This year, I’ve noticed a trend in goal setting and success building: choosing a guiding word for the year. I’ve been using guiding words and phrases for about five years now. My system emerged naturally and I have found it an amazing technique. Listening for, and acting on, guiding words has lead me to a much more successful and fulfilled life.
It seems the more I listen, the more guiding phrases or single words come through. It started a few years ago. My marriage was in trouble and had been for years. We, (or really I) tried to fix it—six ways from Sunday, but nothing was improving. When I’d think of our marriage, the phrase, “beating a dead horse” would float through. At first it was sort of like a whisper in the wind. Each time I thought of a potential solution or a new way to try to fix things, the phrase came. I’m not usually a pessimist, nor one who gives up easily, so at first, I just took note. It was happening with my work as well. (I was stuck and beating a lot of dead horses at the time). In both cases, I tried and tried, but none of my efforts seem to yield the results I sought, just the quiet whisper “you’re beating a dead horse.”
As I prayed about my circumstances and for guidance, I began to really listen and notice not only what I heard, but what I didn’t hear and also the outcome. The truth became as clear as day. In the case of my marriage, I realized he wasn’t going to budge—he wanted to keep things exactly as they were. Seeing this, I knew my options: I could choose to stay or go. It was similarly true of my work. The market had changed, I knew I could regroup and continue on, but I no longer had the passion and fire to fight. In both instances, I was “beating a dead horse.” It was up to me to make the next moves if I wanted to improve my life.
Fast forward to January 2017. My prayer was “I want to go big or go home.” The word that floated in was simply “ say yes”. I stopped second guessing things and said yes. I tried things I thought might be long shots, I opened my heart, and just said “yes.” Oh the year I had in 2017! While I faced several challenges, saying “yes” to life opened me in ways I could never have imagined. You can read a whole post about this here.
My guiding words changed throughout 2017, as I prayed my way through various challenges, words and phrases moved me forward and re-routed my efforts.
For the blog, “ say yes” was followed by “use what you have” and “everyone started somewhere”. This came through because I wondered how I could take my beginner blog to the level of blogs that had been around for years. I came to see that we all have different resources and that our blogs are gems that reflect the deepest essence of who we are—each one has it’s own unique beauty and no two are alike. Part of what makes us each unique is how we use the resources we have, and thus I worked on using what I had on hand and trusting that if I needed any more it would come my way. Working with this guiding phrase was huge. It forced me to be much more creative, patient with myself, and from a spiritual perspective, much more faithful.
In the fall, as I tried to keep all the balls in the air, the guiding phrase that came through was “put the oxygen mask on yourself first”. I had taken on lots of things by saying yes. Even without the setbacks we experienced last fall, I was a bit overwhelmed and felt I was running in too many directions. I was being guided to slow down and focus on myself, my family and just blogging. As I scaled back, I re-evaluated my obligations, established priorities and let go of several projects. As soon as I let go, new ideas and renewed energy emerged.
Right now, I am listening. I think about what I can offer that enriches, nurtures and improves the quality of our lives. I try to take note of what brings pleasure and joy and what makes for a vibrant, supportive and creative community. Do you use guide words or have another way of navigating life?