Many people are now starting each new year with one word instead of a slew of resolutions.

The idea – which I first saw expressed in the 2012 book One Word That Will Change Your Life by Dan Britton, Jimmy Page and Jon Gordon – is to find a single word to be your lighthouse for the coming year. You then, of course, have to keep it in mind for 365 days and check progress, but it’s broader than a resolution and, as consultant Alli Polin suggested recently, provides less pressure.

“A few times over the past decade, I’ve picked a word to set the tone for the year ahead. I’m not going to lie and say that it guided my every move, but it did serve as a reminder for who I want to be and how I want to live my life,” she says. For the coming year, it’s flow – a state she wants to attain frequently.


If you want to join the one-word brigade, she recommends:

  • Think about what you want more of in your life.
  • Consider what you’re resisting.
  • Who do you need to be?
  • Don’t stress that you need to get it right. Whichever word resonates with you at this moment is the right one.
  • If the word you land on doesn’t work for you in practice, change it.
  • You can have more than one word, if you wish.

“Let yourself go from the pressure to pick the perfect word, and one will emerge. You’ll see,” she promises.

An alternative to a resolution – or word – for a year is to just make a commitment for the first week of January. Leadership coach Dan Rockwell says forget about radical change – make one small change for five days. That small change should involve about a five-minute commitment of time. “Don’t commit to doing something for a year if you haven’t done it for a week,” he says.

Also on a “one” theme is consultant Mike Kerr, who says you should ask:

  • What is one thing this coming year, just one, I need to start doing?
  • What is one thing I need to keep doing?
  • What is one thing, just one, I need to stop doing?
  • What is one thing I need to accept or learn to live with?

That can be done now or early in the New Year. And it can be carried out with your team, to kick off the year right as a group.

Impact coach Katie Sandler offered some other vital questions on Fast Company that, rather than looking at 2020, look back at 2019 – a yearly review to help you move ahead intelligently:

  • What were three to four highs and three to four lows? She says this is where you start taking inventory and building awareness.
  • What enabled or motivated you to reach those highs? How did you successfully move through the lows?
  • What worked and didn’t work? That points to what you need to do more or less of.
  • What stressed you out the most, and how could you navigate it better?
  • What were you most grateful for in 2019, and how can you take that into 2020?

She suggests that the last question is the most important one. But also important is her advice to leave space for the unknown in your planning for next year. “It’s okay to move into 2020 not knowing the answer to everything,” she declares.


  • New goals don’t deliver new results, advises blogger James Clear. New lifestyles do. And he stresses a lifestyle is not an outcome but a process. All of your energy should, therefore, go into building better habits rather than chasing better results.
  • Consultant Kelli Wingo takes a near/far approach to achieving goals. She reminds herself of her far-off vision every day with a stylized, word-based “vision board” – the first thing she sees when she sits up in bed in the morning. But rather than getting consumed with the immensity of that journey, she tries to focus on near-term, tangible steps to bring the vision to life.
  • When you find yourself using the word can’t, consultant John Linkner says you may be foolishly limiting yourself. Following the advice of researcher Carol Dweck, he suggests that instead of saying “I can’t write” to indicate difficulties in that sphere, add the word yet: “I’m not a good writer yet.” Similarly, when saying “I have to” (do something disagreeable) substitute “I get to” (do whatever it is and gain from the opportunity).
  • “Courage doesn’t always roar,” writes author and trainer Mary Anne Radmacher. “Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, (whispering), ‘I will try again tomorrow.’ ”

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Aaron Fransen, CFP®, CHS profile photo
Aaron Fransen, CFP®, CHS
Fransen Financial Inc.
Office : 604-531-0022