Living Through Intentionality: My word for 2016

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I’m a goal-centric person. I have to spend time thinking (and praying) about what I want to accomplish—and how—in order to keep myself feeling balanced. I have too many interests, too many dreams, to leave it all up to myself in the moment.

When I was the campus minister at Butler, I would take time with women’s ministry every semester to talk about our goals. I asked the women to write down goals on a slip of paper, which we then put in a Goal Jar in my office. Goals had to be specific, attainable, and were usually a step rather than a larger process—like “study every day” rather than “get all A’s this semester.” The girls held each other—and me—accountable. It was a great community building experience and I think it helped each of us keep our eyes on the bigger goals. In the grand scheme of things, I saw girls go from overweight or underweight and hospitalized to healthy, get into pharmacy school, make new friends, join and quit sororities, and generally grow as human beings. Goals were spiritual, physical, mental… everything that college-age girls (and one young campus minister) worry about daily. The goal jar accompanied the worry jar, another really helpful tool we used in women’s ministry. I think that the combination of the two helped the girls, and me, to remember that most of the things that caused us anxiety were things that, if we focused on goals rather than the anxiety, would lose power.

Since my time at Butler ended, I have used several other tools to keep myself on track, including Leonie Dawson’s Create Your Shining Year books. Yet, one of my favorite things to do every year is something that requires no purchasing, but a lot of reflection and thought.

Every year, I choose a word for the year that will guide me and my decisions. This is a fairly common practice, I think. In fact, there is a whole online community dedicated to connecting people who choose the same word.

2016 will be my third year of choosing a word for the year. Something I’ve noticed is that every year, the words from the past years continue to be on my mind in addition to the current year’s word. In 2014, I chose “Hope” as my word because I knew that I was about to enter into a huge transition. In 2015, I chose “simplicity” because I continue to feel the call to live a simpler life.

Simplicity was a hard one for me this past year and, looking back, I realize that in many ways I failed to live it out fully. Yet, this is about process and not perfection and as I have embarked on 2016, I am keeping simplicity in mind. In fact, I considered for a long time keeping simplicity as my word for another year, but after much reflection, I have realized that simplicity will probably be my word for life. It is one of the four cornerstones from my former communities (UD Campus Ministry, Nazareth Farm, and Butler) and even as I have moved forward, I try to keep those cornerstones (Prayer, Community, Simplicity, and Service) at the center of my life. 

Coming up with a word for this year was difficult. I contemplated many words, for many reasons: authenticity, margin, ask, focus, savor, write, connect, create, forward, and progress (as opposed to perfection), were all words that I considered and prayed about. Finally, after a lot of thought, I realized what I truly want in 2016: intentionality. I want to be intentional about my actions, my spending, and my words. I think that if I am really going to live out my call to simplicity, being intentional is key.

In the last year, there have been far too many times that I did something mindlessly: mindlessly eating, mindlessly buying things I didn’t need or making spur of the moment purchases, mindlessly watching hours and hours of Netflix (usually shows that I have already seen more than once!) or spending hours and hours on facebook. There are so many things I would rather be doing (writing, reading—whether reading books or the articles on my feed, spending time with friends and family, or even watching new tv shows (in moderation)). So, in hopes of being more mindful of my time and resources, I am making my word for 2016 INTENTIONAL. I want to do things with intention, keeping my intent focused on living simply and living out a call to community. By keeping my actions this year focused on my cornerstones and living with intention, I think that 2016 could be the best year yet.

Do you choose a word for the year? If so, what is it? Share in the comments.

My past reflections on words for the year:

Other resources: