What’s In A Word?

The season of new year’s resolutions has come and gone. It’s solidly into March and spring is just around the corner. I (Julia) came into 2018 bright with excitement for all of the new tasks on my list, and ready to get to work. I had plans! I had ideas! I had a word of the year all picked out months in advance! Unfortunately, 2018 had other plans for me. Due to a seriously Lemony Snicket style series of unfortunate events, it’s MARCH and I have barely checked a goal off my list.

My type A, recovering perfectionist self is twitching just writing that.

Still, in retrospect, I’m grateful that I chose my 2018 word of the year back in September.

Six months ago, I attended Create + Cultivate Seattle at the Microsoft Campus. It was a day filled with inspiration, idea generation, and the kind of motivation that can only come from being surrounded by hundreds of smart, hardworking, creative, driven women.

One of the booths in the marketplace was Ali Edward’s, where I discovered her One Little Word project. I had heard about the idea before– choosing a word to help yourself stay focused and motivated– but I had never chosen one myself.

After much consideration, I chose the word build. It spoke to where I was in many of my projects and seemed low pressure enough for me.

Having a word, even for just the last few months of 2017 helped me quietly push myself to do somethings I don’t think I would have otherwise. In December, I put on my first pop up shop and had my first successful Christmas season as a small business. I had taken my word build to heart and done some serious growing in both scope and plan (and bravery).

I went into 2018, my word metaphorically clutched in one hand, ready to get sh*t done. However, by the end of January, I had survived three rounds of antibiotic grade flu, and a barrage of mini-roadblocks that no amount of trying harder, working later, or being more positive about made any difference. In short, I hadn’t gotten anything done and I was miserable.

Still, I had my word.

In a time when the usual resolutions (get more sleep! exercise more! drink more water!) had tapered off in favor of more achievable goals (survive until bedtime! get more than five hours of sleep!) having a word got me thinking. Let’s call it creative problem solving, when really, it was more likely my selfish need to not fail at having a word the first time I tried it, but I made my word fit my current state of survival.

Build took on its minor definitions for me during that time, instead of “actively construct” (make new products! design and upload a portfolio! apply to summer markets!) it became the ‘build’ of a crescendo in music, or the ‘build’ of suspense in a story (stockpile ideas! research tiny cottages by the sea! pin every pretty picture of boho chic bedrooms on Pinterest!). Yes, I was forcing my word to work for me in my current situation, but even that small reassurance that I was somehow still on track helped me keep sight of my plan.

Having a word to use as a lens for my life helped me process and reflect on time when it felt like I was just spinning my wheels. Applying my word in different ways helped me see that I was still getting things done, just not the ones I had expected to. It helped me let go of what I thought I should be doing when I felt like I was failing.

As I press on toward spring, I have a new appreciation for the word I chose, as well as the theory behind choosing one. Moreover, while choosing in January is a great way to match up with the spirit of the new year, I’m thankful I didn’t wait to choose mine (let’s be honest, with the January I had, I probably wouldn’t have). Choosing a word can happen the day you decide you want to change something. It can even be today.

I can’t wait to see where build will take me next.