Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Word of the Year

A few years ago I was introduced to a concept on Lisa Call's blog. It made some sense to me so I tried it and was pleased by the results. I now use the last two weeks of each year to decide on my approach for the following year. Last December I wrote a class profile (script and music) about the concept for the Indoor Cycling Association. It was well-received and I enjoyed teaching it. While I might not offer similar advice to someone outside of class I feel comfortable doing so for the people with whom I have created meaningful relationships. I taught it again last Saturday to a group who weren't in classes at this time last year.

The concept is described in my intro and extro remarks, drawn from the script. The actual cycling work is related and gives me the opportunity to suggest about forty words by embedding them in my script. My actual delivery is more relaxed than this but the scripts need to be more formal.

During warm-up:
There is something about this time of year - with the lengthening days and the opportunity to turn the page on our calendars - that inspires people to make changes in their lives. In the Western world this often takes the form of New Year’s resolutions. You know what I am talking about - “I will quit smoking.” “I will spend more time with my family.” “I will lose weight.”
Studies show that about 50% of Americans set some sort of New Year’s resolution. Unfortunately about 88% of them fail to complete their resolutions. Why is that? There are many reasons and most of you can probably identify one of the major problems with the resolutions I quoted earlier. Most resolutions are vague. There are no clearly stated and achievable goals and very few people go on to create a plan which will help them achieve what they desire. On the other hand, I find that resolutions are problematic because they are so specific. They are not structured so that the success, if you have any, on one resolution can leak into and influence other areas of your life. 
You are faced with an uncountable number of choices each day. Some of those are consequential, some less so. What if you had a guiding principle for those choices? Would it help you become more aware of your path through life and how each little thing you do either removes or installs obstacles on that path?
I want to introduce you to another way to approach the New Year. This was made popular by business coach Christine Kane starting in 2006. She suggests choosing one word which will guide your actions throughout the year. Each time you are faced with a choice you invoke your word and evaluate your decisions in the context of the word. Any word will work if it is right for you. It can be a noun, verb, adjective or adverb. (Note: This link contains a long list of suggested words.) 

During cooldown: 
The experts tell us that one of the reasons that people fail to execute their New Year’s resolutions is that the format of the resolutions is not conducive to forming a habit. In contrast, after a year spent evaluating your choices in the context of a single word you will have formed a habit. When you choose a new word the following year you will be adding a new habit but not losing the previous one. Your decision-making will become more refined and your goals more attainable. 
As I said earlier, the words I used today are just suggestions. I used words which had a direct application to indoor and outdoor cycling because that’s where your experience and mine intersect. You may want to choose something which is more relevant to another aspect of your life or which you judge will be more useful to you. You might also want to choose a phrase; it is your life so you get to make the rules. 
If this approach appeals to you and you would like some help choosing your word Christine Kane has a worksheet which can guide you through the process. You don’t have to use the worksheet because there are no rights and wrongs to this process. If you choose something that doesn’t work you can always choose again. Christine Kane recommends that you reveal your word to one or two of your closest friends. As you discuss choices with them they will be able to remind you to use your word. That will increase the chance that you will form a robust new habit.

This November I realized that my word had changed in mid-year, around the time of my cancer diagnosis. It wasn't a conscious choice on my part but in hindsight the change was very clear. On reflection, I have decided to formally adopt that word for 2015. It certainly served me well over the last few months. I look forward to creating an even stronger habit in the next year.

Time = 1 hr, 43 min

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