Use One Word to Transform Your Year

word cloud for year 2015We all have good intentions when we make New Year’s resolutions, but nearly 90 percent of us fail to achieve them. That’s because in our enthusiasm to make positive changes, we take on too much. We simply don’t have enough time, energy, and mental bandwidth to keep up with multiple resolutions in the midst of our hectic, stressful lives. And by February or March, our unsustainable resolutions are ancient history.

That’s why, as another January 1st slips by, Dan Britton, Jimmy Page, and Jon Gordon suggest radically reducing your resolutions—not just to one goal, but to one word.

“This year, choose a single word that will give meaning, focus, and purpose to your life,” says Britton, coauthor along with Page and Gordon of One Word That Will Change Your Life, Expanded Edition (

“No matter how busy or stressed you are, or how many distractions and obligations are fighting for your attention, it’s easy to remember ‘One Word’—and believe it or not, One Word has the power to impact your life so much more than a laundry list of resolutions.”

Britton and Page have been choosing and living by One Word for almost 20 years. Along with Gordon, they have shared the process with numerous audiences, schools, companies, and even professional sports teams, with great success.

“Your One Word represents the essence of what you want to accomplish during the year, but instead of burdening you with a list of tasks to do, it keeps you focused on an overarching concept of how to be,” Gordon explains. “No matter what slings and arrows life throws your way, your One Word can endure and adapt.”

To give you a sense of what the One Word process looks like in action, Page shares that his One Word for the past year has been “Connect.”

connect1“I was increasingly concerned about the pace of life and its potential to rob me of significant relationships,” he explains. “This Word has resulted in better connections with those who are most important to me, more strategic professional connections, a more intimate connection with God, and opportunities to intentionally bring people together.”

“Jon’s One Word for 2014 was ‘Serve,’ which inspired him to approach his work and family with a servant’s heart and to put others’ needs before his own,” Britton adds. “And mine was ‘One.’ Unfortunately, leaders often focus on how many they are impacting instead of on how they are impacting each individual. My Word reminded me that great leaders care about each person and invest in ONE relationship at a time.”

Here, Britton, Page, and Gordon explain how to go about picking your One Word for 2015—and why this trimmed-down New Year’s resolution works so well:

Put some thought into it. It’s not unusual to choose spur-of-the-moment New Year’s resolutions as the ball drops in Times Square. Or maybe you just recycle the same resolutions every year: Lose weight! Save more money! Spend more time with the kids! Whatever your usual strategy is, you need to put a little more thought into your One Word if you want it to “work.”

“Make time for reflection, introspection, meditation, and prayer when considering what you want your One Word to be,” advises Britton. “Think about all the positive changes you’d like to see in your life, bad habits you’d like to break, and goals you have for yourself. Look inward and ask important questions like, What do I need? What do I want? What is in the way? What do I need to focus on? Then see if any common values or themes—or specific Words—bubble up.”

Listen to your intuition. While it’s important to think seriously about your One Word, don’t overthink it, either. The point isn’t to make your One Word impressive or extraordinary; instead, it should be influential and impactful for you. Sometimes, your inner wisdom, not your brain, knows best what that Word should be.

“A few years ago, I absolutely couldn’t decide whether I wanted my One Word to be ‘Surrender’ or ‘Enjoy,'” Gordon shares. “While jumping into the ocean on New Year’s Day, which I do every year, I felt a sharp pain in my knee and had trouble walking out of the surf. I thought to myself, Not a great way to start the year—maybe I’m pushing myself too hard. As I reached the shore, I heard the Word ‘Surrender’ loud and clear. My intuition had spoken, and I listened. I knew it was my Word for that year.”

Figure out what your One Word looks like in real life.
Once you’ve discovered your One Word, consider what it might look like in practice and visualize it impacting your life. Be open-minded and push yourself to think beyond the Word’s obvious definition.

“While you may have intended your One Word to apply to a specific area of your life, chances are, its sphere of positive influence is much wider,” explains Page. “For example, if your Word is ‘Invest,’ it might prompt you not only to be a good steward of your money, but to invest more emotional capital in your family and to invest some time in your professional growth.”

breathe1Create a visual reminder. If you keep your One Word in front of you, it will stay at the forefront of your mind where it can guide your attitude and actions. Your reminder could be as simple as a sticky note on the bathroom mirror or refrigerator, or you could put more time and effort into it.

“Over the years, my coauthors and I have seen people get really creative with depicting their One Words,” says Britton. “Some people have depicted their Word in jewelry. We know of corporate teams who each write their Word on wooden spoons that they take back to their desks. And every New Year’s Eve, my family and I paint our Words on small canvases and hang them on a wall of our home.”

Consider enlisting support. Doing the One Word process with people who care about you can be fun, meaningful, and mutually beneficial. Consider brainstorming and sharing your Word with your family, friends, maybe even your team at work.

“Imagine the impact if everyone in your family or team helped each other live their Words,” Gordon suggests. “My wife, son, daughter, and I share our Words with each other every year. It’s inspiring to see the Word everyone chooses and how it shapes their lives throughout the year.”

Record your Word in action. It’s not a requirement, of course, but Britton, Page, and Gordon suggest keeping a record of how your One Word influences your life throughout the year, perhaps in the form of a journal or blog. Write about how your Word guides your decisions, shifts your priorities, and influences your perspective.

keep-calm1“And at the end of the year, it’s helpful to perform a One Word review,” notes Page. “Consider the past 365 days and ask yourself, How has my life changed because of my One Word? What lessons did it teach me this year? What blessings did it bring into my life? What challenges did it enable me to overcome? Even though I’ve been living by the One Word process for almost two decades, I’m always surprised by how much my Word has impacted my life when I look back on the previous year. And it’s nice to have a record of how my Words have helped me grow, achieve, and learn.”

“So, why not simplify things this year by choosing One Word instead of a laundry list of resolutions?” asks Britton. “One Word sticks. It’s straightforward. It doesn’t leave room for confusion or excuses.”

“And most importantly, One Word gives you meaning and a mission throughout the year,” concludes Page. “It’s easy to make One Word a part of your life—and that Word can change your life.”

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