Happy 2018! New Year, New Word

A peaceful grove of redwood trees in the afternoon sun, with "calm" in yellow calligraphy in the bottom right corner

Happy New Year, readers and friends! Whether you’re tackling a new language, writing a new book, or pursuing continuing education, I hope 2018 is a year that brings you closer to your personal goals.

There are two things that I do instead of New Year’s resolutions. One of them is a longer-term project: the 101 Things in 1001 Days project. (I’m due to be wrapping up a current list in May, so more about that later.) The other is an annual project, but rather than one of those hyper-focused, driven-for-success SMART goals that life coaches and trainers like to talk about, it’s just a word.

I started doing this in 2016 and I’ve found it to be low-stakes enough to be not stressful, and focused enough that it’s brought pretty substantial improvements in my day-to-day life that have persisted long after the new year.

In 2016 I chose the word “focus,” since everything in my life felt very scattered and, well, unfocused. This is to be expected when you’re a freelancer trying to pull from all streams (and even running an Etsy shop to boot), but it’s not really a productive feeling. Keeping that one little word in mind helped me to stay on task with what I needed to do, and reminded me to keep my digital and physical workspaces clear except for the tasks I needed to work on right now. It’s amazing how less stressed you feel when you go from a browser window with twelve or fifteen tabs open down to just four!

Last year my word was “courage,” a necessary trait after what was for me (and for the rest of the world) an overwhelming and discouraging 2016. I didn’t succeed as much as I would have liked with that word, but I still took risks and jumped on opportunities I would have normally let pass me by. I don’t know if I’m now any more courageous than I was at the beginning of the year, but we’ll see how this year plays out.

This year, I would love for things to quiet down a little so I can do some housekeeping and organizing. It’s also gearing up to be a big year for me for other reasons: it’s mid-term elections back in the US and my first chance to vote as a Swedish citizen. With any luck, I’ll also be starting Stockholm University’s Kompletterande Pedagogisk Utbildning program, but I don’t want to jinx it. Regardless, 2018 will be a year with a lot going on, and in anticipation of that, the word and concept I chose to steer my life towards in 2018 is:

A peaceful grove of redwood trees in the afternoon sun, with "calm" in yellow calligraphy in the bottom right corner
Original photograph courtesy Sebastian Engler

Of course, just because I’m shooting for a calmer, more serene 2018 doesn’t mean I won’t be taking on any new work! It’s more a word about my daily habits and deciding which ones enrich my life and which ones just send me into an unnecessary spiral of nerves and worries. Even in Sweden, a country built for introverts, interacting with the world as an introverted freelancer can really take it out of you.

Are you going to choose a word for 2018? I’d love for you to tell me about it in the comments or on Twitter.

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