Clarity is the Mother of Intention
Last week, a colleague asked me what my Word of the Year is for 2022. I read their text over and over, wondering if I could just come up with something brilliant. Finally I admitted — to myself and to my colleague — that I hadn’t had (or taken) the time to reflect on the year ahead. The end of 2021 was a jam and the holidays were chaotic. A few days into 2022, I was already wrapped up in doing, going, running, hustling.
As my mentor Ellen would say, “there’s a finding here.” I texted my colleague to let them know I would get back to them with my word.
I work hard to be intentional. Sometimes my efforts end up being more activity than impact. I try to meditate every day. When I’m at my best, I’m aggressive about keeping up my streak. I hydrate, make time to get physically stronger. Every time I do yoga, I think, “I should do this more often.” And I’ve been saying I want to get back to playing tennis for a good three years now. I get creative under pressure. Sometimes in pursuit of productive pressure, I end up just doing things without an eye toward doing the things that will result in the most meaningful outcome. I’m good at busy, fast, and intense. I’m impatient with slow, gentle, iterative, magical. Maybe a Word of the Year could help me embrace a little more magic, deepen my intentionality or even my impact. Worth a try.
Over the weekend, I stumbled upon this New York Times article with instructions for How to Pick a Word of the Year. I’m terrible at reading instructions, so I skimmed the article and made a note to come back to it. I decided to meditate on it. Clarity was the word that came first. With this word, I would ask myself at every turn:
What am I doing?
Why am I doing this? For whom?
Is it an act of growth, service, love, performance?
Is it important, urgent, both or neither?
Does it matter to me and if so, how and why? If not, why am I doing it?
If I assume a toddler-like persistence with these questions, I would make decisions that are aligned intentionally with the change I want to see in the world. And it’s possible I would decide not to do things that aren’t aligned with the same. Or decide to do things that aren’t aligned, but do so with increased clarity of purpose (e.g. as an act of service for someone else, but not because I feel like I should or (just) because that person is a person I like).
I went back and read the NYT instructions. The article suggests that a good Word of the Year helps navigate the decisions one might be making in the coming year. It also says not to stop with your first word. So I plowed on and considered:
Transformation — I’m transforming my work this year to focus more intently on empowering women. I’m continuing a personal transformation to align everything I do with the change I want to see in the world.
Challenge — Something I’ve always relished. Would probably lead me toward doing hard things because it seems like they can’t be done but not necessarily because they’re worth doing for me.
Too comfortable/predictable for me.
Fearless — I’m taking some significant leaps with my career this year and am legitimately scared they might work out.
Joy — We all need more of this, always. Especially now.
Feels so big I could drive a truck through it/might not be able to pin it down.
Create, share, grow, glow, radiate — All things I want to do/more this year and forevermore.
Feels like I might find a beautiful image of any of these words to remind me of my Word on Etsy, and then hang it on my wall and ignore it.
I’m terrible at reading instructions and also, I don’t follow directions very well. I came back to my first word: clarity. Even though the instructions say you should pick a word that helps create clarity, I think what I need most right now is simply that: more clarity. A check and balance that helps me pay more constant attention to intention. I need the toddler-like persistence with the question, “Why?,” so that my intentions don’t get swept up in doing, going, running, hustling. To seek clarity around why I am doing what I’m doing or making the decisions I’m making. To seek clarity so that I stay intentional. In order to make sure I’m not just having better conversations with myself, I’m going to break the rules a little bit (can’t help it!) and modify:
My [Word Phrase of the Year: COURAGEOUS CLARITY.
This means getting crystal clear on what I’m doing and why, in real time and on an ongoing basis. Taking a constant inventory. It means having the courage to take leaps toward unknown territory when assured paths are also an option. It means turning toward myself and prioritizing endeavors which are most meaningful to me. I know what that feels like, and it’s more than a little bit terrifying. But I’m choosing to embrace the fear, walk toward the unknown and make 2022 my year of Courageous Clarity. As Robert Frost writes in his poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Happy New Year, friends.