What's in a word?


Have you heard of the concept where you choose a word to guide you through the year? It’s a word that is meant to define your year; to help you make decisions and push you in the direction of where you want to go. It’s meant to help you make positive changes, force yourself to do things you might not otherwise do, and in general it might just end up making you feel like a better person.

I’d never heard of it before this past year, and that may be because as a new entrepreneur I have surrounded myself with other small business owners and this seems to be a popular practice among that demographic. However, when the idea of choosing a word for 2019 seeped into my brain, I felt a little nervous because it seemed like everyone else had a decent grasp on the process of finding their guiding word and I was just sitting on my couch, staring at the pen and paper in my hand, wondering if this was perhaps a little too hokey for me.

The truth is, I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to find my word for 2019. Being the introvert that I am, I think maybe I have the advantage of often turning my thoughts inward and naturally being someone who processes my feelings on a regular basis. So it didn’t really come as a surprise to me that talking about a guiding word wasn’t yielding any results, but as soon as I gave myself the opportunity to get quiet and sit with my thoughts, one word kept popping up and it didn’t take long for me to realize that was my word for this year.

The funny thing was that I wasn’t anticipating an additional word jumping around my brain, waving its arms in an attempt to gain my attention; this one meant to be a guiding word for my personal life. I was only planning to find a word that pertained to helping me run my business, but this was clearly meant for me on a personal level and it was not about to let me get away with ignoring it.

So now, being the overachiever that I am, I find myself with two words for the year, each with a different purpose. Nothing like diving right in to a new idea!

It is said that most goals have a higher percentage of success rate when we speak about them out loud and as much as possible. This is because it keeps them in the front of our mind and helps us be accountable since we’re telling everyone we’re going to *insert goal of the year here* and we don’t want to be seen as someone who doesn’t follow through. When I first found my words for 2019, I didn’t vocalize them immediately. I’ve seen others on Instagram who are posting their words and discussing the meaning behind them, and I think that’s great. But I still wasn’t sure how this was going to work, so I kept my words to myself for a few days.

 But then strangely, strange only because I wasn’t sure what to expect with this whole word thing, as soon as I stated my words out loud to someone, I felt an immediate shift. I know we’re only into the second week of the new year here, so it’s hard for me to say definitively how much of an impact these words will have on my year. But they’ve already changed my mindset in the short time I’ve been using them to guide me.

So what is my personal word for 2019? OWNERSHIP.

When I first heard this word inside my head, I wasn’t sure why it was on repeat like a bad song on the juke box when someone puts in enough change to play it over and over and over and all you want to do is drink your damn beer but now you have this high pitched Mariah Carey song stuck in your head and surely it’s messing with the taste of your beer. But as the word ran around in my brain, I quickly realized the intent. It’s not ownership as in things I own but it’s about owning how I feel.

It’s easy to blame other people for how they make us feel, but recently I was listening to a podcast and the host said something about how no one can make us feel anything. What we’re feeling is our response to something that person has said or done, but we wouldn’t be able to feel it if that feeling wasn’t inside of us to begin with. Wow. That was a lot of feels.

He also commented on how often when people say things that hurt us, it’s not really about us. It’s about what that person has going on within themselves. And I think there is something so poetic about the idea of placing the blame for how I feel back onto myself, and not allowing what others are going through to affect me in as much of a personal way.  

In saying this, I certainly don’t mean that I’m going to allow people to treat me like shit. But if someone does treat me poorly, I will understand that’s a sign of work they need to do on themselves. People don’t typically say mean and hurtful things to us because of what we’re going through, they say it because of how they are processing (or avoiding) something in their own life. Does that make sense? Or is it a little too hokey for you? 

Basically, what I’m trying to do by using the word ownership as my guiding word for 2019 is to focus on how I feel in different situations, and why. And to not worry about something someone said to me or how they treated me, because I can’t control how that person feels or acts, but I can control how I respond.

Think about it this way. If you’re in a parking lot of a busy store (Hello, Costco!), and after driving around for five minutes you finally find a space at the back of the lot. As you’re making your way through the crowd in the store, you notice people are generally in a less than friendly mood. And then let’s say that while manoeuvring through the aisles, your cart accidentally runs into another shopper’s cart. And although you immediately express your apologies, that shopper is pissed off and maybe makes a rude comment or swears at you for not knowing how to push a cart. I think it’s easy to recognize in that scenario that the other shopper isn’t really mad at you – I mean, they don’t even know you! But they’re annoyed by the crowd, by trying to make their way through aisles that are so packed with people you’re starting to wonder if Rhianna is having a concert at the back of the store, and maybe they also have a headache. So when that shopper curses at you for being in the way, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll end up worrying about it for the rest of the day because you’ll believe the outburst had nothing to do with you personally.

 If we’re willing to accept that a stranger’s outburst has nothing to do with us, why not apply that same concept to the rest of our uncomfortable interactions?

Taking ownership of how I feel about things seems to be a good move toward inner happiness. It forces me to look at why I’m feeling a certain way rather than blaming someone else for how I feel and then not doing the work to change it. I think as human beings we are constantly evolving, and we have to do this inner work on ourselves so we can achieve our own happiness.

Again, it’s very early in the new year and only time will tell if this word of the year thing will prove to have a positive effect, but I’m willing to give it a try. The way I see it, I have nothing to lose and only a little more inner peace to gain.