A New Year, a New Word

Last year, in place of a long list of resolutions that I had no chance of keeping, I tried something different:

Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Scrap that long list of goals you won’t remember three weeks from now anyway. Choose just one word.

One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long.

One Word, 365 days (really 366, but who’s counting?). And the word I chose?

“Pray.” Not just in the morning or before bed, but constantly. Not just every day—one of the four parts of my ongoing New Year’s resolution—but all day. As St. Paul said: “Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” —1 Thessalonians 5: 17-18 (NAB)

How did I do? It was hit and miss. I know in retrospect that I took on too much too soon in the beginning and set myself up to falter. But, despite my far less than perfect attempt, I learned two important lessons. By setting the specific goal to pray I was more likely to accomplish it, and on the days I slacked off I really missed it. Over the course of the year, I found myself in a more prayerful place and I grew spiritually as a result. I’ve established a habit of prayer that I can stick to, even if it isn’t quite what I set out to accomplish a year ago.

So now I need to pick a new word for the next 365 days (really 364, but who’s counting?) and I’ve been thinking through some options.

I’m working on a guest post right now on the Benedictine motto of ora et labora (prayer and work), and since “pray” was my word last year, I thought I might try the other half this year. I am a writer—a struggling one, of course—so I could be practical and chose the word “write.”

But I realized that part of my struggle last year was due to my own frustration. I tried to force things that weren’t there, and when I lost control I got resentful and angry. I forgot that so many things in life are out of my hands, and to trust God to open new doors for me, and to look for those new doors, rather than trying to pry the old ones back open with a crowbar. So I could choose the word “trust.” When it comes to God, at least, we could all stand to trust more. But with the rest of the world? Not so much.

A third option—which is also the theme of my ora et labora post—is “balance.” In studying the Rule, and specifically the way St. Benedict structures a monastic schedule, I discovered that the basis of his approach is balance. Every aspect of the rule is a quest for balance.

I also like that balance is both a verb and a noun (that’s the writer in me again) and it seems to be what’s most lacking in my life right now, which might be while I’m so strongly drawn to the Rule. I see in it something I find missing in my own Sturm und Drang existence. Yes, drama is great for art, but it’s not so good for real life, and we all deal with enough uncertainty in life.

So “balance” it is. My word and my goal for 2013.

If you want to try this out for yourself, go to One Word 365 and pick your own word for 2013. There’s over 500,000 to chose from!

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