How often do you start the New Year with optimistic resolutions, which you never see through, despite good intentions?
As medics, we are used to setting ourselves SMART goals and objectives. These work for the purposes of appraisal. They commit us to something specific that we can evidence to others.
Last year, I discovered a different way to think about what you want for the year ahead. A way that is flexible, creative and fun. And that works!
In his blog, Dr Jason Fox describes this as rewording yourself. He suggests choosing one word that encapsulates everything that you want for the year ahead.
This word can be something abstract like joy or balance, something active like create or connect, or an archetype like warrior or tiger whose qualities you want to emulate for the year.
It is important that this word applies to more than one dimension of your life. For example, if I chose the word “Tiger”, I would want to bring all the qualities of a tiger, such as power, self-confidence and elegance, to the different parts of my life. This might mean that I choose more elegant clothes when shopping or going out or that I choose activities that build my self-confidence and hence my presence.
So looking at Dr Fox’s grouping of word choice further, abstract words could also include words such as courage, lean, and mindful.
With these, you need to be clear as to how you will relate to them in everyday life. For example, will they help guide your choices? Such that if your word was courage, you would consciously think “This takes me out of my comfort zone. Doing this will be courageous, therefore I will take on this challenge.”
Or, if you chose “lean” you could intend this to be reflective of losing some weight, getting fit and perhaps being more efficient with your time and spending time with the people you really want to be spending it with.
Active words, which include verbs like unleash, refresh, renovate and build, can also be powerful.
Again, these work well if you can relate the word to more than one aspect in your life. For example, you could choose “Do” and this could mean that you aim to be proactive and opportunistic, and give things a go; it could mean you are more efficient and do your tasks as you go along; or it could mean that you finally get fit, something you have promised yourself every year.
Choosing an archetypal word is to capture the qualities conjured up by that image or a role, like tiger, hero or warrior. You perhaps already identify with being a warrior or hero who is battling on in an NHS at breaking point, and who will hopefully emerge victorious, but what other qualities do these words reflect and how could they be applied to other areas in your life?
# My 3 Words
Some like business strategist, Chris Brogan, who has promoted the # My 3 Words concept, feel that one word alone may be too simplistic. Three somehow works better. Any more than that becomes too vague.
I too prefer the 3 words.
Last year (2016), my 3 words were Hope, Calm & Connection.
Hope in believing that I could and would recover. Hope that I could find alternative paths. And hope that I could extend this to others in the same boat.
Calm from my anxiety, stress and self-battering. Calm as a concept to guide my choices over the year.
Connection (and re-connection) with myself, my values and the person that I aspired to be and still want to be. Connection and re-connection with friends and family. Connection with new people: within my community and on social media. Connection with new opportunities.
As you can see, none of these had any hard outcomes attached, so I was not setting myself up to fail. I had fun and can look back positively at what progress I made on all three. And slowly re-build my wall of achievement.
For me, this concept brings you back to thinking about your values. It is all too easy to lose sight of these when we work hard in jobs that demand so much of us at every level, and when we perhaps don’t get any respite at home either. We can lose who we are, who we want to be and how we want to live our lives.
Perhaps starting the year with 3 words, might be an alternative, fun and flexible way to help us make positive choices in the year ahead and minimise our risk of getting lost and burnt-out like I was this time last year.
So, what are your 3 words for 2017?