Anyone who is a bookworm knows that words have power. Words matter, and the words we choose to let into our lives can make such a difference in how we see the world. For the last two years, I’ve chosen a single word to serve as a guidepost and a lens for the year and I’m really excited to be doing it again this year.
Coming up with my One Little Word of 2016 was quite a process. For the last two years my words (“curate” in 2014 and “nurture” in 2015) came relatively easily. I’ve had mixed success with each word, but they at least felt solid and right when the year began and I don’t regret having chosen either one. They’re still on my mind going into this year.
I suspect a bit of my uncertainty in settling on a word for 2016 has to go with some general uncertainty in my life. It’s hard to decide what kind of word you want to serve as a guidepost when you’re not quite sure which direction life will be headed in the next year or two or three. I went into this process with a long list of options. Whenever a word popped into my head, I wrote it down and tried to see what stuck.
One word I came back around to a few times was the word “change.” It seemed like maybe I needed to think about changing things up. But after I thought about it for awhile, I realized that “change” was really a word of 2015, not necessarily my word of 2016.
I’m relatively good at adapting to change. I don’t love when life throws curve balls, but I’m pretty good at managing them. I did a lot of that in 2015, especially at work. New processes, new programs and new people on the job were the biggest adaptations of my year and I’m coming into 2016 better for all of them. I’m also decent at changing when there’s something in my life that obviously isn’t working. I can throw things out altogether when it’s clear something has stopped being useful, which I also did quite a bit of in 2014 and 2015. Not everyone can do this, and I’m grateful that I still have the flexibility and creativity to look at problems and be open to solutions.
What I’m not so great at is making change when things are going smoothly. I’m deeply risk averse (thanks, perfectionism), and so when something is merely ok or just fine, I loathe to blow it up – or even tinker too much around the edges – in order to explore something new and potentially better. I’ve gotten by this way for a long time because life had a bunch of those inevitable quakes that shake things up and force change. But I don’t really have that anymore and I’m feeling a little adrift. Life is pretty good right now, but ever since I got back from Europe I’ve had this feeling of… what’s next?
2016 is the year I’m going to turn 30. I want to be zen about this, but I’m also deeply, irrationally anxious. Not because I’m getting older, but because 30 feels like the time when life starts to settle… the way you are is the way you are, meaningful change is impossible, risks become inherently more, well, risky. Admittedly, I know that’s not fair and not even close to being true… so please, no need to pop into the comments and tell me how totally wrong I am about this, I know already! But nonetheless, it’s the little game of mental gymnastics I’m playing with myself as the calendar turns over.
So, what does this all mean? I don’t think 2016 is going to be a year of major changes or upheavals. I don’t need to make a 180 degree turn, but I do think I need to start a slow, deliberate pivot. I want 2016 to be a year where I start to figure out what comes next. What do I want to be working towards? How am I going to get there? What to I want my life to look like 10, 20 or 30 years down the road?
And, even more importantly, I want to be open to whatever possibilities emerge as I think through these big, intimidating, necessary and wonderful questions.
There’s a lot more to the word “open” than that. I want to approach my relationships with an open heart. I want to live wholeheartedly. I want to be less cynical and gossip less. I want to be open to finding new stories and new ways of telling stories. I want to be honest and continue to work on communicating frankly with people. I want to be brave and be bold. I want to be be open to all of the good things I already have and the good things that I know are yet to come.
So, that’s the meandering story of how I finally landed on “open” for my One Little Word in 2016.
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru
I want to suggest two sources if you are considering doing a One Little Word for 2016. For the last two years, I’ve signed up for Ali Edward’s One Little Word workshop ($31 for 12 months of workshops – when I commit and complete the assignments, I see results). I also used Susannah Conway’s (free) Find Your Word 2016 email class to help me settle on my word. If you’re having trouble settling on a word, as I was, this would be very helpful.