Late in 2011 I read The Happiness Project (by Gretchen Rubin, 2011), a New York Times Bestseller about a young woman’s journey to improve the quality of her life through fairly simple goals she sets for herself each month. It’s hard not to think about starting your own happiness project as you read her reflections, but I wasn’t sure I could pull off such a feat given everything I already juggle with work, school, and travel. Nonetheless, I made myself a little “Happiness Project” note on my phone with some goals that seemed reasonable. Nothing earth shattering, but things that I knew would make my life fuller or better if I could muster up the discipline and build some new habits.
Then as the last work week of 2011 came to an end, I received an email from a blog I follow (Box of Crayons: Great Work Blog) that challenged readers to pick 12 words for 2012 that would steer the New Year. This was particularly intriguing for me and so I set out to make my list. The first seven words came fairly quickly, and lined right up with goals I had already made for my pseudo happiness project. But coming up with the remaining words took a lot of thinking. These words were meant to drive my entire year! I wanted words with weight and words that would challenge me as a person, worker, and artist. I asked friends for help, talked about it with family over the break, searched the thesaurus, and then finally one morning my list was complete.
As a lover of words, I was a little troubled that my words were so simple. Did I need more sophisticated words to inspire change? Would these words really make a difference in my daily life? Nevertheless, I saved the little note on my phone and also made a little video that I’ve played each day since as a reminder.
We’re not even a full week into 2012, and already I feel the influence of my list. Not all the words, but some. I intend to track the impact of the list on my world of work here on the CTL blog. Some connect clearly, but others seem a stretch. I’ll keep you posted.
All of this did make me wonder if the same idea would translate to a school setting. Can you imagine if the entire pool of stakeholders in a building all committed to 12 words? Words like Excellence, Best, Respect, Questions, Results, Lead…how might this impact the day to day work in a school. I have my hunches.
I challenge you to pause this week and make your own list of words to steer your year. What reminders do you need to inspire your best work? I’d love to see your list.