Choosing a word can act as a guiding principle as you make changes and difficult decisions.

Share story

“I choose a single word every year,” a beloved coaching client told me. “Like a guiding principle for the year.”

I looked at her in surprise. “I do that, too,” I said. (Apparently, lots of people do this.) “What’s your word this year?”

“Connect,” she said. “I want to focus this year on connecting with friends and building community.”

I hadn’t seen her in a while, and she was updating me on her extreme mountain climbing adventures around the world. This involved actually connecting to a friend — with a rope.

“What’s your word?” she asked me.

“Rest,” I said.

I chose “rest” because I was working too hard when I was skiing. Expert skiers around me seemed to float down the mountain, while every ski run for me was a brute-force battle against gravity. I’d be toast after the first run, and despair at the hours of skiing ahead of me.

My family skies a lot. I needed to figure this out.

“The thing is, learning how to ‘rest’ while skiing became a metaphor for me,” I told my client. “I began thinking how could I ‘rest’ at work? How could I ‘rest’ with social and family obligations? How could I ‘rest’ with household chores?”

“‘Rest’ has become shorthand for caring for myself,” I said.

My client and I talked about her plans for the upcoming year. “I need to buckle down and stop playing around,” my client said. “I need to get serious.”

And then she showed me a photo of a breathtaking monster of a mountain that she climbed. And the frostbite scars on her fingers.

I looked at her.

“You are an adventurer,” I told her. “You are a fearless, joyful adventurer. Maybe your word this year — “connect” — also means connecting with that adventurer. Maybe connecting with the adventurer is very serious.”

She was quiet for a long moment. “Maybe I have a serious contribution to make as an adventurer,” she mused.

“So did you figure out how to ‘rest’ while skiing?” she asked.

I laughed as I told this expert skier how I remind myself to “Rest!” on every turn. How I deliberately relax the muscles in my uphill leg. And get on my toes to lift my heels on a turn.

“I’m figuring it out,” I told her.