What if I told you that focusing on a single word could make you happier, more effective, healthier, and more successful in 2016? You would use it, right? So what's the magic word? It's up to you to find out.

That advice comes from Dan Britton, Jimmy Page, and Jon Gordon, co-authors of One Word That Will Change Your Life. In the book the three authors, who've been using this technique for years, lay out a step-by-step process for discovering and then using a single word to provide a year's worth of inspiration and motivation. 

The overwhelming majority of New Year's resolutions fail, they explain, because we use them to try to change our habits rather than our hearts and ourselves. "The truth is, people do not remember paragraphs or even sentences," they write. A single word, on the other hand, is sticky. "We've never forgotten our word!" 

Here's how to find yours.

1. Begin by unplugging from your busy life.

Step away from your computer and TV, turn off your smartphone, and give yourself some time to meditate or put some deep thought into the coming year. This might mean going for a walk, spending some time in nature, retreating to your private sanctuary, wherever it may be, and/or writing in a journal. These can all be effective approaches to finding your word, and different ways of listening work for different people. The important thing is to shut out the rest of the world for just a little while, and find a way to listen to your deepest self.

2. Ask yourself three important questions.

These are: "What do I need?" (note that this question is not about what you want, but what you need), "What's in my way?" and "What needs to go?"

I decided to try this process myself and I found these questions very powerful, especially when I really tried to focus on my needs rather than on my desires. When I asked myself what I wanted, all sorts of ambitious goals filled my mind, but when I think about what I actually need that I don't already have, the answer was all about relationships. My husband and I moved across the country a year ago, and while we have lots of friends here, both old and new, I miss our family and the community of writers I was part of back on the East Coast. 

When I thought about what was in my way, I thought about the intense work schedule that keeps me in my office way too much of the time, but also my tendency to be solitary and shy. When I asked myself what needed to go, the answer was this sense of isolation and loneliness, as well as the fear of being rejected or dismissed that sometimes stops me from reaching out, both personally and professionally.

What do you need, what's preventing you from getting what you need (even if only in your mind), and what needs to go in your own life?

3. Open your heart.

Consider these questions and your word should come to you. The authors, as part of their faith, pose another question: "What needs to be done in me and through me?" Even if you're not religious at all, that's a very good question to ask because you're inviting your word to find you, rather than the other way around. Ask these three or four questions and really listen, and one word, or possibly a choice of a couple of words, should bubble to the surface. 

4. Let your word inspire and transform you for the coming year.

This means putting your word prominently into your daily life so that you are reminded of it frequently. That might mean using it as a screen saver, hanging it on the wall, using it as your smartphone lock screen, or putting it in your email signature.

It definitely means telling people what your word is, especially the people closest to you who can support you and help you stay true to your objectives. Sharing it with those who work with you--and encouraging them to find their own words--can help all of you become more effective in the coming year. You might even consider finding one word for your work team or company, which may get all of you pulling in the same direction for the coming year. 

The more people you tell about your word, the more people can help you achieve it and keep it front and center. With that in mind, here's my word for 2016: Connect. Other words that have worked for the authors and the people they know include Balance, Purpose, Go, Love, Opportunity, Ask, and Thankful.

Now it's your turn. What word will inspire you for the coming year?

Published on: Dec 30, 2015
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