Not every year that I've done this has been particularly successful, but the ones that I really got into were very meaningful, and the experiences from those years still resonate today.
In 2019, my word was Elevate:
It seems to be the most comprehensive description for what I'd like 2019 to be, which is an elevation of my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. This includes greater self-awareness and discernment, greater exercise, greater indulgence in what I need and shedding of what isn't necessary. And in turn, such things will elevate quality of creative output, vocational commitment, attention to relationships, and self-conception.I'd call this a more successful One Word year, although it took some turns that I wasn't expecting. I ended up discovering new creative interests (like blackout poetry) and renewing long-dormant ones. I elevated my commitment to physical health. I did a great deal of self-reflection. I was very glad for what Elevate did for me.
So now a new year brings a need for a new word. I didn't come up with one until around December 30th, and it came with a different take on what I would do this year.
When I joined karate, one of the very first things I learned is what my dojo refers to as the "three basic stretches." You take time before each class starts to stretch your hips and legs so that you're properly warmed up for what you'll be taught to do. Students are often encouraged to not only do these stretches when they come to class, but also on their own at home for five minutes a day.
I'm not going to pretend that I've done this. I've certainly had good intentions at times, but it's a good week if I do this on my own once or twice.
So I decided that every day in 2020, I would finally make time to Stretch. The three basic stretches, for five minutes every day, for 365 days. I have to say that, two days in, I'm doing well so far.
This may not sound like much. However, my hope is that this simple and intentional action will lead to more. While I stretch every day, I'll consider how I may stretch myself in other ways: in relationships, in ministry, in my own creative endeavors, in my physical health. When I feel like something at the church has hit a wall, I'll stretch to find a new possibility. When I'm finding it hard to muster the energy to make it to the Y or the dojo, I'll stretch to do it anyway.
After all, what is stretching but pushing yourself just beyond what you think you can do; how far you think you can reach? Even if all you can do on a given day is an inch or two more.
But it starts with that five minutes every day. And I'll build on things from there.