Every year, I choose three words to help focus my goals and efforts.
In an effort to tell bigger stories, I’ve found that the concept of three words allows me to think in more dimensions about what I want to do with my life and it lets me apply lots of tangible goals instead of what most people do when they focus on just a finite task. It’s a bit like turbo-charged goal planning. I’ll explain the process.
How 3 Words Fits Into Your Planning
If there were a hierarchy to planning out your year, it would look like this:
- The big story.
- Plans and Milestones.
- The daily calendar.
You could argue which goes first, a vision or a big story. I’d accept either. But to me, a vision is a story told in goals, so I put it below the big story. The big story is that which we want to believe about our life and our goals and our plan. The vision is how you lay that out into something you can do. Goals are a way of knowing that you’re headed in the direction of your vision and your story. Plans and milestones are what make up goals, and if this doesn’t land on the calendar, you don’t have anything.
The three words are a shorthand representation of your bigger story. It’s kind of like how an icon isn’t the software program. It’s just a way for you to mentally access all the work you’re doing. Make sense?
How to Use the Three Words Concept
Think of three words that sum up what you want to work actionably on changing/improving in the coming year. It works best when the words are positive in spirit and not negative. For instance: “Fat” isn’t exactly a great word, but “Fit” would be better. Think of words that give you more than just a simple goal. For instance, instead of “fit,” I’d look to go with “athlete” or “marathon runner” or some person that connects you to those goals.
The idea is to look deeper than a single goal and try to give you an entire mindset to contemplate. The Heath Brothers in their book, Switch, talked about needing three elements to bring about change: a rider (your plans and intents), the elephant (what your mood will do no matter what your plans say), and the path (the environment within which you intend to implement those changes). The concept of the three words is like the path. Think of a word that gives you the HUGE picture, not the small picture.
My 3 Words Over the Years
For reference and more insight, here are the previous 3 Words posts:
2006 – Ask. Do. Share
2007 – Seek. Frame. Build. Bridge (yes, that was 4. It also was a less successful year.)
2008 – Believe. Loops.Farm
2009 – Equip. Armies. Needles
2010 – Ecosystems. Owners. Kings
2011 – Reinvest. Package. Flow
2012 – Temple. Untangle. Practice
My Three Words for 2013
Walt – as in Walt Disney. The concept I’m going to remember with this is multi-faceted. Walt believed in himself instead of worrying what others were saying. He was turned down for money to build Disney World around 500 times (all you Disney fans probably know the number by heart). But what I’m also going to remember with Walt was that he held tight to his vision, and he defined it so well that others were able to carry it on after his death. Legacy.
Ender – as in Ender Wiggin. The concepts tied into this is that Ender was a soldier, but a reluctant one. He had to learn how to be mentally tough, that complaining wasn’t all that effective, and that new ideas would face great resistance, even if they were correct. There’s a lot in this one, too. I seemed to go with multi-faceted words this year.
Monchu – it’s an Okinawan word that means something like “one family.” The idea is that you treat more people outside of your bloodline or your tribe as if they are family. This concept will remind me to work even harder on my connecting with value, my relationship-building, and my attention to people who matter to me. It’s probably the hardest one to put down simply, but that’s what I’ll be focusing on.
Rob Hatch’s 3 Words
I asked my business partner and COO, Rob Hatch, to tell me his three words for 2013 as well, and here’s what he said:
Systems – If 2012 revealed anything to me, it was the power of building a System for even the most simple aspects of my ilife. Systems are simply habits that I have borrowed, hacked, or designed to enable me to accomplish a goal, complete a project, or simply structure my life or work. Systems give me time, free me from worry, allow me to focus and present. They also serve as platforms for risk taking.
Service – Service is a reminder to both be of service to others and that my actions should serve my goals.
Now – Whatever my hopes, dreams or goals may be, What matters is what I do now. Whether that is doing the work in front of me or being present for the people I’m with. Now matters.
What are YOUR 3 Words
I strongly encourage you to share your 3 words with us here in the comments, and also share links to posts you write about the process and your ideas as well. (Remember: leaving a comment with a URL means I’ll have to find and unblock it, so please give me a few days).
And finally, if you want more on the process, or if you want to join a group of 80 (and growing) people who are committing even deeper to this process in 2013 and beyond, check out Brave New Year for a guided group-minded experience to help you commit to the changes and growth you want for your coming year.
I can’t wait to hear what you’ve got in mind for 2013!