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“One Word”

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

A year ago, in late December, a friend was telling me about her “word” for the upcoming year. It was legacy.

She loved working with children and found great satisfaction and energy when she was able to. That said, she found herself being pulled in many different directions given her other responsibilities with work, home, church, leading a children’s choir, and her own kid’s activities.

To her, legacy meant making an investment in the next generation. She went on to say that this word would be used, in part, to determine what she would get involved in and what she would say yes to throughout the year. If what she was considering didn’t align with her word, the correct –and confident – answer would be, “No, I’m sorry I can’t. Thank you for asking.”


I decided to give it a try for myself.

My “One Word” Experience

That year, I picked the word “health.” More specifically, it was “physical health” but let’s stick with the rules and only pick one word.

At the time, I was 20 lbs. heavier and not in great physical shape. I had started walking, though my calf muscles would seize up and burn each time, making for a painful experience. Sometimes my right foot would fall asleep. Sometimes I would be more tired after the walk than before (because I wasn’t hydrating properly.) Add to this the fact that if I truly wanted to get a walk in consistently, it would have to be early in the morning. Like, EARLY. Crack-of-dark EARLY.

Thinking back to my friend’s word, she would line everything up against her word and use that to make firm and final decisions, knowing this was her “why.” I wanted to do the same.

If I truly wanted “health,” I was going to have to decide:

  1. Between sleeping in and getting a walk in

  2. To drink more water

  3. To carve out more time on my schedule for exercise

  4. To make better decisions around nutrition more often than not

  5. To make social and free-time decisions that aligned with my word, more often than not

  6. To grant myself compassion when I made decisions that didn’t align with my goal, and choose to get back into alignment

I am one that goes to food in stress, and would rather join a new committee than join a gym, so I knew this was going to be a challenge. But I also knew that where I was at in life at that time was not where I wanted to be. I was always tired, mostly in pain, and not very active. I felt…old.

I also knew that no one else was going to be able to reach my goal for me. No one else could do my walking for me. No one else could make me drink more water or make healthier food choices. It was up to me and my choices. So simple. Yet so hard.

What it all boiled down to was two big keys to success – accountability and boundaries – both of which I had struggled with most of my life.

Boundaries and Accountability

“I’m sick of hearing my own excuses, no matter how valid they are.” — Stephanie Russell

By choosing that one word – health – I was creating both a boundary (i.e. guardrails for my future choices) and accountability (knowing I could control the one thing that could lead to my success – me.)

There was no getting around the fact that it takes time to build up physical strength. It takes time for your body to recognize it is changing. It’s mostly discouraging when you are doing what you need to do but it doesn’t feel like you are making any progress.

Some of the biggest challenges I faced were in my mind. I constantly wrestled with thoughts about “rewarding” myself with something unhealthy after a healthy walk. Self-sabotage felt easier than doing the right thing. But, more often than not, I’d line up the potential choice with my word (my boundary), and… the decision was made for me… by me (accountability).

WARNING: this will sound cliche: I did the work and it worked. I made healthy decisions more often than not. I started walking in the mornings and even found friends to join me (including the friend I mentioned earlier.) I joined the gym. I completed a 5K and an 8K. By this point, I was in a routine and felt good when I was able to set – and achieve – new goals related to my original goal: health.

Life didn’t get any easier, but I felt more ready to handle what came my way because I prioritized myself and my health. I created boundaries and held myself accountable to them. I put myself on my “to do” list. It works!

Let’s Do This

  1. Pick a timeframe. It doesn’t have to be a year, maybe start with a month. Or a week. Or even just today.

  2. Pick a word. What one word would you pick to aspire to? What one word would motivate you to know what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to?

  3. Set a goal. For example:

“I will choose the word _____ and use this word to guide my decisions for _____ (your chosen timeframe). I will choose to align with my word more often than not. I will tell others about my word to help hold myself accountable. I will keep myself on my to-do list. When I achieve my goal, I will look forward to ______ (pick a way you will celebrate your success that’s in line with your word.)”

Post your goal in the comments below. Let’s cheer one another on!

Need an extra layer of accountability? Schedule a 30-minute complimentary consultation to discuss the level of support that could benefit you most.


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