Ditch resolutions and white-knuckling it to break a habit and shift your behaviours. Embracing a theme word is a gentler, kinder, and frankly more effective way to tweak your daily routines. It starts with being willing to look at the various elements of your life. Make small adjustments to add positive habits. Then, push out negative influences and behaviours. And, plan on it taking a year. Yes, a year.
So why a theme word and not a goal?
If chosen wisely and carefully, theme words help us stay focused on our goals and the bigger aspirations of what we want our lives to look like.
Unlike an objective, a resolution, or a goal, theme words work along the lines of a vision board. The right term gives an idea of what you will aspire to with each action, each step, each choice, each decision, etc. After a short time, all these conscious choices and activities will lead you closer to your vision of the lifestyle you want.
Because this one word will influence so many choices, choose carefully, wisely, and not on impulse.
In my experience, the word comes from my gut, and I know it is the right word for my year when both my head and my heart say “uh-huh.”
In the past, I couldn’t imagine identifying a gut instinct or a head-and -heart-in-synch moment. Years later, I can tell you: they exist. And when we listen and are guided by them, our lives get better. Your life will get better.
Choose the right theme word.
When seeking the theme word, term, or mantra, start with words that describe what has been out of reach for the last few years, and yet you continued to work toward it.
For example, consider the word balance. Perhaps you have been seeking to find a rhythm where all your life elements are juggling in synch, with one not disturbing the other’s flow.
Or, consider the word intention. Maybe you have felt your life has been lived on the whims and needs of others. Intention implies thoughtful action, carefully executed and successfully implemented. It also suggests you will make the decision, not someone else.
The word rebuild may be apt because of a significant life shake-up such as a marriage break-up, a bankruptcy, a lost job. In this case, anything that moves you away from rebuilding may not be something that you want to do.
My word this year is replenish. I’ve rebuilt and shored up the foundation of my life, which was rocked due to an accident. I know I can replenish my energy, nurture my relationships, and feed the tangible assets that make life a bit more comfortable. But, only if I focus on that word and use it as my weather-bell.
A theme word helps you decide whether to act.
Common theme words include:
You’ve picked your word, now what?
Act on your theme word.
I wish that choosing the focus word is all that it takes. But, anything worthwhile requires a little effort. Too much effort, and it’s the wrong timing for the term. In these cases, revisit the choose-a-theme-word process and choose a different word as a precursor. Consider it a step toward your main theme word, which you are holding for when you are ready to act on it.
Small, steady steps toward a shared vision, that’s the goal.
Starting today, pause before taking action or making a decision. Look at what you were about to complete, work on, discard whatever it is. Ask yourself:
Will doing the action move you closer toward the intent of your theme word?
Or farther from it?
Prioritize activities that move you closer to the ideal your theme word represents. There will always be must-do’s in life – brushing your teeth, showering daily, eating, cleaning, filing, etc. – don’t allow these to become ALL that you do.
Delay activities that move you away from the intent of the theme word.
Consider not undertaking actions that move you away from your theme word. Ways to do this include delegating the task to another, hiring someone to complete the job, and deciding that completing the activity is unnecessary.
Not feasible right now? That’s okay for the short term. Write down the activity and why you felt the need to act on it, even though it moved you away from your mobilizing word. Keep this in a safe place because we will work on this. Then, fulfil the activity.
Take stock of your day.
Each night, give yourself permission to review your progress. Be honest with yourself and kind. And yes, you can be both.
Just start by answering the following questions in a journal, a notebook, in our download, or under notes on your phone:
- What worked well today?
- What could have worked better today?
- What made it easy to act on my theme word?
- What made it difficult to act on my theme word?
- Could I have responded differently?
Use prose, shorthand, pig Latin, bullet points, whatever way you like to communicate with yourself. This is about you. It is for you.
The steps outlined in this blog will compel you to look at the elements of your life by giving you:
- a direction decided by you;
- a tweak to your decision-making process; and
- a way to observe your days and weeks.
And remember, this is the beginning of a year-long process. These steps don’t need to happen all in one day, one week, or one month. Work on them in the time that your mind and body tells you to. Give yourself gentle nudges to get it done, but don’t try to white-knuckle it.
When you are fully ready, you will be driven to follow the steps. Fear, maybe anxiety, may hold you back a bit, but that is where gentle nudges help.
Download the daily cards as those nudges or find them on our Facebook page at BlogsByJenn.com. They are designed with breathing space and reflection points to help adapt and adopt. Start the cards on a Friday (or the day before you have two consecutive days off).
Because research shows us that setting a resolution or breaking a habit isn’t likely to work. Replacing behaviours with more positive ones does. Starting with a clear vision of where you want to go begins with a theme word. It can take up to a year for a shift to happen, depending upon what the transition is.
For example, suppose the habit you want to replace brings joy or reduces stress. In that case, it will take longer to find a new activity that brings more happiness and reduces more stress. The longer you have lived with the habit, the more you will need to repeat the new action. Knowing this helps to set expectations. It is possible to make positive shifts. Being realistic with yourself will make the process itself enjoyable rather than painful.
To recap: improving your life starts with a theme word. Our 365-Day Reset outlines a series of steps, actions and processes for you to undertake at your own pace to create your better life.
Blogs help outline each step, action and process, and our daily nudge cards will help guide you and keep you on track.
Depending upon your situation, you may want to do the 365-Day Reset with a therapist or a counsellor. I believe every person is better when they can work with a counsellor well-suited to them, but I may be biased. My Dad was a psychiatrist, and after my accident, I had the help of a brilliant neuro-psychiatrist. Many of the steps in the 365-Day Reset are what helped me rebuild the foundation of my life. So, I know as a survivor that this works if you are honest with yourself and you do the work.
The 365-Day Reset is part of The Vitality Project (working name).
Jenn Humphries is an award-winning writer and a public relations executive who has raised the profile of some of Canada’s most successful executives, television personalities, film directors, and medical researchers. During her career, she has launched new technologies, worked on successful Oscar campaigns, publicized films at major festivals worldwide, and brought cutting-edge medical research to the world. Her firm, JC Humphries & Associates, creates content for mass consumption. Her online academy KnowHowNow.ca gets real-world knowledge into the minds and processes of professionals and business owners. BlogsByJenn.com is Jenn’s way of sharing what she has learned through her thirst for knowledge. The 365-Day Reset (part of The Vitality Project (Working title) is a free public service to help others experiencing significant changes in their world.