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Choose One Word to Set the Tone for Next Year.

Choose One Word to Set the Tone for Next Year.


Happiness resolution: Choose a one-word theme for the new year.

I love New Year’s resolutions – and I’m not the only one. Some 44% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.

There’s a kind of resolution that I’ve never made before, but that has always fascinated me: identifying one idea, often summarized in just one word, as an overarching theme for the entire year.

My sister often does this kind of resolution. One year was the year of “Free Time.” Another year was “Hot Wheels” -- that year, she got a car and started driving; she and I have both struggled with a fear of driving, which was much tougher for her, given that she lives in Los Angeles and I live in New York City. (Warning, non sequitur: follow her on Twitter, @elizabethcraft.)

Another friend of mine does the same thing. One year, I remember, was “Dark,” another was “Make.”

I’ve never tried this approach before, but this year I want to give it a try. I knew exactly what word I wanted to pick. My theme for the year is “Bigger.”

I have to fight the urge to simplify, to keep things manageable; this word will remind me to think big, to tolerate complications, to expect more from myself. Many people work to simplify their lives, but I struggle against the tendency to simplify too much. As Albert Einstein observed, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Have you ever tried this choose-a-theme approach? Did it help you direct your year?

I heard from someone who chose the theme “Finally Breaking Old Bad Behaviors.” Great idea. Now, it’s true that some ideas can’t be distilled into a single word, but I do think there’s a special power to the one-word theme. It’s so direct, so memorable. For example, “Finally Breaking Old Bad Behaviors” might be distilled into “Free.”

My challenge, starting in January, is to figure out what to do differently, according to the theme. What will allow me to think “Bigger?” I’m still trying to puzzle that out. My usual strategy is to make concrete, manageable resolutions that will help me bring about a larger change. But for “Bigger,” I’ve decided that instead of translating it into resolutions, I will use it to frame my outlook – the way I invoke my Twelve Personal Commandments.

I’m fascinated to get more ideas for themes. What theme or word would you pick?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

* Why is this short video of a train leaving a station -- slowed down to 210 frames per second -- so mesmerizing? Not sure why, but it is.


* Join the conversation on the Facebook Page. Lots of interesting discussion there.


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