As I get older, I’ve become much more comfortable with easing into a new year rather than kicking things off the second the clock strikes midnight. There’s something about that first week of January, where my mind is clear and the past year is behind me, that makes it the perfect time for me to thoughtfully and intentionally set out my goals. Along with that comes my favorite part of the new year: Choosing my word.

the view from alki beach west seattle to seattle skyline | coco kelley

For those who may not be familiar with the practice, the idea is to decide on a word that sets the tone for the year ahead. My favorite words are those that can have more than one meaning – but that doesn’t always work out. Most importantly, it should align or even help boost the focus on your goals or resolutions.

Last year, my word was simplify. It was a word that helped me make decisions about adding more to my plate (or rather, not adding more to my plate), purging extra stuff in my life (literally and figuratively) and simply getting back into a routine after back to back years of big projects (hello, kitchen remodel and wedding!).

And while it was certainly a relief to focus on a lot of mini updates around the house, getting settled into our new studio, and having more downtime, by the end of the year I felt a little… well, directionless. Words can be funny like that.

When choosing my word for this year, I started by listing not only words that currently resonate with me, but also the goals I want to achieve. From there, it became fairly clear the overall direction that things were going in. Here was my list of finalists for 2019: Act, Expand, Refine, Focus, Explore, Motivate, Energize, Push.

It’s not hard to spot the trend here, right?! But before I tell you what my word is, I want to give you a little perspective on where it’s coming from.rain on the water view from the ferry coco kelley

When I moved in with my husband a few years ago, for the first time in my adult life I felt stability. And I fought it. I loved being independent. I could make my own decisions about where to invest my time and money, and always had the option to dream as big as I wanted to without worrying about repercussions because they would only affect me. Looking back now, I think I fought it because I was scared of what would happen if I relaxed a little bit. Slowed down that hustle.

And then last year – it happened. I flipped. I embraced the idea of not having to constantly work so hard. I also had to find more time in my schedule for things like making dinner at a scheduled time. Picking my step-daughter up for her drum lessons. I found time to work out (yay!) and take naps with my dog on the sofa (oh, the luxury!).

But, somewhere in my quest to Simplify and find balance in life, I maaaay have tipped the scales too far in the opposite direction. Settling into a more manageable workload made me wary of taking on more challenging opportunities. Partially because after living through a kitchen remodel and planning a wedding, I was terrified of screwing with our routine and creating a more stressful environment in the house again. And partially because I was so exhausted by my newfound wife and step-mom duties that mentally and creatively I just couldn’t motivate myself.

For someone who thrives on challenge and change in every other aspect of life, it was quite the shock to end up here. In my version of lazy. But I was kind of enjoying it. Until I wasn’t.

In the latter part of last year, I started to feel really stuck. I couldn’t make decisions. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I definitely wasn’t happy. I was going through the motions. I might even say, I was mildly depressed. Of course I had moments of delight and creativity, but overall I was not in a good place. And it took these last few weeks of finally having enough downtime, sleep and introspection to figure out why.

Giving myself more flexible time last year both helped me and hurt me.the architecture of ferry boats | coco kelley

That sentence is an an entire essay in itself, but here’s what it boils down to: When I’m feeling fulfilled creatively through work, then I’m happier all around. And that fulfillment comes through collaborating on exciting partnerships, challenging myself with new ideas or projects, and having measurable goals. Last year, there wasn’t much of this, and without it I simply lost direction and motivation.

Let me be clear about something though: some of that downtime was very needed and did result in better habits. I don’t see last year as a failure or even a waste of time. I may have swung my ‘balance’ pendulum a bit too far in the opposite direction for a little while, but I’m hoping that means I can take the lessons learned from being on both sides of that pendulum and really nail it when it comes to finding my happy medium in 2019. After all, isn’t that what life is all about? We learn, we grow, we do better.

So, back to that word.

After concluding that I’m definitely a gal who thrives under pressure, but also having learned from the past that I can’t go following every idea or my business, my word for 2019 is…. Focus.

I think we can all agree that life can get insanely distracting. I find myself very easily getting sucked into mindless social media scrolling, or bouncing from one task to another without feeling like I’m actually getting anything done. Feeling overwhelmed is a pretty common emotion for me, but the very act of using the word Focus in the past 10 days has already helped me to become more disciplined.

I’m actively creating structure around my time that’s boosting my productivity immensely, and laying this foundation is going to come in quite handy when attempting to achieve some of the larger goals I’ve laid out for myself this year. (Which I will be posting about next week!)

Do you pick a word for yourself every year? I’d love to hear what it is!

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