One of my favorite exercises that I’ve performed every year since he first introduced it is Chris Brogan’s Three Words. Rather than create resolutions which are difficult to keep, the three words exercise puts together three words that form your mantra for the coming year. My twist on it is to restrict it to just verbs, because verbs are actions to take. I like the three words as an easy way to remind myself of what I’m supposed to be doing, if I find that my mind and focus have wandered.
For example, in 2021, my three words were accelerate, create, and experience. By making them verbs, I could ask myself for any given decision if what I was choosing would accelerate my progress towards a goal, encourage me to create something, or help me experience something more deeply.
That said, that’s unique to me only, and that restriction doesn’t apply to anyone else. You could choose, for example, end state goals as your words, like wealth or opportunity or friendship. Do whatever will help you move forward on your big goals.
As mentioned, in 2021, my three words were accelerate, create, and experience. How did I do in 2021 with these words?
Accelerate. I nailed this one for the most part. I’m more fit and healthier as we close out the year than I ever have been in my adult life. Business has grown; Trust Insights had its best year yet. And I’ve gained new skills and new friendships in 2021 that have made my life far richer. So, this one’s a success.
Create. I vowed at the end of 2020 to get better at creating, and I doubled down on that in 2021. I’m moderately proficient at Adobe Premiere, really good with Photoshop and Audition, done more drawing and more creative things in 2021 than I’ve done in many years – and it’s so addicting. So much fun. This one’s a success too.
Experience. The original idea here was to take the road less traveled, to experience more. What was supposed to be the year when we put the pandemic to bed and started the march back to openness was instead the year of vaccine hesitancy, Delta, and Omicron. As a result, I made the most of the experiences I had, but except for two trips to my parents, I didn’t venture more than eight kilometers from my house for almost all the year.
Now, where there was a difference is that in the digital world, the virtual world, I did branch out and experience more. But this one’s a mixed bag at best.
So, with that retrospective, what are my three words for 2022?
Invest. I’ve got goals, ideas, and people that are good now, but could be better. What’s restricted me, what I’ve done to restrict myself, is to under-invest in those things, to operate on a shoestring, to fear taking the plunge and diving head first into something. This year, I need to invest more seriously in the things I care about if I want to see them flourish.
Research. 2021 was, in all honesty, a stagnant year for me. I learned a lot, I refined a lot, I fine tuned a lot, but there wasn’t much where I broke new ground – and there’s a lot of new ground to be broken. If 2021 were sports it would have been a rebuilding year. This year, I need to make bigger strides in research, in digging in and discovering new things.
Cultivate. I tend to be a bit of a binary person. I’m either all in on something or it totally doesn’t interest me; I’m a rabid fan or completely turned off. While that is a powerful strength in the beginning of something, it’s a weakness in the long term because I tend to get bored easily. This year, I need to work on making efforts more sustainable over the long term, marching steadily towards an objective rather than occasionally sprinting and then stalling. I need to cultivate, like a farmer steadily growing things, rather than like a hunter where you do something intense for a short period and then a big lull.
Remember, the three words, should you choose to do this exercise, are guideposts, not iron-clad rules. Things happen – like global pandemics. Even small scale things, on the order of us as individuals, can make the best-laid plans go totally off the rails. So if and when life throws you a curveball, don’t hesitate to change your focus either.
Whatever and however you choose to celebrate the turning of a page in time, I hope your 2022 is an improvement over 2021.
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