4 Words I’m Using to Guide and Define My Next Chapter
I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions.
Those of you who know me well, know that I firmly believe that if something is worth resolving to do, it’s worth doing now – not at some predetermined date in the future or tied to an arbitrary point on the calendar.
But I do believe in planning and usually at some point in the fall my mind starts drifting toward what I want my next year to look like. Making a plan is not the same as making New Year’s resolutions. For me at least, plans are a guiding framework, not a checklist to be followed or a major “about face” that needs to be resolved and completed by a sheer act of will.
I was recently introduced to the concept of buzzwords as a touch point for planning. Rob Hatch, co-founder, and president of Owner Media Group, has written and presented several books and courses on leadership and management for business owners. He recently sent out a newsletter that highlighted his use of buzzwords in is personal planning. Honestly, I don’t remember if he used that term, but that’s how I remember and interpreted what he was saying.
Dictionary.com defines a buzzword as:
a word or phrase, often an item of jargon, that is fashionable at a particular time or in a particular context.
To me, it’s a word that anchors thought, directs conversation and guides action. As I focus on my business planning for 2021, which is itself an ongoing and fluid process, I have begun using the concept of buzzwords in this way. The following are the four buzzwords that are currently anchoring, directing and guiding my thoughts, conversation, and action.
To have trust is to believe in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something. 2020 has shaken our collective trust in the structures and institutions of society worldwide. As a result of corruption and betrayal, cracks have been forming in our societal trust for decades. In many ways COVID-19 has been a catalyst in forcing open many small cracks into wider gaps that are polarizing thinking and breaking down the bedrock of trust that holds us together.
As part of rebuilding and resetting we all need to double down on trust. Trust in experts, trust in institutions, trust in media and trust in each other. Trust in this way is an act of humility. It says, “I don’t have the answers, so I am willing to learn from others, trust their knowledge, have my assumptions challenged and grow”.
But we also need to be worthy of trust. Being a trusted expert, or a trusted advisor requires constant learning and constant listening to be sure your advice is correct and properly received.
Experts and institutions are worthy of our trust not because they are never wrong but because they are ever evolving and learning themselves. True experts are willing to admit when they are wrong, and course correct when their errors are brought to light. By naming trust as my first buzzword I am building my plan around a thirst for knowledge and wisdom through the humility of my own ignorance while offering gracious thanks for the trust people place in me.
When I think of community, I think of a series of nesting bowls or concentric circles. Starting in the centre with my immediate family and working outward through my social groups, work colleagues, clients, the businesses I frequent, fellow citizens of my city, province, and country all the way to the loose connections I share with every human on earth merely because we breath the same air. These ever-widening circles of concern are held together with weakening bonds of influence and shared interest. The closer you are to the centre of my circles the stronger the bonds.
A strong sense of community is what drives people to collective action and provides the catalyst for social change. Black Lives Matter, climate activism, and advocacy for the homeless are all community movements that are driven by strong social bonds. I’ve chosen community as a buzzword to help frame my thinking and actions around how best to impact the lives of those closest to me. Both in physical proximity and shared values. And as a reminder that in the broadest sense we are all members of the human family, if you look hard enough, we all have something in common.
Of the many things we have learned in 2020 one thing that has stood out to me is the value of a strong physical constitution. Deaths from COVID-19 have disproportionately fallen on the elderly, the weak and those with “underlying conditions”. I will turn 49 in 2021. I can’t stop aging, but I can slow down some of it’s more debilitating effects with a healthy, active lifestyle.
By elevating health to buzzword status every decision I make will need to be thought of in the context of how it will affect my health. Not only that but placing it along side the rest of the buzzwords forces me to think of health not just in my own context but also within the context of trust, community and even prosperity which I will get to in a moment. And it’s not just physical health but mental and emotional health as well.
Decisions about what (and how much) I eat and when I go to the gym are the obvious ones. Less obvious in the context of heath are the decisions about how I build my workday, and recreation time, and the people I choose to associate with. Maintaining health starts with maintaining balance between activity, nutrition, and rest in all areas of life.
As a buzzword prosperity is difficult to define. The popular connotation of prosperity is to think of it in terms of material wealth, however, the Latin etymology of the word has little to do with materialism and more to do with favor, fate and an element of luck. In ancient Rome to be prosperous was to enjoy the favor of the gods, however that was manifest.
Wikipedia further defines prosperity as flourishing, thriving, and good fortune. In using prosperity as a buzzword for my thinking I am choosing to focus on and acknowledge that to thrive is dependent largely on forces outside of my control. By focusing my energy on prosperity, rather than an arbitrary definition of wealth or success, I can strip away the things that are out of my control and concentrate only on the things that are within my control, the way I work and how I interact with people. The resulting success, wealth, or even personal satisfaction, while desirable and worth striving for, is ultimately in the hands of God or fate. By framing success in this way, I am free to be prosperous without the need to be wealthy by anyone else’s definition.
These four words, Trust, Community, Health and Prosperity, form the framework of my worldview. They are the glasses through which I look at and interact with the world. I hesitate to call my buzzwords values because they might change. As the world slowly evolves these buzzwords will evolve but for now, this is how I look at things.
The process I went through to come up with these buzzwords was through meditation. As I continue to meditate on these words and look for direction in how to use their influence I am growing in my commitment and understanding more each day.
You should try it, pick a word that feels right and meditate on it for 5 minutes, make note of what comes to mind and then do some research on the meaning of the word to make sure it fits with how you feel. If not, pick another word until you find something that closely aligns with your personal desires. Do this until you have 3 or 4 words that you can meditate on daily for 5 to 10 minutes each and let them guide your thoughts and actions throughout the day. You might be surprised how often your buzzwords come up as you go about your daily life. They are a great touchstone for guiding your decision making.
Focusing on the right words will transform your life. Try it and tell me what your experience is like in the comments below.