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 2022, my three words were invest, research, and cultivate. 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.
How did I do in 2022 with these words?
Invest. This one went well. I invested, and not just financially. I invested time into things that mattered, relationships that moved ahead my personal life and professional life.
Research. This went exceedingly well. 2022 was a bounty of a year when it came to learning new things, researching stuff, exploring new frontiers. From generative AI to new parts of the R programming language to conducting 50+ weeks of original data and research, 2022 was bursting at the seams in research.
Cultivate. This was all about habits, cultivating habits to sustain efforts over the long term. I ran over 300 kilometers in 2022 (which is not bad for someone who hadn’t been a runner before the pandemic), my longest annual distance yet.
Compared to 2021, 2022 was personally a great year (even if the macro pictures was a big bucket of WTF).
So, with that retrospective, what are my three words for 2023?
Release. There’s a ton of stuff that’s just laying around, personally and professionally. Resources that I haven’t done anything with, stuff I’ve made, things I’ve accumulated. This year, it’s all about releasing it in one way or another. For some things, that means pushing them out of the nest, shipping stuff; for other things, it’s about giving them away or just letting them go, knowing that their time has come.
Revoke. There are people, concepts, ideas, and things in my head, in my life that don’t need to be there. Part of this year is revoking their access, cutting ties, removing permission for them to be there. It’s not just passively letting them go, but actively revoking their privileges. The block button? It’s going to get a lot of use. One of my favorite singers, Jewel, has this great line from “A Life Uncommon”: no longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from. That’s the motto of Revoke.
Renew. This year, so much is going to change. So much has to change. Professionally, the world of marketing data and analytics will go through conniptions with major, enforced changes like Google Analytics 4. Personally, the efforts I’ve made the last 3 years for my health need to continue, to accelerate, so I will renew those efforts (already clocked my first 5K for the year on day 1!). Friendships, relationships, habits – many things that went well in 2022 need to keep going, need to get renewed. Many old things from years past need to be refreshed, given new life again because they work and it’s time to upcycle them to something new.
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 2023 is an improvement over 2022.
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