Why one word?

Every year at the end of December, I choose my one word for the year. I’m not the first person to do this, but it’s a habit that has stuck with me for the past five years. Sometimes it’s easy and pops into my mind as soon as I start thinking about the upcoming year. At other times, that word comes on slowly. Having one word to focus on as I set my goals for the year makes the process easier. It also helps guide my focus throughout the year, because I can hold every decision I’m making against that word. I can ask “Is this helping me stay true to my plan, or making me drift away from it?” Yes, spontaneity is the spice of life. However, I firmly believe in having a backbone to which I can tie my exploits. This word becomes that backbone.

My “resolution planning” hike in January of 2022.

A quick story.

I’ve always been a person who sets goals. Maybe it’s my first born child tendencies. As a lifelong competitive swimmer, I’ve always known the power of goal setting, planning, and visualization. That’s how I made it through high school, juggling a very heavy class load, club swim team that took up most of my time, and anything else that came up. That prepared me well for swimming (on scholarship) in college and life beyond. During my sophomore year of high school, we held a visualization session. At that session, they asked us to write down a goal. I wrote down a time on my calendar, a specific time for the 100 butterfly that I wanted. Three months later, at the districts swim meet, I placed first and touched the wall at the EXACT time I had written down (59.86). I had broken our school record, but more importantly, I learned something that I’ll never forget. Goal setting, visualization, and dedicated training, work. They work well. I still have the calendar with the 59.86 written on it.

Lap swimming this past fall.

Narrow it down.

As I am working on choosing the word for the year, the first thing I do is create categories. I look at my life and the hats that I’m juggling, and choose which “hats” can be a part of this plan. This year I decided to focus my efforts on: my health journey, our homeschool life, prepping a new puppy to be our adventure dog, and our “close to home” shenanigan chasing plan. (hashtag soccer mom life). These are all areas that have taken quite the roller-coaster over the past three years. During 2022 they began to find a rhythm or at least found foreword progress. Moving into 2023, I want to keep that going, and that’s how I chose my word. When you start to plan for your year ahead, think about these things:

  • What went well last year?
  • What felt “stuck” last year?
  • What were your wins?
  • What are your “hats” that you juggle?
  • Which “hats” do you have any control over?
  • What three “hats” do you want to apply your word to?

My best catch of 2022!

Be flexible.

It can be so easy to get overzealous. Choosing a word is very different from setting goals. Goal setting is the next step after you choose a word. What you choose will be the lens through which you look at every goal you want to set and decision you make. But, it’s not a law, it’s more like a guideline that you have my full permission to deviate from. Hold on loosely to your word, especially if you’re in the busy season of parenthood. My intent this fall had been to swim twice per week. However, sick kids, bad weather, dentist appointments, homeschool meet ups, and so many things derailed me. In the past, especially as my undiagnosed autoimmune diseases ran rampant, I would let those derailments be permanent. The hard part is giving yourself the flexibility you need for the season, and the grace to forgive yourself for things beyond your control. As you start to seek out your word for the year, remember that this is a lens that you can change or put down if it’s too much.

My most epic wipeout in 2022, from hiking in sandals, and I thought I’d broken my arm. Luckily, I was fine.

Goal setting.

Once you have your word, whether it came easily or you had to fight for it, it’s time to think about some goals. My best piece of advice is to take a minimalistic approach. Remember the three to four categories you picked earlier? Those are the categories your word will apply to, and it’s what you will build your goals around. These can be as simple as working toward drinking more water, or as complex as taking on a big physical challenge, or reading a large number of books. Whatever you choose, I recommend that the goal be quantifiable or measurable. If it’s measurable, then it will be easier for you to get some wins when you can actually see your success. Make a chart, make a checklist, use an app to track (Hi, I love Strava), or use a sticker chart. Whatever it takes to help you take steps toward that goal. My other advice is to remember the SMART acronym for goal setting. Cheesy buzz words? Yes. But do they work? Also, yes. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. In other words: something you can accomplish, that can be measured, and done within a time frame.

  • Choose your three “hats” or categories you will apply your word to.
  • Choose ONE goal for each of those categories. Resist the temptation to create more than one for now.
  • Write it all down in a place you won’t lose it, I use my planner.

A selfie on the ocean with my son, on his birthday trip in 2022!

Enjoy the process.

My next piece of advice is to enjoy the process! This isn’t supposed to be hard or upsetting. It’s meant to help give you some clarity and focus for the year ahead. Maybe even spur on some excitement for the shenanigans you will plan. Get your whole family involved if that sounds fun. We have family goal setting sessions after Christmas. It’s not heavy or serious, but we take the time to write down a few things that each of us would like to accomplish, plus some things we’d like to do as a family. Sometimes, we take weekend trip in December or January as a vision casting retreat for our family. At other times, I’ve taken a weekend to myself to plan this out, along with planning for our homeschool. Other times (like this year) it was a late night journaling session in my living room, as the inspiration struck on a random Tuesday prior to the holidays. However you plan, don’t rush, write everything down, and enjoy the process.

Chasing shenanigans at the beginning of 2022.

Why “momentum?”

My one word for 2023 came to me pretty quickly, and very clear. 2022 was the first year that I spent living with my Celiac Disease and autoimmune disease diagnosis. It was the year that I went through a rigorous, dietician facilitated, elimination diet to address my severe food allergies and sensitivities. It was a hard year, but a year of so much growth. As the physical pain and brain fog I’d been enduring for years began to lift, I felt hope again. Hope that I could regain the sense of self I’d lost after so many years of defeat with my body betraying me.

In my happy place: my backyard garden.

The goals.

It’s the year we finally (after nine years) got major repairs done on our home (no more cracked foundation and goodbye 90’s bathroom carpet). My husband and I celebrated a milestone 15 year anniversary, and both of my children entered their “tween” years. I made changes to our homeschool that have proved to be the right choices. We’ve shifted into a season of having to be at home for commitments with sports, musicals, and other things, and I’m ok with that. At the end of 2022 we found our stride for this new phase of our lives, and I’m so excited to keep that going, and perhaps gain some speed.

  • Momentum in my health journey: continue to feel better and gain strength and confidence back. This is measurable with the running and swimming weekly mileage goals I have, as well as an ideal weight I’m working toward. I’m also challenging myself to sign up for three masters swimming meets (and I have my eyes on a state record). But also, a usage goal for my home sauna and other self care goals. (PS – I hate the term “self care”)
  • Momentum in our homeschool: finish sixth and third grade by a specific date in the late spring. At least one field trip per month and resume our weekly adventure day, even with the puppy.
  • Momentum in our marriage by utilizing our now old enough to stay home alone children (plus our Gabb phone) to go on some day dates on the weekend! Bring on the mountain biking!
  • Momentum in our shenanigans: take my children on even bigger paddle and camp trips (using our i-sups now), a multi-day paddle and camp trip where I will be swimming, backpacking trips, and bigger day hikes.
  • Momentum in my entrepreneur journey: finally take a very big step that I’ve been holding back on doing and pursue pitching my book to publishers! Run a successful 12 week round of my Responsibly Brave course. Plus, continue to expand the library of Get Out Guides with Run Wild My Child.

What will your word be?

Wishing you all the best in 2023.

Whether you choose one word or not, whether you goal set or not, and whether you plan or not. I’m wishing you all the very best in 2023. I hope that this post inspires you to look at the upcoming year a little different and perhaps even with excitement and optimism. Maybe you set a reading goal, maybe you do that hike, maybe you clean out that closet, or maybe you do that one thing that’s been on your mind for years. Whatever you choose to do, or not do, I’m cheering you on, probably too loudly and with too much joy. Thank you for being a part of my journey in 2022 and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2023. Are you ready?! 3….2….1….. lets go!

Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter, Field Notes, so you’ll be the first to know about the projects I have coming up, and exciting tidbits from our life. You can also follow me on Instagram where I share our adventures. May you see the wonder as you wander, and always choose to be responsibly brave. ~ Nichole

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Our family photos in 2022.