Last year, I reconnected with an annual practice I learned from Chris Brogan many years ago called My Three Words. Chris describes the practice as a simple idea: Choose three words (not 1, not 4) to help guide your daily choices and actions.
Your three words should come from a place of deep reflection and be specific to you and your aspirations for the coming year. My three words for 2022 were Purpose, Clarity, and Intentionality. I can’t begin to express how keeping these words at the forefront of my decision-making and actions toward others helped me be happier and more successful last year. Coming up with three new ones was a tall order for me. While I could have easily lived with last year’s three words, I decided to stand on their shoulders instead. My three words for 2023 are as follows:
In one of my favorite books from 2022, Energize: Make the Most of Every Moment by Simon Alexander Ong, Simon talks about the value of self-care. Think of it in terms of the instructions given by the flight attendants about what to do in the event of a loss of cabin pressure in the aircraft. “Place the oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting others.” It’s a fitting metaphor for taking care of yourself first so you are in the best position to help those around you. That said, it’s true both in an emergency and in our everyday lives.
At the end of last year, I spent more time reflecting, reading, working out, and saying “no” more often so I could be more effective to the people I said yes to. The better I feel physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually, the better I can be for others, both personally and professionally. Taking care of yourself first does not have to be an act of selfishness; it can be quite the opposite if you do so with purpose, clarity, and intentionality. It’s one way I stand on the shoulders of the three words that served me so well in 2022.
As I watched the New England Patriots play the Buffalo Bills yesterday, I got a sign from Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen that reaffirmed my decision on my second word when I noticed the words “choose love” on his helmet.
Leadership scholar Jim Kouzes talks about love this way:
“Of all the things that sustain a leader over time, love is the most lasting. It’s hard to imagine leaders getting up day after day, putting in the long hours and hard work it takes to make extraordinary things happen, without having their hearts in it. The best-kept secret of successful leaders is love: staying in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations provide, and with those who honor the organization by using its products and services. Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart.”
I love my work and the clients I serve. More than that, I love my family and friends, and I want to express that love more often in words and deeds in 2023. Again, with purpose, clarity, and intentionality.
When I think about all the people in my life, I want to better understand their goals, aspirations, opportunities, and challenges. Professionally, this means having clarity about how my clients see success and what role I can play in helping them achieve it. Sometimes that will involve my saying, “I may not be the best person to help you, but I can connect you with who would be.” Or, if I am the right person for the task at hand, I will commit to listening more, talking less, and setting even higher standards of excellence across the board. The same holds true, of course, for family and friends. The power of we begins with you.
My three words this year form a sentence that is not stated nearly often enough in this world. Think about the three words that will guide you in 2023. Write them down and then do your best to live them every day. Fair enough if I have not inspired you to try this exercise for yourself. Let me suggest this: call or write a person you love, tell them, and commit to showing them as often as possible. In your work life, it could be time to reignite your passion – to stoke that fire for what you do. And when you do, approach it with the same purpose, clarity, and intentionality that worked so well (at least for me) in 2022. Enjoy!
Written by Leo Bottary.
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