The new year is nearly upon us, and at this time of year our thoughts often begin to turn to how we could do things differently. For 2016, however, I won't be setting any new year's resolutions. We never really stick to them anyway, do we? We could do, with motivation and effort, but a few weeks into the year and they've usually been quietly swept under the carpet. After all, there's not really any reason why we should be able to do something in January that was impossible for us to do in October. Or November. Or December. You get my point. It's not because it's 2015 that you eat too much sugar. 2016 isn't magically going to cause you to stop eating sugar. You eat too much sugar because you like it, your body has become a bit addicted to it. What month it is on the calendar isn't going to change that.
Instead I have a new plan for next year. I'm going to streamline all my good intentions down to one single word that is going to inspire me throughout the year. One word that if I keep it in my awareness and take it into consideration whenever I have a decision to make, I know is going to reward me. And a word can't be broken after all, can it, so I'm not under any pressure. I'm just allowing myself to be guided towards growth and personal improvement, to becoming a better version of me.
I believe in the ability - the inevitability in fact - of people to change. Our brains are learning all the time. Learning, analysing, making sense, incorporating the new learning, creating new beliefs and thoughts then causing new behaviours. So I'm going to choose one word that is going to help my brain to filter the experiences, opportunities and possibilities of next year to help me be more of who I want to be.
So one word will become my theme for next year... but what is that word going to be?
To discover my word, I wrote down all the things I want to experience more of in my life. I'm not talking about material possessions or money in the bank, as ultimately those are just one means to the end goal of happiness, security and peace. I wouldn't want to have a big house and a million pounds in the bank if I was going to be miserable, insecure and anxious. But if I could have a roof over my head and money to feed my family while being happy, peaceful and safe - that would be ok. Of course, that's just me.
Some of the things I desire more of next year include: spending more time outside experiencing the beauty of nature. That the time I spend with my son is more focussed and creative. That the work I do with my clients goes deeper so that they experience more profound and lasting change. That this ultimately leads to having a bigger impact on the world. That I feel more peaceful in my body, respecting it and acknowledging how amazing it is.
By the time I finished mulling my desires over, I had quite a long list. I took this to my coach, so that she could help me to uncover a theme behind these desires. Together, we came up with the word: "Connection." For me this meant connecting more deeply to others and to myself, creating opportunities to connect with people who could teach me ways to grow as a person, as well as creating opportunities to teach other people how to grow. When the word came out of my mouth, it was a real light bulb moment. I realised I've spent a lot of this year feeling disconnected - spending too much time on social media rather than having face-to-face conversations, lost in my laptop when I could have been focussing on my son. Working for myself can be quite isolating, but I've pushed aside a little voice in my head telling me to run some group workshops or courses, because public speaking makes me feel uncomfortable.
So now I have my word. I'm not expecting it to be easy to live a completely connected life. After all I've not been practicing connection much lately, so I'm going to need to exercise that muscle a little more before it feels natural. But if I keep my focus on the theme and let it guide me in the choices I make each day, then I feel certain that next year is going to be one of my most fulfilling yet.
So why don't you ditch the new year resolution this year, and instead discover your theme for 2016?
How to set your theme for the year
Think about the kind of person you want to become. Imagine yourself already as that person - feel yourself in their body, seeing through their eyes and hearing through their ears.
Ask yourself what does that person do that you're not doing now?
What can they see around them that is different?
Who are they with?
What positive things do they believe about themselves that you don't believe right now?
What's important to them?
What skills or qualities do they possess that you don't think you have right now?
How does it feel to be them - what is that feeling in their body that lets you know they're ok?
As you imagine yourself as that person, ask yourself what words sum up what makes this version of you successful. You can write those words down, or just consider them mentally. Then pick one of those. And remember, you can only pick one - it's a one word theme for the year. If you can't decide between two words, ask yourself, for example: "If I could have balance, without focus, would that be ok?" And spin it around the other way, to see which feels more positive.
Write your theme down somewhere you won't forget it. Stick it on post-it notes on your bathroom mirror. Make an image out of it and set it as your phone screen saver. Consider it whenever you have a decision to make, to let it inspire you and guide you towards that future version of yourself.