Oneword 2017: NOURISH

my 2017 is going to be replenishing

my 2017 is going to be replenishing

It’s January 1. The time of year for resolving to do more, better, healthier. To be more productive, mindful, prosperous. For the last couple of new years, instead of resolutions, I’ve chosen a oneword (sometimes called oneword365 or one little word) to set my intention for the year, a lens through which to view my decisions, to reflect upon daily and to embed into the rhythms of my year. Unlike the traditional resolution, it’s not possible to fail at a oneword. You can’t get it wrong or fall off the wagon. You just revisit it across the year, rolling it around in your head and allowing it to guide your thoughts and behaviours.

In 2015, although I began with three words, these were soon overtaken by one word—CONQUER—as I climbed to the summit of my PhD thesis. Success! In 2015 I submitted my thesis, within 3 years of enrolling (O, happy days!). Then in 2016 my word was MOMENTUM, as I looked to put one foot in front of the other in order to keep moving, despite not being sure of my destination. In 2016 I did plenty. I taught, led, coached, worked, fought for what I believed, became a doctor, presented, published, wrote, read, connected, advocated, won a couple of awards, was appointed to two new positions (one at a university and one at my school). I got somewhere. These words served their purposes, but I finished 2016 spent. I had conquered and moved at a cracking pace, and 2016 was pretty good in my book, but I reaped the exhaustion of pushing hard. I knew that in 2017 I needed a word that allowed me to be kinder to myself. A gentler, slower word.

As I was considering words, I considered ‘consolidate’, but that seemed too inert. I want to do more than stay where I am, but I am ready for a less frantic, more mindful pace. I considered ‘joy’ and ‘illuminate’, but a Twitter poll told me what I already knew: my oneword for 2017 is NOURISH.

Twitter polls: solving life's dilemmas

Twitter polls: solving life’s dilemmas

The thing I love about oneword is that it can be applied to all aspects of life. Nourish can mean nutritional nourishment. It can mean doing what helps me to feel centred, like coastal walks, yoga and seeing close friends and family. Nourish can mean saying yes to work that feeds my inner nerd, and saying no to being ruled by metrics or external measures. It can mean connecting with others who encourage and inspire me, and vacating conversations, Twitter arguments or relationships that wring me dry. Nourish gives me permission to withdraw from that which does not sustain me—physically, emotionally, intellectually, professionally—and to immerse myself in that which nurtures, supports and strengthens. This year I intend to be mindful of how my time, food, drink, sleep, exercise, relationships, writing and work give me something positive, or whether they sap me of energy and fulfilment.

In setting my intention to seek nourishment this year, I’ll use this question to focus myself:

Does this nourish me?

Simple!

I’ve started my nourishing year as I mean to go on. Today I woke and made a yummy breakfast of paleo pancakes with raspberries. I exercised by the beach and drank coffee from one of my favourite coastal cafes. I cuddled and played with my kids. I’ll work on abstract for a book chapter that I’m excited about, an example of something that feeds my brain and my always-itching-to-write fingers. I’m writing this blog post because it helps to set my intention and to help me think through what’s in my head. I’ll be catching up with old friends on the beach later today and will see the sun set into the ocean.

I’m looking forward to a year in which I turn away from what depletes, drains and undermines me, and in which I am attentive to what feeds my body, mind and spirit.

One word 2016: MOMENTUM

I spent the last day of 2015 in motion, quad biking along a beach.

I spent the last day of 2015 in motion, quad biking along a beach.

Last year, in the new year, I focused my attention on three words: presence, sharing and strength. I was focused on being present in each life aspect and relationship, sharing and storytelling, and building my strength in body, knowledge, connection and conviction. My 2015 ended up being focused around lots of writing, and on the one word we had written on our chalkboard at home: CONQUER. I was focused mainly on conquering my PhD thesis (and I got it submitted), but also conquering some academic papers and conferences, conquering fitness and strength goals. Seeing a daily reminder of that one word gave me a laser-like focus on finishing, completing, conquering. I pushed hard, remained motivated and hit milestones. But it also left me exhausted!

This year I was looking for a “one word” (sometimes called one little word or one word 365) which was more yin and less yang, more reflective and less explosive, more about regeneration than domination. While I was still attracted to active words like inspire, ignite and create, I considered gentler words like refine, renew and play. But none of these cover what I think my 2016 will be about. Maybe I’m not so ready for stillness or space or quiet just yet. I don’t want to be conquering in 2016, but one of my big lessons of 2015 was to put one foot in front of the other and just keep moving.

I spent my last day of 2015 quad biking with friends and family on a long pristine stretch of white beach. Snaking, quickening, turning, moving, the wind whipping around and against us. Speeding up. Slowing down. Driving away and towards and around. Playing with speed and direction, throttle and velocity, movement and pace. Feeling the terrain beneath the bike: sometimes flat, sometimes bumpy, sometimes hard, sometimes cushioned by peaks of white sand. Concentration. Adrenalin. Acceleration. The word I have come to for 2016 is MOMENTUM, from the Latin movere, meaning “to move”. This will be a year of being in motion or on the move.

my son, dressed as an angel, in motion

my son, dressed as an angel, in motion

I’m not starting 2016 from a stagnant place. I am already moving. My PhD is being examined, and will hopefully be done, dusted and doctored some time in 2016. I have some academic papers in the pipeline. The coaching professional learning model at my school is implemented and in an iterative refinement phase, and I’m in conversations about what my role might look like in 2017 and beyond. So what I want to do in 2016 is keep the momentum going, capitalise on what I’ve achieved so far and push ahead. Move.

The idea of momentum in the sense of a rolling snowball isn’t quite right for me, as that kind of momentum is quite linear. I’m thinking of something more fluid. Kayaking through rushing river water. The momentum of paintbrush over canvas. Skis slicing through snow. Music building to crescendo. Feet running off a mountain to begin a paraglide. Quad biking on a beach. This kind of momentum requires a combination of knowledge, precision, creativity and mastery. It can be messy and lead to the unexpected.

I’m not sure about the end point of my momentum. People have asked me what I’ll do after the PhD and the answer is, I don’t know. I have some ideas of what might be similar or different from what I’m doing now, but I’m not set on one course. I’m happy where I am, doing what I’m doing. But I’m open to alternative directions and possibilities. I figure if I set my intention for 2016 on being in motion – forward, diagonally, in, out, reflectively, critically, creatively – my path with open up before me. Or I’ll find that I’m already travelling along it.

roses in the ocean, in motion carried by the waves

roses in the ocean, in motion carried by the waves