The New Year’s Resolution You’ve Already Broken

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Alece Ronzino. After leading a nonprofit in South Africa for 13 years, Alece now lives in Nashville, TN. She is the founder of One Word 365. Connect with her on Twitter and on her blog.

Everything was spinning out of control the first time I felt the nudge. My husband had left, and the nonprofit we’d founded was in jeopardy. I felt like a failure in every possible way.

Resolution list
Photo Credit: creepyed via Compfight cc

As New Year’s approached, I struggled to see the hope in the start of a new calendar.

The promise of a fresh beginning seemed like a bait-and-switch mirage. The mere thought of writing a list of resolutions left me feeling completely discouraged before I even started.

New Year’s resolutions had never really worked for me. I would start the year with intense focus and commitment, writing a long list of goals for the next twelve months. But inevitably, six weeks in, I’d be hard pressed to even recall anything on the list.

And I definitely never managed to cross off even half of the items by the end of the year. (Let’s be honest: by December, I had no idea where my list even was.)

A resolution revolution

Already feeling like a miserable failure, I couldn’t imagine setting myself up to fail yet again with another round of resolutions.

So in a resolution revolution, I decided to scrap the whole idea and instead choose just one word to focus on all year long. I figured that one word would at least be memorable, and could serve as a touchstone, something to keep returning to when I needed clarity.

I wanted one word to be the filter through which I made decisions, the lens through which I chose to see myself and others, and the compass pointing me to true north.

It wasn’t about something I wanted to do as much as it was about who I wanted to become.

And the nudge I felt, the word that kept rising to the surface, absolutely terrified me. It seemed too big. Too daunting. It felt like a loose cannon, and I couldn’t possibly imagine where this word would lead me.

But I couldn’t shake it.

A year of risk

So I finally committed to my one word, said it out loud, and proclaimed it on my blog: risk.

Even now, a few years later, I take a deep breath just thinking about all the risk that year held for me — or rather, all the risk I purposefully pursued:

  • I went on vacation with a bunch of people I’d met only three weeks before.
  • I rappelled 100 feet into a Mexican canyon.
  • I prayed risky prayers.
  • I went on an eight-week fundraising trip by myself.
  • I completed a half-marathon.
  • I had difficult conversations, made some really hard decisions, pursued answers for long-term health challenges, and hit publish on especially-vulnerable blog posts.

That year, I was stretched and challenged in so many ways and became a better person for it. I also discovered my limits went much further than I ever knew.

I had a love/hate relationship with risk, but it completely shaped my year. More than that, it completely shaped me.

Staging your own revolution

Would you join me in doing something truly revolutionary this year?

Instead of making the same tired list of arbitrary resolutions (that you’ve probably already broken), why not scrap the plans and choose just one word you can focus on every day, all year long. One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live.

And remember: If it doesn’t scare you at least a little bit, it’s probably not the right word. Choose your word, write it down, and find a community to encourage you. I assure you: it’s worth the risk.

What’s your one word for this year? Share in the comments.

After leading a nonprofit in South Africa for 13 years, Alece now lives in Nashville, TN. She is the founder of One Word 365. Connect with her on Twitter and on her blog.

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218 thoughts on “The New Year’s Resolution You’ve Already Broken

  1. This is a really neat twist on resolutions! I haven’t written mine yet, though I know what I want to try and accomplish, and it feels like a big list. I think if I was to choose one word to over arch a theme with my goals, it would be “finish.”

    I have soooo many loose ends and unfinished projects. I want to get things wrapped up. I know I can, it’ll just take a lot of work.

    If “finish” isn’t possible, at least “persevere” and get as much completed towards finishing as I can. Maybe “focus” is a better theme! See? I really need that, too! Can we have more than one word? Or maybe there’s one word that indicates focusing on something to get it finished! *laugh*

    Good luck with yours!

    1. Mine is BEGIN; yours is FINISH. Maybe one day in the future I’ll be able to claim that as my own, too.

    2. Haha! Love hearing you think out loud in your comment! (I’m glad to discover I’m not the only one who does that!) And I hear you… Starting is way easier than finishing, or persevering, or focusing… So I get where you’re going with this… Keep marinating on it… I have a feeling something’s gonna stick.

      1. Haha! It’s more like rambling. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement. I’m not going to give up this year!

  2. Great post! This is my second year doing One Word but this is the first year I’ve taken a much more laid back approach to my goal setting and resolutions. I want to be awake in my life and strive for more of what God has for me.

    My One Word 2014 is Increase.

    God has done so much in my life in the last year and I’m praying he’ll increase in all areas. Writing, Business, Finance, Wisdom, etc.

  3. I set a few little action steps I could do every day to improve several areas of my life. I got way too overwhelmed by too many goals and failures for years…

    I like the one-word resolution method though. I’m focusing on relationships this year… one in particular… 😉 I’ve been focusing on being more “loving” with everything I do and say in improving my relationship. Maybe that could be my one word for 2014. Because I’d be pretty psyched even if if the only thing I could accomplish in 2014 would be to become more loving. I can’t say the same thing about a lot of other words… I’ll have to explore this a bit more though…

  4. My word: Discipline.
    I have a book in the works – it’s been in the works for a couple years now. I let too many things distract me. I do this and that and pretty soon the day’s gone…well, “I’ll write tomorrow.” Tomorrow, the same thing happens.
    My word, my prayer, is discipline.

  5. Alece, I’ve seen a few other bloggers who did one word for 2013. I’ve personally never done one and I wouldn’t even know how to go about it. Is there some sort of process you go through when you choose a word or do you just kind of come up with one naturally?

    Also, does this mean that you don’t have any other resolutions or goals? It seems to me you could have both.

    1. You absolutely could still set goals or resolutions — some people still do both. For me, it works best (literally all year long) to focus on one word — but i have friends who’ve done great at incorporating specific goals in with their word.

      Here are some thoughts and ideas on landing on your word — maybe this sort of process would be helpful to you…. https://oneword365.com/still-trying-to-find-your-word/

      I’ve never done any kind of written exercise like that, but I know many who’ve benefitted from that practice and felt it really made their word rise to the surface… Give it a try… Let me know what you come up with, Caleb!

    1. You should read Jeff Shinabarger’s MORE OR LESS. You’ll gain a new perspective about how much is enough.

  6. My One Word this year: Embrace. Not completely comfortable with this since I’m not a huggy person, but I want to welcome in the opportunities, the people, the risks that God brings my way this year. I want to be present enough to embrace each moment, to embrace my strengths (and limitations), to stoop down and embrace my kids in all their glory.

  7. I like this. It’s similar to what I’ve been doing since I was fifteen, which is longer ago than I care to admit. 😉 Each New Year’s Eve, I spend a little time with the Lord asking Him what He wants me to focus on. Just one thing. This year it’s very simple. I’m just supposed to focus on Him. I also wrote about it on my blog. ( https://barrenfieldsfruitfulgardens.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/focus-not-resolutions-for-2014/ ) It’s been a very special, profitable tradition for a long time now.

  8. My word is BELIEVE — because God is doing some crazy things that I need crazy faith to be able to walk forward into the plans! 🙂

      1. It’s not so much whiplash as it is a slingshot from 0 to 60 in a moment! It would be whiplash if 2015 went back to relax haha. Who knows what the future holds?! Thanks for the cheers, Alece. Thankful for you!

  9. Jeff,
    I feel like things are changing so quickly I’m challenged to see where the future is going. So my word for this year is VISION.

  10. I would choose the word ANCHOR as my ‘word of the year’. I choose this word because within it hold so much “weight” and meaning. I have a nasty habit of running away from the issues that could make me stronger so when obstacles step into my path and the only thing I feel like doing is giving up, I will remember WHO my Anchor is (Jesus) and His ability to keep me grounded while I ride the waves of my storm! Remembering my ANCHOR would remind me that this storm too, shall pass!

  11. I just asked my husband what his word would be. Without hesitation he said the same word I had chosen and had not yet shared with him: PATIENCE. I guess that’s the word for our household this year.

  12. I love this practice of choosing a word. This year, I chose MOVE. Not my household but in nearly every area, I need momentum. I wrote about it in more detail on my blog.

      1. So, Alece, what word have you chosen for 2014? Love the One Word 365 site. It’s beautiful. I’m looking forward to taking time to look around and join up.

  13. I love focusing on One Word. It’s always amazing to me how God uses it to teach me lessons and grow me. This year I chose VALIDATE. It stems from a desire on my heart to find more creative ways to love others. It’s only been 2 weeks but excited about how it’s already teaching me to be more purposeful.

  14. My word is Consistent. I already started this challenge when i heard about this concept on HIS radio. I am determined to break the habit of inconsistency and finish well.

  15. My word for 2014 is Intentional. I want to be intentional about ministry, my time with the Lord, about living each day for HIM

    1. Two years ago, this was my word, too. Made a huge difference as everything I did that year I did through the filter of that one word. Best wishes in 2014, Jeanne!

      1. Thanks, Chantel. Last year my word was ABIDE. I think using a word as a lens is very effective. I am excited to see what’s in store.

      1. Me too, Alece. I began hearing this word along with CHOSEN about mid way through 2013. I realize in order to be intentional I must make choices each day

  16. So glad Alece has shared about oneword! I’ve been in contact with her and she knows I’m going host a monthly link-up (you can read about details if you’re interested at https://www.messymiddle.com/oneword365-linkup/). In essence, I do better with some accountability and figured others do as well. So, if you’d a place to show up once a month (the third Tuesday) and share with others … welcome!

  17. How wonderful! What a truly inspiring post. Gosh, my son who was born with a rare brain disorder has had a headache since May. Now finally maybe a holistic doctor will help us. So my one word would be CALM. Thanks so much, Alece.

    1. CALM… Robyn! I love that!!! I truly hope this new holistic doctor will be able to help find some answers for your son… I can’t imagine how painful (in every way) this path has been… Thinking of you tonight…

          1. That would be amazing. I’m making note of your contact information. I’ll be at Plywood Retreat in early March, and then I’ll have more clarity about the direction we’re going. Thanks for the encouragement!

  18. “Success,” is my word. I plan on building a successful blog for work from home entrepreneurs, in 2014. My goal may sound vague – void of deadlines and milestones – but it just feels right. Every day that I work on my site with focus and joy, and every day that my membership grows – I am a success.
    All the best to you this year 🙂

  19. So, cool. I finally came to my word and joined OneWord365 today before I saw this post. I love the synchronicities. It took me a couple of weeks of being still and listening for my word to come. Now I am so excited to be with for 2014. My word is ALIGNMENT. Thanks for the inspiration and looking forward to exploring with the OneWord365 community.

    1. I love (and appreciate) hearing your process of needing a few weeks to be still and listen for you to get a sense of your word. I’m intrigued by “alignment” and look forward to watching your journey unfold, Beth!

  20. That’s odd that I had already gotten my one word before seeing this. My one word this year is: Intentional. I’m excited to see what this year brings!

  21. I chose mine already and I nearly choked when I read your first one. Mine is risk! Trying to get a book deal and training for a 5k for starters. I hope it’s kind to me.

  22. Selected a word for the first time this year, freedom. Already having an impact less than 1/2 a month into January. Much faster than the traditional resolutions.

  23. Intentional (like several others on here!). That word has been in my head since 2013, now it’s time to put that word into action! Thanks Jeff & Alece, this is SO fun!!!

  24. My word for the year is Success! I got really excited reading your post. I’m taking on Success in all areas of my life this year! Thanks!

  25. “but it just feels right…” and ya know, stacey? that’s all that matters. outside criteria and external measuring sticks don’t matter… follow after that peace you feel inside and that gut feeling that you’re on the right path!

    1. “slow down my life” — man, it takes some serious intentionality to do that… I can’t wait to hear about what you see and learn and discover on this slowed down journey of gratitude, Sherilyn!

  26. My word: focus. So many times I just “getting it done” without taking the opportunity to reflect and reboot.

  27. Great post, thank you Alece. The only word I am able to point at is truth. If it is not there, nothing makes sense. Followed closely by real…

  28. Fantastic post Alece! My word for the year is authenticity. In 2013 when I first started my venture online I was trying to be everyone else and not really succeeding. I realise now there is room for individuality so I have dubbed my year as “shamless marketing of my authentic self”.
    Risk for me first involves acceptance of our vulnerability and I came across this talk: Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability on Tedtalks and would like to share this link with the readers here so you can check it out too: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html
    Enjoy!

    1. I love me some Brené Brown!! If you haven’t read her books Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection, I think they’d add a lot to your authenticity journey this year, Suzanne.

  29. My word is Faith, I will test my faith this year. I will do away with perfectionism. I will enter places i don’t qualify, I will just do whatever comes to my mind (instead of measuring my qualifications). Faith can be stupid and risky. So i will do stupid and risky things. Just so i can test, if i believe what i say i believe-that all things are possible.

  30. WOW! I was like a deer in headlights after reading this post. I was just telling a colleague that I have the word, “ACTION” placed all over my place. This is my one word for the year. I no longer need to only think or say, I need to ACT! Thank you for allowing me to see that I am on the right path.

  31. I think my word for this year is “DARE”. Because I want to do a lot of things but I don’t dare… It’s time to make them real and not having fear. Like publish a book or postulate to another job, for example.

  32. Thank you, Alece. Sorry Jeff – I’ve already fallen down over the 500 words.
    My word is ‘JESUS’ – came as I was reading your piece, Alece. Reminds me that my goal is to become more Christlike, reminds me that Jesus set his face like flint to do what he had to, that he’s always with me through the tough times as well as the good —- I could go on and on —- I could easily find a different reason for every day of the year. Thanks again.

    1. “i could easily find a different reason for every day of the year” — that would be a great way to approach it! that’s so awesome, sandra!

      and don’t beat yourself up over the 500 words… even if you’ve missed a day (or several of them), today is always the perfect day to start again!

      1. Thanks Alece. I think this one word thing is an awesome substitute for resolutions.
        – and I plan on writing down a different reason every day – thanks for your encouraging reply.

  33. Great post! This blog never fails to give me some much-needed strength (my 500 words a day marathon is going quite well, by the way!).
    One word that should define 2014 for me… Positive. I just want to be able to find the strength to look at the positive side of things this year. 🙂

      1. I think my worst battle has always been with myself. Somehow I just can’t let myself make mistakes, but when I do occasionally mess up, it makes me go ballistic.
        I’m always writing on my blog about the importance of failure and the real meaning of success, but somehow I can never make myself implement those ideas in my real life.
        Here’s hoping I can change that this year! 🙂

  34. After mulling over Connect and various forms of Execute (Execute, Begin, Finish, Do), I came to the only logical solution: my word is Focus. It’s time to stop attempting to multitask.

  35. My word this year is “details”. I want to focus in on things rather than flit from one to the next without ever gaining much depth. My word last year was “amplify,” and this year’s word sort of extends that concept. This approach has transformed my goal setting. It works so much better with how I think. Traditional goal setting felt like too much of a focus on my weaknesses. Plus, no matter what I wrote down, something else always felt neglected. And, my one word can apply to strengths and weaknesses.

  36. My word this year is “abide.” I’m in a place where I’m gaining more opportunities for using my gifts of writing and speaking, which is a great blessing, but in the midst of it I can let the voices of the world drown out God’s. Hence, abiding in Him. I’ve been writing a weekly word about how it’s going at my blog: http://www.ginabutz.com

    1. oh man, Gina! “i can let the voices of the world drown out God’s” — i do that far too often as well…

      love that you’re writing weekly through your journey this year. so awesome!!

  37. I just remembered something a wise man told me earlier this year. He’s been around a long time, and he’s done many things. He told me about the new word that he lives by–that guides his decisions and his life: ENOUGH. It’s about being content with enough and rejecting our natural and insatiable appetites for more.

      1. Yes, I as in me, not I as in Latin for Go! (Actually, I was torn between I and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but in keeping with my resolution for 2014 to save time by keeping things brief, upon lengthy deliberation I went with the former.)

  38. I gave up New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago because they didn’t work. I had never heard of the one word idea, but I came up with one anyway. Love. Not about my love for others, not to be a loving person, per se, but I wanted to know about this God of Love. I have been saved for over thirty years, but my ideas of God are mostly a God with his arms crossed, looking down, and shaking His head over my failures. This year, I purposed to find this God. At a Praying in Color class at the beginning of the year, someone mentioned the one word idea. Interesting. Guess it didn’t really originate with you. Ha, ha.

  39. I love the one word focus – I’ve done it for a few years now and it always surprises me how the word fits into everyday life. This year’s word is “selfless” – not only in my actions but in my thoughts. I get too caught up in thinking about me and what people think about me and how I fit. I want to think of myself less, and think of others for THEIR sake, not mine.

  40. A very inspiring post with great focus. Choosing one word that permeates through all of your choices is an excellent approach to New Years resolutions. I’ll have to spend some time thinking about my word though!

  41. AUTHENTIC. I want to live the life that the real me wants, not the life I should be living on account of previous commitments. AUTHENTIC ECCENTRIC.

  42. My word is Trust. And what an adventure the first 14 days have already been being challenged by this word. Each day has presented opportunities to reveal how I could trust more. On day 12, my Dad, who is in the middle of these opportunities for me to trust more, told me ‘by February, you may be wanting to re-think this word.’ To which I replied, February, it’s only the 12th day and I want to re-think it. But there are no do-overs on the one word process

  43. My word is INSPIRE. I want to be more of a source of inspiration to myself and others. To step into my greatness and helping others do the same while kicking fear in the bells. Concentrating on one word instead of a litany of resolutions seems much easier. Thank you! Project Inspire to go Higher has commenced!

  44. My word is BALANCE. This word has been sitting on my shoulder, tickling my ear for the longest! To achieve my goals, I have had to learn not to give the majority of my time away to others…family, friends…did I say family?! While I find them all to be inspirational, it can also serve to create obstacles, and distractions…so, BALANCE can only happen if I set purposeful priorities, and objectives in order to see my goals to fruition. Somewhere, hidden in that one word BALANCE, is the term “no.” Saying “no,” is not a bad thing…it has a positive, and powerful auxiliary function which allows me to say “Yes,” to me, and achieve stasis. One Word 365…Love It, Live It!!! TY Alece Ronzino!

    1. This is so so good, Suz. Balance is really hard to come by without intentionality… especially in our culture driven by “busy-ness”. Good for you for making that your purposeful priority this year!

      1. That’s it! I feel that if we focus on keeping our “intentions pure,” we will experience synergy – another important part of balance, and creating a solid inner circle, AND community of people who become a trusted source.

  45. My word this year is “Efficient.” I want to use my time wisely, make the most of every opportunity and find ways to do what I love and get paid for it!

  46. My word is “Freedom”. If a task or goal will bring me closer to what I perceive to be freedom, I will let it take me there.

  47. Nice article, it’s a concept I’d actually been thinking about. My word this year is ‘Change’ and really I look at in terms of embracing change. I have a fear of the unknown but that’s where the magic happens so this year I’m going to try and embrace all the changes and take them as they come instead of hiding from them!

  48. I’ve not said my word out loud yet… I don’t even really know that I want to commit to a word… But I’ve whispered it, I’ve slyly typed it into an email to a friend, and it’s bounced around this broken heart of mine for weeks now…

    I’ve fought and held on for years… I’m a control freak. I want to do it all— on my own, in my own way…
    And I finally made a really difficult decision last year… I finally took a step in the right direction and now I don’t know where to go from here, much less how to get there….

    So?
    *whispers* ….surrender

  49. Just found my word yesterday, or maybe it found me. I am not entirely sure what implications it
    has for me this year. But I am excited
    about it and looking forward to the adventure.

    My word is seek.

    I will seek the things that matter most, I will seek to love
    with abandon, I will seek to live a life worth celebrating, I will seek to
    understand first, I will seek out new relationships, I will seek to id3entify
    what it means to seek. Thanks for the
    push to share this with others.

    Long live the revolution.

  50. This is an awesome post! I prayed about my word for awhile and settled on “create.” Creating with writing my blog and books, creating with writing my thesis for my Master’s degree, creating relationships, etc. It really changes your thinking!

  51. Hello; Thanks for sharing this with us. I think it is a great idea having a key word for your year. its a great place to start when setting goals both large and small. for me its to continue stretching myself so I’m going with challenge. And i agree with you that your word should make you nervous. I recently heard a friend say that you know when a big decision has been made correctly when the answer makes you excited and nautious at the same time. Thanks again and take care, max

  52. Sorry, I am a little late to this party, but I have only discovered this blog post today.

    The word I have chosen starting today is acceptance. The past two years felt like I was standing in a tornado of some sort. Getting pelted by stuff, sometimes I am on the ground, sometimes the ground left me. I must take control and the only way I can see is acceptance. For starters, accept who I am. Accept my obesity. Accept that God still loves me. Only then can I join a church family and feel acceptance instead of exceptance.

    I have read a quote of Alvin Augustus Jones that I am keeping close to my heart:
    A writer writes not because someone will read it; he writes because he is a writer.
    A chef cooks not because some will eat it; he cooks because he is a chef.
    The best are the best at what they do, not because they hear the call of the wild,
    they are the best at what they do because they answer the call from within.
    Alvin Augustus Jones

    Thanks for this blog.
    Pierre

  53. Hi; well except for actual commissions received i am coming off of a great year. I sold more stuff. I got more involved in the blogging community. My alexa rank sky rocketed to the top 600,000 worldwide and top 200,000 us. I started doing videos. I was mentioned on adrienne smith’s blog. ashley faulkes helped me clean up the site. I am rolling into 2014 feeling very froggy. I’m thinking success. You see I have made a couple of big sales only to not be paid or not receive as much as i expected. I have since created a contract hoping to solve this problem. but i sometimes wonder if maybe i am afraid of financial success and may not be assertive or aggressive enough in setting terms or collecting fees. so I think success. what do you think? to borrow a phrase from my favorite wrestler the nature boy rick flair. in 2014 i will be jet plane flying limo riding wheeling dealing son of a gun. wink thanks for reminding me about coming up with a word. thanks, max

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