My Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions

Traditionally, the new year is the time to take stock of where we've been, lessons learned and where we want to go. Some like to make "resolutions" around areas of personal improvement. Obviously, there’s value in such individual reflection and evaluation, and there’s nothing magical about doing this around the first of January; we could do the same exercise at the beginning of each new month...or every morning.

Personally, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.
However, there is a tradition that I have practiced—in one form or another—for many years: I “adopt” a word. It’s typically a word to remind me of an important spiritual principle, a life-lesson learned or a personal core value. Or it might be a word to represent a seed of truth that I want to see come to some fruition in my life. Since the word is chosen during quiet, calm reflection, it can serve as a point of focus and strength, especially during times of internal struggles and doubt.

I usually spend several weeks pondering (and praying) about what word to select. At some point, I find a word, or a word finds me …and I just know. I post the word in a prominent place at my desk so I can see it regularly, and a sticky note with the word is attached to my Bible and Journal.

Throughout the year, I will “chew on” the word (i.e.,meditate) to determine deeper applications and implications to my life. The word enters my prayer time. As I encounter actual examples of the word’s reality, or situations where I’m forced back to the truth of that word, I will include those experiences in my journal as part of my expressions of thanksgiving.

This year’s word is Modulate.

1. to regulate by or adjust to a certain measure or proportion; to change or adjust (something) so that it exists in a balanced or proper amount; to adjust to or keep in proper measure or proportion: to temper; 2. to alter or adapt (the voice) according to the circumstances; to change the sound or tone of (your voice) by making it quieter, higher, lower, etc.; 3. Music. a. to attune to a certain pitch or key; to make or become in tune (with a pitch, key, etc); to move gradually from one from one musical key into another by means of intermediary chords or notes that have some relation to both keys; b. to vary the volume; 4. Science. To vary the amplitude, frequency, or some other characteristic of a signal or power source in order to improve the transmission of information (as by radio)

Modulate comes from a Latin word (modulātus) which means melodious, set to music or play an instrument. The root word means regulate or measure and implies thoughtful, purposeful and controlled activities.

There is so much about this word that captivated and intrigued me, to the point that I had to edit out almost as much text as I left in.

Modulate clearly indicates “change,” which I foresee as a significant part of my coming year. But I wanted to highlight one aspect that jumped out to me; surprisingly, it wasn't the musical element, but the need for measure.

Since my cancer treatments began, I've been learning to adjust to the many changes in my body (I won’t gross you out with details!) and my increasing imitations. As those who live with disease and/or chronic pain will attest, we have a limited supply of energy. Everything…even little tasks…must be measured with the question: “How much of my reserve with this require?” We might choose to engage in a high-energy activity, but it comes at a cost. It’s an on-going struggle for me, which recently led to me agreeing to leave my job and go on disability. I could not keep up with the demands.

Because I’m learning that I can’t do everything, I have to pay attention to (measure) what’s important. Often, it’s not a choice between something I don’t want to do versus what I want to do. Sadly, it’s usually deciding between good things. (“If I do this, I won’t be able to do that later.”) It not only forces prioritization, but demands priorities within the priorities. “Choosing my battles” is more than a cliché, it’s my reality.

So, we enter the year 2014. I have a word that I think will help with focus and balance. Whatever the year brings, I will seek to…

What do you think of my Word of the Year practice?

If you had a New Year word, what would it be?

I welcome your comments and input.