What’s the Word?

The word is “EXPERIMENT“.

All my life I’ve heard people make New Year’s resolutions. Lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, quit swearing, pay down debt, save more… Most resolutions look at a negative aspect of life and assert a desire to do better.

I’ve never been very nostalgic, and I don’t have a lot of regrets. I swear, sometimes a lot. But those other things really aren’t trouble spots for me. So resolutions don’t hold much appeal. Besides, we all know most people fail in their resolution intentions.

But most of us want to be better people than we are today, and we struggle to find ways to become those people. Are there alternatives to the famous resolutions?

Sure. Some people find great success with making detailed plans. Rather than having some nebulous notion of paying off debt, they comb through current expenses, determine where cuts can be made, review outstanding bills, find which carry highest interest rates… With this information they plan where to put extra effort to make progress. And with some willpower and follow-through, they can succeed.

In the last few years, a new trend has appeared. The idea is to have one word to focus on throughout the year. The word should become something of a mantra. It should embody a broader notion of change, not in a specific behavior, but in how you view yourself and your world. Not “what do you want to do?” but “how do you want to be?”

My word for 2014 is “EXPERIMENT”. Yes, this is a verb, a “to do” word. But I want to encourage experimental behavior, to see myself as one who experiments. Many times I’ve entered a new year with a big squishy desire to try new things, especially in my creative work. Sometimes what holds me back is prioritizing my time. Sometimes it is fear. I haven’t pushed myself to try things out, often due to fear of failure.

For example, last year I asked for a set of Shiva Paintstiks for Christmas. Yes, I’ve opened the package. No, I haven’t tried them yet. WHY NOT?? Because they are new. And because I don’t think of myself as an artist. And if I tried them and the results were poor… what?? What bad thing would have happened? Nothing.

Experiment. Try something new. Be open to failure. Be open to success. Try those Paintstiks. Try new foods, new paths, new adventures.

Experiment with how I think about things. Experiment with how I use resources of all kinds. Experiment with where I get information, and how I convey it. Experiment with swearing less.

A year ago, without having heard about the “word” method of focusing change, I wrote the word “CREATE” on a white board near my sewing machine. Underneath I wrote “Write Doodle Color Sew Quilt Dream!” In truth, 2013 has been a highly creative year for me. I’m not sure my word “CREATE” helped inspire that. But seeing it often did not hurt.

EXPERIMENT. It’s a worthy goal unto itself and needs no specific outcome.

Do you make resolutions? Have you ever chosen a word of the year? How do you set goals for your future?


23 thoughts on “What’s the Word?

  1. Bluebird Annie

    I gave up on resolutions in favor of goals. I write out just a few broad ones each year. I have more success meeting goals than keeping resolutions.

    Focus word for 2014? WRITE.

  2. Cjh

    The word coming to me is SAVOR. While it does not seem like a word to propel me, it must be something that I need at this time. Even in rush, intensity, efficiency, or under demand by others….

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      I think that word works well. It is a good reminder on many levels to pay attention, to enjoy, to look for opportunities for pleasure… even when in rush, intensity, … Yes. Good word. Write it somewhere you will see it every day.

  3. shoreacres

    I first heard about “focus words” two or three years ago. I really didn’t like the idea. It seemed too narrow, too focused. I’ve always done resolutions, without quantifying them. For example: “fewer calories, more exercise” or “less television, more reading”. There have been some concrete results – such as finally tossing the television out the front door.

    But! this morning my word for 2014 came to me. It is…. FAIL! I’ve been pondering Alan Kay’s wonderful quotation for a couple of weeks. He says, “If you’re not failing 90% of the time, you’re not aiming high enough.”

    So, “fail” will be my way of aiming higher, albeit with a twist of humor that makes that whole “aim higher” thing a little less serious and a lot less tedious!

  4. Dark Creek Farm

    Great post! I had never heard of the theme word idea until you commented over on my blog – but thinking about it a bit more, it does seem like ‘resilience’ would be a very good word for the coming year. It reminds me to keep chugging along, even on the difficult days (I had one of those yesterday… which is maybe why that word popped out at me when I was looking at those book titles!). Reading the comments about the baby quilts makes me feel a whole lot better about one I started for my youngest niece six years ago. With a [much!] wider border than I had planned, it would make a fine wedding quilt for her some day! I think EXPERIMENT is a fine word to take into a new year – I can’t wait to see what comes of your experiments!

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      Experiment #1 (early, I guess!): I made rum balls. If you’ve ever made them, you know one of the features is that they are not baked. In essence, they are balls of pulverized vanilla wafers, sugars and cocoa, rum, and something sticky to hold them together. I used corn syrup.

      Well, the flavor is lovely, but the texture is that of raw cookie dough. I don’t like raw cookie dough! I don’t like the gooey texture. Why I didn’t remember that, I don’t know. So my experiment was to take these little wads of cookie and bake them. I flattened the balls a little with a fork and baked at 350F for about 12 minutes. Much better! Now I enjoy the flavor and texture.

      Yes, don’t give up on the baby quilt. Let me see a photo and I can help you figure out how to rescue it as a wedding quilt. If you look at my medallion quilt, you can see that they are just a smallish center (a baby quilt??) surrounded by a series of borders. Voila!

      Thanks for taking a look today and commenting.

  5. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words

    what a great post…
    I have done burning bowls but not the word to use…
    as I read yours, I kept thinking “oh I want that one”
    but “experience” keeps coming back to me…so I think the wind has whispered it for me…
    Thank you…I have really enjoyed the thinking thats flows through this post…
    Hope you and yours has a very Merry Christamas and a Wonderful New Year….
    Take Care…You Matter…

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      It’s funny about that. As you say, YOUR word keeps coming back to you. I mentioned to someone else, mine just pushed at me with no thought on my part. And when I wanted to change it, I could not.

      Experience is a wonderful word. There are so many ways to interpret that, both forward-looking and back.

      Thank you for your kind comments, and for reading today. Merry Christmas to you, too.

      1. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words

        You’re Welcome!
        I was writing it on a piece of blue paper to put where I can see it every day LOLs…
        I suspect it will suit me as the New Year unfolds….
        Thank you again…

  6. AlwaysARedhead

    I’ve made three quilts in my life, one for each of my children, though the teenage boy rants that I was nineteen years late for his. I made it up to him by following what I considered a difficult design to draw & sew, especially since the first two were basic block quilts. Anyways, I love that you make fabulous quilts and your word for the year – experiment. By the way, I came to your blog via A Frank Angle, http://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/on-the-afa-holiday-gift-basket/

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      Tell you son to get over it. 🙂 I didn’t make a baby quilt for my son until he was 21. But now he has quilts galore and a lifetime expectation of more. I have told him I probably won’t make him a wedding quilt, but will wait until their lives have settled a little into a little permanence of place, however temporary. He’s in the Air Force, so that may be a while!

      Thanks for coming by and reading this evening. It’s always great to make new friends.

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      I’ve read advice that says you shouldn’t search for your word, but let it come to you. Not sure how that works! But I’ll admit I didn’t think at all when mine came to me. I even wanted to change it, to “play,” but that just wasn’t right.

      Thanks for reading and commenting today.

  7. pamelajeannestudio

    My word for 2014 is ORGANIZE. I know that sounds boring, but it’s what I need. I feel like so many things in my life are out of whack–my weight, my finances, my home that I need to put things in order. I also need to seriously organize my fabric stash so I can “experiment” too!

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      It’s a good word. Feeling disorganized does feel unbalanced to me, too, “out of whack” as you say. It adds to my stress, and who wants to take more risks (experiment!) when stressed? Have you thought about how you’ll approach that?


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