more about her new community.
Then there’s Alexa, a director in the financial services industry who was inspired by her roommate to select a word to symbolize her year. I spoke with Alexa, who told me that after determining what virtue she wanted to embrace, she selected the word “magic.” And, according to her, the year was indeed magical. She took an adventurous trip to South America where she met the most incredible people, and even received a dream promotion at work. To keep her touchstone word top of mind, she had it engraved on a My Intent bracelet. At less than $20, she claims it was her best investment of the year. (Clearly, she’s not the only one: According to the site, the jewelry line of wearable meanings got the highly sought-after nod from Oprah and A-listers like Beyonce, Kanye West, and Larry King.)
Agent of Change founder Rachel Goldstein says that the exercise of choosing an annual word “helps her gain clarity in a sometimes foggy world.” Last year, Goldstein’s word was “truth,” which she selected because she needed to “face the truth and rip the Band-Aid off of what was phony.” Goldstein says, “After becoming a mother, I realized the importance of having more genuine relationships in my life to set an example for my newborn son.” Her friend Chris Pan, the entrepreneur behind My Intent, created a necklace with “truth” emblazoned on it, which she sported all year long.
This year, Goldstein will don a necklace with her new word: “focus.” She notes that, as a single mother, she sometimes tends to neglect certain priorities or aspects of her life. “Having a touchstone word like ‘focus’ reminds me to expand my business to the next level of effecting change and opening my heart again to receive love,” she says.
As for me, I’ve chosen two words to get me through 2016: “hustle” and “family.” Every time I’m faced with a decision, it forces me to ask myself questions like, “How can I grow my business?” or “Is this good for my family?” These reminders allow me to guide myself in the areas that are most important to me.
What words will you pick?
Jenny Powers is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.