After spending a lot of time in 2017 (re)building and exploring my warmer-fuzzier side, I figured in 2018 I needed to be a bit more aggressive again.

But not in a way that negates everything I learned over the past twelve months.

That’s always a danger in setting goals and intentions at the beginning of a new year.

We spend hours — days — weeks reflecting on and reviewing our past year in December, and then in January we sit down to plot brand new plans and focus.

Yet how often do we stop to think about how we are applying the lessons of the past to our hopes for the future?

As I thought about what I want 2018 to look like, and what I need to do to make that happen, I didn’t want to lose the vulnerability that I worked so hard to claim.

But maybe with a little less (ok, a lot less) time curled into a fetal position.

It’s no surprise to me that, the past couple years I didn’t use a word to guide my time, I was feeling so listless.

Or maybe it was because I was feeling so listless, that I didn’t choose a word.

A real chicken and the word-of-the-year quandary.

So for my first step in planning 2018, I needed to figure out what my word should be.

My 2018 Word of the Year

Now you may be wondering why the heck I’m waxing poetic about words, or at least not in the same way I usually wax poetic about words.

Choosing a word to direct your year is something I learned about a while ago. By doing this, you have a bit of a guide and mindset to get through the next 12 months, personally and professionally.

  • Have a hard decision you need to make? — How do the options fall into your word?
  • Struggling with goal-setting or execution? — How does it measure up against your word?
  • New opportunity you didn’t anticipate? — Is it in line with your word?
  • Not sure if something (a job, a relationship, a location, a fringe haircut) is a good fit anymore? — Do they fit your word?

Your word of the year is much more than just a word. It’s almost a mantra; if you repeat it enough, it will become your mindset.

So what is my 2018 Word of the Year?

This year I’m focused on the Exceptional.

When I looked at my preliminary goals and plans, I began to realize that I have some lofty ambitions for the upcoming year.

After the past year, when I broke myself again and again — and realized that I’ve missed some important personal connections and milestones while focused on work and travel — I didn’t want to fall back into my old Type-A get shit done habits.

While I do want great things to come from and happen this year, I also want them to have quality and depth.

I want them to be exceptional.

How am I looking to bring the exceptional into my 2018?

I’m glad you asked.

Four Focuses for the Exceptional

Not sure if you’ve thought on this as much as I have, but the concept of “exceptional” is a pretty big one.

Like one of those mind elephants that you can attempt to just choke down in a few gulps, or strategically and carefully play a long game at eating, one bite at a time.

To tackle exceptional for twelve months straight, I decided to break my word overview into four more applicable focuses. Basically, whenever I find myself in a situation where I need to decide if my response should be a fuck yes or a hell no, I can see if it falls under one of these umbrellas.

Seek the Exceptional

As I mentioned before, I don’t want this year to just be about going hard and hitting a lot of goals after last year’s rough spots.

I want to focus on things that I value, that have a degree of quality and hard-work put into them, that rise above the noise of the superficial and don’t reverberate off the walls of an echo chamber.

This means having more meaningful discussions and conversations with others. Reading and consuming media that has worth. Building new projects and guiding CYC in the direction of greatness. Working with clients and writing for an audience that shares my dedication to the exceptional. Finding a place where I can enjoy the richness of my surroundings and community.

Do the Exceptional

Last year involved a fair bit of coasting, as I didn’t have the energy or resolve to do anything more than tread water. Which is precisely what I needed at the time, and that’s more than reasonable.

Fortunately, the prior couple years of working my face off set me up with the ability to have a relatively successful year. Make no mistake, you rarely get to have one without the other in the world of entrepreneurship, as much as the gurus would like to tell you to relax and find balance (after they’ve worked their faces off to build a business in which you can actually do that).

Still, after that coasting, this year I want to be more active and ambitious in my tasks and actual goals. I want to at least double CYC’s six-figure run rate from last year, when we managed to grow in spite of (and not because of) me. I want to invest my energy into friendships and relationships that nourish and enhance me, to find people to roll through life beside me rather than trying to complete me (or looking for me to complete them).  I want to write more and pitch to more publications and websites and appear on more podcasts, especially high caliber and respected for their own exceptional standards. I want to be more physically active and healthier, now that my flare-ups seem to be calming themselves down a bit.

Be an Exceptional Person

I’m not always a great person.

Ok, let me rephrase that.

I, like so many humans, have many faults. A few, off the top my head, include my sarcastic cattiness, my inability to commit to certain things, my laziness and energy deficiencies, my lack of monetary ambition… we’ll stop there cause now I’m starting to feel all mopey about myself.

Which is, of course, not the point of this exercise.

Yet I would be a fool to not recognize that to bring the exceptional into my life, I need to be radiating that same exceptionality (Exceptionalism? Level of exceptional? Editor, help me out here!) to the world. Editor’s Note: Exceptionality is the recognized noun version of the word exceptional, so you’re good to use it here, even though it isn’t common.

We tend to attract the energy and focus we put out.

I want to be someone who talks about other people and their situations less, and focuses on the ideas and events that interest me — or interest the people I’m talking with. I want to be someone that others can depend on, not only for fulfilling my obligations and promises, but for being there when the need and expect me to. I want to be someone who commits to things enthusiastically because I know they are the right decision for me. I want to love with abandon and without apprehension. I want to be less cynical and more accepting. I want to think deep thoughts and share those with the world. I want to be a leader at CYC that my team can admire and be proud of.

Embrace the UN-Exceptional

Whoa, hey there.

Bet that one took you a bit by surprise.

But like I said, we need to learn from the past to inform our present and shape our future.

That means I don’t want shove all that work on vulnerability and restfulness into a dark hole, where I can’t access it or forget to intentionally practice it.

Which is hard in a year marked by seeking, doing, and being exceptional.

Some of my happiest moments and times last year were the simple, quiet, “normal” experiences of life. Meeting friends for a coffee to catch up on their life, sinking into the couch with someone to watch silly British game shows, hanging out at the local pub learning about people and chatting the regular day-to-day conversations, tasting delicious regional foods and drink like mezcal and ouzo and whisky, lounging in bed all day reading a beautifully written piece of “fluffy commercial fiction” because it consumes me, meditating in a wonderfully relaxing savasana, sitting in a chair with a cup of tea listening to the world wake up around me…again, the list could go on.

Point is, I recognize that it is as important (and sometimes even moreso) when you have a year of such high standards and drive to find those special smaller flashes and savour them for what they bring to your life.

What Word Will Lead You in 2018?

Sure, I have lots of goals and milestones to accomplish this year.

I tend not to publish those as much anymore, as focusing on the result detracts from enjoying the journey. Plus, I find we learn more from mindfully figuring out the process than we do from checking items off a to-do list — as much as I love checking items off a list!

Instead, in 2018 I will focus on the Exceptional.

In all the ways it may present itself in my life.

How about you? Do you have a word for 2018? I’d love to know what it is, and maybe a bit about why you chose it, in the comments below. Or a link to your own post about your 2018 word. I am, after all, seeking more exceptional reading and thinking in the upcoming months!

Photo Credit: anastas_styles