We're a full week in 2019. How is your resolution faring? Some of you out there might still be enthusiastically going to the gym or springing out of bed at 5 a.m., but if the grim statistics on resolutions are anything to go by most people of you are probably already seeing your determination flag.

Is the trouble your willpower or your choice of resolution? Nope, suggests Melinda Gates. The problem is your decision to make a New Year's resolution in the first place. There is a better option, she insists in a recent LinkedIn post.

Who could fail to remember a single word?

Psychologists have outlined a whole host of reasons New Year's resolutions are so likely to fail. Perhaps data-driven Gates has read the research because she opts for an easier and more easily kept alternative.

"I didn't set a new year's resolution this year. Or last year, either. I haven't for a while now," she writes. "I do believe in starting the new year with new resolve, but instead of adopting a resolution, I choose a word of the year--a word that encapsulates my aspirations for the twelve months ahead."

This year's is yet to be decided, but last year's was "grace," the year before "spacious," and in 2016 it was "gentle." Each of these choices encapsulates how Gates' hopes to evolve her mindset in the coming year, and as she explains using 'grace' as an example, repeating the word in difficult moments reminds her of her intentions and nudges her toward a healthier, happier outlook.

Grace is a "word that has served me well. I've called on it during difficult conversations, long days at the office, busy trips with our foundation," she reports. "It even helped me find a beam of peace through the sadness of a friend's funeral. When I was upset or distressed, I whispered it to myself: 'Grace.'"

Sometimes small is mighty

You might be wondering if something as tiny and seemingly weightless as a single word can actually make an impact on your life, but Gates isn't the only achiever claiming a one-word mantra is actually more effective than a likely-to-be-forgotten resolution.

Bethany Crystal is the general manager of super successful VC firm, Union Square Ventures, a job that you'd guess requires a no-BS, results-driven approach. Yet she too believes in the power of an annual mantra.

"For the past few years, I've set annual mantras for myself -- a kind of reminder that helps guide me through a year's worth of events and activities. My mantras aren't resolutions. They also aren't intentions. They are more like slogans or reminders to help me get from one place to the next by the end of the year," she explained recently on Medium.

Last year's was "don't overthink it," while this year she's going with "settle into your rhythm." Each is the result of reflection on areas where she could improve and a distillation of her best ideas on how to get there. Because each phrase is so short it is easy to remember, and repeating it to yourself when you encounter roadblocks is totally pain free.

That means that while a mantra or word of the year may seem lightweight compared to a resolution, chances are great you'll actually keep using it. Which just might change your life. That's got to beat grand declarations that are completely forgotten by February.

Published on: Jan 7, 2019
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