I know there are many people out there who already do the practice of choosing a guiding word for the year but for those who haven’t tried it, I can highly recommend it as a way to bring some focus throughout the year to what you really, really want from the next 12 months.
I first came across this idea three years ago via Gabrielle Treanor – an over-thinkers coach, writer and teacher who ran an email course on it at the time and the first word I chose that year was ‘Believe’. This was very appropriate as I’d just left a safe, long-term job in financial marketing and was leaping into the unknown to finally attempt my long-held dream of writing a novel.
Several times a day I would panic and think, ‘Can I really do this? Am I really good enough as a writer?’. At those points I’d let my eyes wonder to the yellow decorative flying pig on the wall in the kitchen with ‘believe’ written across it and focus once more on my guiding word, sit back down at my laptop and just type, hoping one day that self- belief would sink in.
Later I got a poster with Breathe magazine and framed it which said; ‘She believed she could so she did.’, and it reaffirmed that belief is simply everything, without it, as creatives, we are completely paralysed.
It became a standing quote between my daughter and I – she was moving up Swimming squads that year too, as well as starting middle school, so whenever we found things tricky, we’d say this to each other and laugh. That poster is still up in our kitchen and still makes me smile.
Last year, the word I chose was ‘Inspire’. One of my key values in life is just to help people and quite often animals too (that’s a whole other post, I’m Yorkshire’s answer to Dr Doolittle), in any way I can. I can’t help but try to problem-solve or lend a book out or advice that could help. I hate to see people struggling or any injustice and so it’s just a natural response that’s impossible to squash, unfortunately sometimes to my detriment but you can’t win them all.
So, the word, inspire, after a year of trying different creative avenues and getting curious about living a more fulfilling life, just seemed the most fitting choice but it was also to continue on this path of inspiration for myself and continue to be inspired by others too. It was the year I’d discovered Instagram properly, and this whole other world that existed of inspirational and creative people with such similar interests to me, a complete eye-opener.
Inspire served me so well last year, I was under pressure to find a great one to follow. It came to me after another word was flying around my head but not completely sitting well. That word was ‘Impact’ and it felt a little too forceful for me, I needed something gentler.
Finally, as is usually the case for me, it came to me in the middle of the night whilst on holiday at New Year when my brain had finally relaxed from all the craziness that comes with Christmas and a thousand ‘to do’ lists. Once I had the quiet and space, right there it popped into my head.
However, the slightly weird thing about this word is that it doesn’t sound quite as sexy as the others, or quite as attractive. It’s more steadfast, loyal, potentially even slightly boring, but it is what I need right now in my life and I’m glad it’s challenging my thoughts a little and I’m ok with not picking a nice, bright, shiny word from the top shelf.
The word I’ve chosen is ‘Value’ and what amuses me is this word has ironically lost a bit of value due to it being used so much in the likes of budget ranges in supermarkets or car dealerships! Anyway, I’m putting that connotation to the back of the shelf and focussing on what it means to me!
What I like to do when choosing my word is to make sure I can use it in lots of ways, in all aspects of my life, not just necessarily my main goal. I also like to do a bit of a mind-mapping process to really flesh out how I can use the word and set intentions for each element .
I suppose the main thing I kept coming back to that I wanted to change this year was to feel more valued, primarily by my close family and this is not a sob-story by any stretch and I’m sure that they do value what I do day-to-day for them but at the end of the day I’m more than just a Mum and a wife, I have a brain that’s buzzing with ideas too!
Let me explain; since leaving a corporate well-paid, part-time job just over two years ago, I’ve focussed primarily on the family, and all that entails as a Mum with two children who do a lot of activities, a very energetic cockapoo and a husband that works away a lot.
My weeks, prior to launching this website, were primarily logistical planning, dog-walking, taxi driving, chef and bottle washer and a few lunches with friends to keep me sane! When I’ve had time to think, I’ve squashed some writing of my book and designing of my art cards in there too.
Towards the end of last year, I worked with a coach to try and create more structure, word-count and enjoyment with my writing. Together we identified some key actions to support my writing and turn it more into a regular habit, such as creating a nice work space and upfront weekly planning BUT the biggest light-bulb advice that has really worked for me was to go out and find that tribe of other writers that I could talk to about my writing and share the experience with (i.e. replacing the camaraderie of a working office that I really missed!).
This is where my relationship with ‘Value’ began and why I want it to continue! I joined a local creative writing group – just a few people in a retired creative writing teacher’s house, attempting interesting writing tasks and having coffee and a catch up.
From that, I also joined The Yorkshire Writers Lunch – a mixed group of writers, all on their own journey, some published, some trying to be, like me.
What I loved about both these groups is that I felt valued and equal as a writer, even though in some cases I was nowhere near the level they are at but they made me feel so welcome and were truly interested in my writing journey. It almost validated what I was trying to do and made me feel like I am actually a ‘real’ writer.
That kind of encouragement, warmth and face-face interaction is key to people like us, often working on our own, in our own little bubble, and it is something I will continue to prioritise this year – it makes such a difference to my confidence to just talk to like-minded, creative people!
I value these new connections immensely and the feeling of being valued, (for my brain, not just domestic skills), I guess is what I was missing and I want this to extend to my family, especially my children.
In previous years they’ve seen me writing, but not regularly, seen me doing my art, but not taking it too much further, so I guess what I want and need to do is value my own time and worth, ideas and stories, follow these big dreams that I have for the curious creative club, and take them on that journey with me so that they in-turn start to value me (and my brain!) more – i.e. I’m really not just your personal slave guys!
So that’s a few ways that I’m using my word to guide me and I’m going to leave it there for now and come back to other different elements throughout the year to check in with how I’m using it. It will also guide me creatively of course, I want to produce pieces of art, writing or photography that are valuable to me, pieces that I can be proud of and proud to share too. Oh and these days I like to create a piece of art of my word for the year, so watch this space for my picture of Value…
As well as selecting a guiding word, I’ve set out ‘intentions’ for the year, creative goals I want to aim for and a regular calendar or events / groups that I know will continue to inspire me like last year, I’ll be talking all about that in my next post….it’s a great way to set yourself up for your most creative and fulfilling year yet.
Until next time….
Juliet, The Curious Creative x