Boy looking through telescope. Searching Focus word!

What’s Your Focus Word?

For years now, I enjoy a Word-for-the-Year.  This year it is “Community.”

This focus word is more like a road to travel than a destination.  Think of Robert Frost’s diverging road in the yellow wood.  Frost chose the road less travelled; his focus word could have been “adventure” or “beyond comfort zone” or “curiosity.”  Someone with an inclination towards “security,” “comfort,” or “one step at a time” may have followed the path well-trod.

 You and I face a TON of decisions daily.  Research reveals the debilitating impact of decision-overload.  By the time 5 o‘clock rolls around, our brains are spent from making choices as varied as which of the five cereals to eat for breakfast to allocating resources to major business projects.

A focus word streamlines decisions.  It’s a lens through which we view the world.

Through the perspective of my focus word, community, it does not matter which cereal I eat so long as I breakfast with my kids.  In my business, I’m seeking partnerships.

Don’t you too wish to look back over the day or week or year and assert with assurance that we lived One. Great. Time.

How will we measure “great”?  Through the focus word!

The Focus Word vs. Chaos

People ask me, “But, isn’t this limiting?  One word for the entire year?!”

Science affirms that our natural tendency is towards chaos. 

An unkept gardens grows into a mini-jungle.  Without an agenda and a leader, a meeting can oh-so-quickly degenerate into a griping session or a game of office politics.  No house-rules about eating invite snacking and fewer sit-down family meals.

It takes effort to keep chaos at bay.  Intentionality.   

You and I know that our energy is finite.  Effort is good.  Exhaustion isn’t helpful.  The focus word helps set boundaries that are simultaneously clear and gentle.

The Focus Word & Barrier or Center-Orientation

A mentor speaks of two ways to define groups.  This can be applied to behaviors as well.

  • According to the barriers. 
    On one side people or actions are “in” and others are “out.” 
Star-belly Sneetches are “In”. Plain bellies are “out.”
Center is the focus
  • According to the center.
    Those whose life is most aligned with the center enjoy the greatest sense of belonging and stability.  The core is the key.

A focus word provides a center-orientation to your day, week, and year.

Examples of Focus Words

The focus words frees us from guilt at having missed our goal or “crossed the boundary.”  Tomorrow we are presented with yet another opportunity to move closer to the center.

Here are some examples

Slow

Slow” was one of my previous words.  Changes abounded in personal and professional life and I felt confused and sometimes trapped.  Many circumstances lay outside of my control.  No matter how hard I pressed life’s accelerator, the situation did not move faster.

Slow meant

  • Give people space.  My concern lay foremost on my mind…not on everyone’s.  Respect their priorities too.
  • Grow in the waiting.  Consider this period of my life as a gift to me to prepare for an upcoming action-packed rhythm.  What can I learn about myself and others?  Where do I need to heal/grow/give/be silent?
  • Be vs. Do.  Love myself. Period. And allow others to be vs. trying to change them.  Sooo much easier said than done!

The “Slow” focus word impacted my daily routine (I integrated more time for thinking) and my attitude towards others (I would catch myself judging people and remember to listen and observe before jumping to conclusions). 

When waiting grew frustrating, I would take long walks to review my life’s journey.  Five years ago, I could not have imagined my current life!

Decisions

I worked with a woman who chose “Decisions” as her focus word. 

The word seemed obvious as she faced upcoming transitions.  She grew even more through the more subtle, daily decisions she learned to recognize and take

  • Her attitude in face of uncertainty
  • Her actions when others behaved inappropriately (according to her)
  • Her time management and priorities
  • The food she ate and her exercise practices

Fruitfulness

One woman chose to apply this Bible verse to her life, focusing one of these fruit per year:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5: 22-23

She was mature in years and experience and was going through the cycle again!  Her focus word impacted her behavior so powerfully that friends recognized when it was the year for joy or tolerance (forbearance) or gentleness.

Impact

A focus word has impact.  We grow both for ourselves and those with whom we work and live.  

I hope that at the end of this year, friends, colleagues, and family will feel enjoyment  at being together. ?

Choosing a Focus Word

How do we choose a focus word?  From the heart and soul, not the head.

Psychologists assert that our beliefs, not our intellectualization, impact our behaviors.  A focus word that sticks addresses our emotions and our vulnerabilities.  It goes beyond the rational.  We can be blind to those underlying assumptions and mindsets.

Here are two ways I have found helpful to remove our barriers and identify a focus word.

Ask

I was taught to ask in prayer.  The focus word is a spiritual exercise.  Do you believe in a higher being?  Ask for a focus word. 

Alternatively, petition trusted friends. “If you would give me one word for the year, what would it be?”

When they answer, notice your physical reaction.  Does it hit you in the gut?  Are you comforted in your mind?  Do you feel embraced?

With that awareness, sit with the word for a week.  The initial reaction, whether positive or not, is not always the last word.  Some of us need a wake-up call.  Others crave encouragement. 

To sit with the word, I put it on my calendar as an all-day event that lasts a week.  I see it everyday and let it ruminate.

You can ask me.  Send me a note.  It would be a delight to work together to identify a focus word for the year…it’s a way to build community with you! 

Do the Pizza Plan

Another useful technique is the Pizza Plan.  This four-step process brings to focus important facets of your life (pieces of pizza) and your satisfaction in each (crust and goodies).  This funny-looking pizza gives insight into the challenges opportunities (!) for the upcoming year.

I created a free four video series for you.  Discover it here.

Get more clarity sooner.  Write me. I will walk you through the process and be a mirror for you.  It sure helps to gain fresh perspective!

What is YOUR Focus Word?

Share your word in the comments below.  It’s great to hear from you…that’s community too.

Anger Management – Transforming Moods like Winter into Spring

Business took me to the Swiss Alps for an early morning meeting, so I chose to travel the night before and mix work with pleasure, decision-making with mountain hiking.

A light snow fell upon my arrival in the evening dampening both my body and my mood.  Anger?  No.  Apprehension?  Yes.

In Paris attire (albeit with walking shoes), I trudged one half hour through the wintry wet to settle in for the night.  My plan:  early to bed and early to rise.  Hike three hours from my mountain village to the town in the valley in time for our 10:30 meeting.

Winter outside.  Without Anger Management, winter lurks inside the soul too.

Winter magic clothed the trees in the morning.  Gentle flakes transformed these grey giants into lace.  Grey lace.  The sun had yet to shine of these latent beauties…only to destroy their flaky glory.

Snow on trees
Grey lace of snow dusted trees in early morning light.

Smoke from the chimney
Still cuddling by the fire…at breakfast time! Someone got up EARLY.

Camera poised I set out to capture their beauty…and slid on the thin layer of black ice that paved the road.   Immediately my focus was brought low, literally to the ground.  From high and wondrous thoughts to fear and frustration…and annoyance multiplied over the loss of my moment of magic.

Isn’t that the same with our moods?

We can be flying high with soaring spirits and CRASH down to earth…or worse.  Anger management, where are thou?!

How Sweet is Home?!

My kids’ behavior can do that to me.  I think “Home Sweet Home” only to discover “Jungle Wild Jungle.”  Strewn shoes, coats, and backpacks block my way to the front hall closet so that I no longer feel welcomed home.  Next the sound of video games accost my ears…on a weekday when the children are supposed to be reading, writing, and “arithmetizing.”  You probably get the picture.

Great mood.  Yucky temper.  In one second.  Anger management, HELP!

[bctt tweet=”Great mood.  Yucky temper.  In one second.  Anger management, HELP!“]

The Neuroscience of Anger Management

Neuroscience reveals that our brains are incapable of reasoning during moments of high stress.  We’re stuck in emotional responses, subservient to fight or flight.  It’s like the connections between our logic and our feelings has been interrupted.  In order to find solutions, be creative, and even understand the folk speaking to us, we need to reconnect the upper and lower spheres of our brain (the cortex and pre-fontal cortex).

Anger management is a physical phenomenon whereby broken communication pathways rejoin.  By calming down, a person allows this uniting process to reoccur in our brains.  (FYI, full upper and lower sphere connectivity in the brain is capable as of 25 years of age.  Kids and youth can nonetheless get close.)

Dr. Jane Nelsen, in her book on Positive Discipline, refers this reintegration moment as a “Positive Time Out.”  I cherish the name given by parents in one of my Positive Discipline classes: “I want my Cozy Corner.”

Anger Management in Action…
Literally Walking into It 🙂

My hike down the mountain led me to Cozy Corners of my soul.  Reconnecting my rational thinking with my disappointments of today (they’re not that huge, after all) and my hopes for tomorrow (they’re totally attainable still!!).  Bye-bye vexation.  Hello expectancy.

First I noticed the sun tinge the tips of the snow-frosted trees.  Light and warmth will soon melt the ice below my feet.  They will also melt the glaze on the trees.  Tough moments also hold their magic.  The glass is also half full.

Snow on trees
Tree tips reaching for the light. A ray of hope…

Snow on trees like lace
The sun did come out tomorrow. Bye-bye ice…and farewell lovely lacy trees.

Winter into Spring
The Dividing Line : Winter into Spring & Early morning into Daytime

Even anger holds its treasures.  Consider frustration as a sign that something should change.  Fury may even fill us with the energy to explore an alternative behavior.

Managed Anger Makes Room for Positive Emotions

My enthusiasm grew with the anticipation of a fear-less walk.  So did my patience.  Like Annie in the musical, I could bet my bottom dollar that the sun would come out…even sooner than tomorrow.

Hope heralds forbearance, a valuable resource for every parent and child.  Is “now” always the best time?   Think of when you last called the children to eat dinner.  NOW!  Remember when your precious one wanted admiration…while you were on the phone.  NOT NOW!

With every step down the mountain, Spring grew and grew.  Trees lost their white hue and adopted a green undertone until I reached places where plants paved the soil and petite bright green leaves fluttered above.  The ground burst with lilies of the valley about to bloom.  “Do they grow better in mountains?” I mused…

By now the sun poured through the branches and colorful flowers cheered my route.

Dents du Midi in Spring
Spring budding in the Alps

Carpet of lilies
Do lilies of the valley blossom earlier in the mountains?

Tulips in vegetable garden
Tulips and veggies. The good garden.

Dents du Midi in spring
Spring blooming in the Alps…and you & me bursting with anticipation & joy?! It’s my hope 🙂

Again, my thoughts soared to hopes and beauty and wonder.  This time with additional thankfulness that I had passed through the icy uncertainty so that I could fully embrace the benefits of Now.

Anger Management Tips for Today & Every Day

“Apply this to your life,” thought I.

You too?

Here is what my winter-to-spring walk showed me about anger management:

  • It is O.K. to be frustrated. Annoyance is a sign that something should change.
  • Glum spirits hardly enable change to happen smoothly or effectively.
  • Calm down before seeking resolution to a problem. The perspective will be TOTALLY DIFFERENT and opportunities will be found.
  • A great way to calm down is to think of or do something that brings joy.
  • Challenge may not be enjoyable. Having overcome one does feel awesome!

P.S. On the train ride home, I regaled in the fluorescent yellow fields of “colza” (rapeseed for high in omega 3 oils!)

Colza or Rapeseed
Cool Colza !