For nearly a decade, I have had a New Year ritual to pick one single word as my intention for the year ahead.
The word represents a theme to help guide my choices. It serves as a North Star and gives some direction to how I move through life. It is not a description of the 'what', 'who,' or 'where', but more importantly, the 'how' I intend to approach life.
For example, a few of my previous one word intentions have included Fearless, Trust, Freedom, Heart, Space and Discovery. As you can see, they are each purposely vague, giving me the flexibility to choose in each future moment how to apply it.
Whereas I find specific goals can become limiting, narrowing my focus so much that life begins to feel deprived of all that can be beautiful and unknown, an abstract intention feels can be inviting in the face of the unknown.
This past year, my one word intention was Open. Today, I will share examples of how this intention guided me to demonstrate the power of having an abstract theme for the year. And of course, I will share my one word intention for the year ahead, followed by a list I have kept over the years of the one word intentions that friends have used, to help inspire your one word intention.
As I reflect back on how Open shaped my year, its influence is evident in every corner of my life. I was…
Open to a new continent, country, city & culture. I really embraced my new life in Lisbon, including learning Portuguese, making local friends, choosing to accept and adapt to new systems and processes, and rarely complaining as most foreigners do about how different reality can be here.
Open to building a new tribe, as I did not know anyone when I first landed in Lisbon. Over one hundred people, that I know personally now who live here, were invited to my recent holiday party. The diversity of people I now have in my tribe is inspiring to me, spanning different life stages, ethnicities, professions, and more.
Open to learning a lot more about my health, both physical and emotional. I did more therapy this past year than ever before, which helped open up unexplored areas within me. I also geeked out on data collection on my body, with countless tests, spreadsheets and specialists.
Open to exploring a new romantic relationship which was something I now realise I had not been as open to previously. This relationship was a beautiful one that involved a wide range of emotions, and included me also being open to it being for a season versus a lifetime.
Open to a more spontaneous and less scheduled way to move. I experienced the natural flow of still getting a lot done without the rigidity of having to schedule and plan every minute of my day. The Southern European schedule is far more enjoyable for me than the North American schedule that I have far too much experience with.
Open to delegation to a degree that despite decades of leadership and management experience now, I had never done before. Overcoming my own insecurities to learn how to let go of control, so that my business could continue to flourish and that my team could continue to grow without me as involved.
Open to investing in real estate, which I had never imagined doing. I actually for years have resisted getting involved and supporting my parents with their real estate investments, proudly announcing often that 'I am a tech guy' and that real estate is boring to me. Now I have a growing interest and position in this asset class.
Open to allowing reality to charge me. My identity has shifted more this year than ever before. How I see myself and how the world engages with me has changed, as a result of being open. Most importantly, the shift in my identity has felt natural and not forced.
My biggest lesson this year was to learn how to be open to change.
Now, if you asked me one year ago today what I had forecasted or predicted for the year of Open, I would not have been able to tell you very much. That is the purpose of setting an abstract intention with one word.
For the year ahead, my one word intention is Build. It came to me during my silent retreat a few days ago and it feels right. I feel a spark of energy and a curiosity to see how it will guide me this year.
Finally, here is a list of one word intentions that friends have set and shared with me over the past few years. I hope it helps inspire your one word intention for the year ahead.