When it comes to the New Year, so many of us are thrilled. There's a chance to "start over", to "begin again". Then, others of us dread either the end of last year, or thinking about what's ahead for this year. Perhaps you are anticipating a major change this coming season... or you just came out of a really difficult transition and you're left picking up the pieces. Whatever is going on for you right now I'm sure, like myself, you feel you could use a little "focus" in this first month of the year!
Enter my favorite alternative to a set of "resolutions", which are easily neglected and emotionally driven.
The focus word.
Choosing a word for the year is a "popular" thing right now, but I believe it comes from a generation of people realizing that their resolutions just didn't really work out too well. Most of those resolutions became dusty up on a shelf somewhere by mid-March, at best. In contrast, choosing a word as a focus for the year can help to slow you down and bring things into perspective.
Here are my top 3 tips for choosing a word in as your focus this year. When you're finished, there's a free tool below to download as well! Enjoy.
1. Prayer and reflection
Begin by setting aside some time, perhaps a half-hour to begin with, and quiet your mind while you pray and ask the Lord to give you clarity and a moment free from distraction. Grab your journal or just a sheet of paper and reflect on the year that just closed out.
- What were 1 or 2 really big highlights?
- Now think of 1 or 2 really big struggles.
- What worked well for you in your spiritual life? How about relationally with a spouse or friends? Now think what worked for you in your job or ministry?
- Finally, what are some areas you see as needing improvement in those parts of your life?
- Pray over these things and ask the Lord to help you narrow them down so you can understand what He is asking you to work towards in this new year.
2. Evaluate and choose
This portion might take another block of time as you process all that you just went over. Perhaps it would be good to come back to this next step tomorrow, or this weekend. You decide.
- Begin with prayer again as you come back to focus on what the Lord is asking of you in this new year.
- Remember and look back on what you recorded during your first time of prayer and reflection.
- See if you can narrow things down to a few common themes or topics.
- Evaluate those themes and determine if there is a word or phrase that pops up for you. Prayerfully consider what the Lord might be directing you towards.
- Once I see a word or two surface in my mind, I like to look those words up on thesaurus.com or something similar to find synonyms and see if something really jumps out at me.
- Now it's time to choose the one word you can use as your focus this year. Don't rush this process! It's worth your time and consideration.
3. Share it! Create some accountability
Yes, a big reason New Year's resolutions never come to fruition is because there is a distinct lack of accountability. Scripture teaches us that our hearts are incredible fickle and will deceive us if we're not alert (Jeremiah 17:9). We were created for community and accountability and need to help one another grow in these areas.
- Prayerfully consider who can keep you accountable with this focus, this word for the year.
- Boldly ask if THEY have a word and invite them into the process as well! Iron sharpens iron!
Those are some of the steps that I went through to discover my word for this year. The Lord was pretty clear on what He wanted me to do and how He wanted me to direct my thinking. And in saying that, I invite accountability here for myself! This is my word for the year:
Will you join me in this new year to ask the Lord for clarity and focus? We only have ONE life and my desire is to encourage you to live it to the fullest, always growing, always learning more about the One who has created you with purpose and immeasurable worth.
Want some help with this? I've created a FREE TOOL for you to use as you work through this process! Download it today and get started!