A few years ago, I dropped New Year’s Resolutions and adopted a Word of the Year (WOTY) instead. I wrote about my WOTY in 2015 and 2016. For 2017, I’m all about practice. If previous years are any indication, I expect this word to inform my decisions and actions every day, and to result in positive changes – big and small – by December.
Why “practice?” I’m a perfectionist and goal-oriented (some might say goal-obsessed) person. For decades, these characteristics served me well (or so I thought). I had high standards for myself and others. Clients, family members, supervisors all knew I would deliver high quality results. My motto was “GSD” (“gets stuff done”). Unfortunately, I would GSD regardless of the cost to myself, team members or others around me. Sometimes striving for perfection left me paralyzed and unable to declare something “finished.” I focused so much on the outcome, that I completely missed the joy in the process – or worse, resented the process for getting in the way of the product.
In 2015, I focused on releasing habits, mindsets, physical objects that no longer served me well. I learned to let go – at least a little bit – of the need to be perfect. 2016’s word was “leap” which helped me take imperfect action. 2017 will get me focused on discipline, patience and presence. Repetitive activity with the awareness and intention of an intended goal. Daily habits that bring joy to the process and a fluid ease to achieving the desired result.
Practice is about a subtle – yet powerful – shift in mindset. What are some examples of this mindset shift? For me, one is swimming. Several years ago, I decided to add triathlon to my race calendar. To finish a triathlon, I need to be able to swim 750, 1500 or 1600 meters in open water – preferably with enough energy left to bike and run once out of the water. I tend to obsess over achieving that distance – every time I get in the pool needing to feel like I can do the distance without struggle. Except, I just want to swim the distance – not break down my stroke, practice drills, focus on my kick for some laps, my hip rotation for others. I reinforce struggle and bad habits. I achieve the goal, but it’s not pretty. This year might be different.
For me, practice is a focus on learning rather than finishing. Choosing a goal and applying a steady effort toward it. Slowing down to speed up. Grounded in the present and appreciating that where I am is exactly where I want to be and should be at this moment. Letting go of expectations. No judgment.
I now appreciate that true perfection is not stagnant, but limitless and always expanding. I always have room to grow. My new motto: Always in beta.
What’s your WOTY for 2017?