Theme your year: How one word can ensure consistent progress throughout the year
Theme your year: How one word can ensure consistent progress throughout the year
Vogue UK 1994

To avoid the redundant and defeating cycle of resolution recycling, there is a unique and effective way to employ a powerful intention of progress as we analyze our goals over the next year. 

∴Title your year with a single theme that defines your primary progressive intentions. This motif, though subtle, will pervade your reactions, habits and actions across the range of circumstances you encounter over the next 365 days.∴

Subtlety is key to consistent cognitive change

The subtlety is the winning element of this method. Your brain can digest and then externalize this simple word or phrase subconsciously. Tapping into your subconscious is more effective than requiring your mind to consistently recall and employ an in-depth goal. This tactic, even when kept on track, ultimately induces inevitable burnout.

Themes are easier absorbed into the subconscious than, for instance, going to the gym three times per week. They are simultaneously subtle and pivotal, a quiet change agent, that will first alter your mindset and then the course of your life.

Once your subconscious mobilizes, your conscious mind follows, taking an active role in your road to change.

Generalize first, then leave it to your subconscious to zoom in

For example, if you find you continuously create resolutions about working out that evaporate by February, you may want to theme your year with a word like ‘health.’

Recite the word and define what it means specifically within the context of your own life. Your brain will begin to impose its contextual interpretation on the circumstances it encounters. Now that our minds are conditioned to respond to “health” opportunities, we will detect situations in which to employ our theme. From significant to the often-minute situations, we will be able to distinguish circumstantial relevance to our life goals. 

Themes allow you to be human

Themes are flexible not only to personal context, but also natural steps in growth. Rigid goals may win in details but they don’t respect the peaks and valleys that naturally exist in growth and change periods.  

Life has a natural flow of unpredictability and inconsistency, so one word allows you to adapt and edit accordingly. This adaptability alleviates the suffocating pressure of strict, concrete resolutions. A theme allows you to be human rather than the resolute robot we irrationally expect ourselves to turn into on January 1st.

Working out three times a week does not allow a mindset of natural progression. You take off from the starting line and burn out and quit the race before you reach the first checkpoint. 

“Health” will promote subtle but significant changes in lifestyle.  You may start parking further from the door or taking the stairs rather than the elevator, glancing over ingredient lists and meditating before bed. These small steps are the foundation to that daily workout you’ve been trying to integrate into your lifestyle for years.

Mental Conditioning- Prepare a psychological invasion

This method of thematic progress manually utilizes the Baader-Meinhof psychological phenomenon. This phenomenon describes situations where you come across a seemingly unique concept and then suddenly you notice that concept over and over.

For instance, you may have a conversation earlier in the day about how you never see purple cars. Then later you begin noticing purple cars everywhere. Your mind has now been conditioned to interpret, to actively observe, their common existence. Before purple cars were ever a relevant topic, your mind simply skipped over them. Purple cars were always there, but we formerly observed them as a blurred element in a collective scene rather than zooming in on them as a separate detail.

Our themes are already as common as purple cars. We just must be psychologically primed to zoom in on them as a separate and deliberate detail. We must be conditioned to notice them so that we can then react in a progressive and conscious way.

This is effective because our brains embrace patterns, and patterns are essential to routines. 

Implementing your theme

Once you find your general theme, write this theme and its contextual definition down. Repeat it to yourself until you see it reflecting in your second nature. 

Recite it in the mirror. Highlight it when you come across it, cut it out of magazines. Begin to frame your immediate world with this theme and watch the exterior world begin to take the same shape. Write it at the top of your to-do list and planners every day. Doodle it on a notepad. Set a daily phone notification with its title. 

You will begin to see its message in everything you perceive. It will become more blatant and persistent than “exercise three times a week” ever had a chance to be.

Whatever word you choose should be malleable to your calculated points of progress. Do not let that word maintain its generic dictionary definition. Identify the context of your personal parameters. Let it loosely but deliberately permeate each corner of your life in every positive aspect that it could possibly embody.

You can delve into theme strategies here.

Don’t aspire, become.

Let this word become a touchpoint of your own character. This is how people genuinely self-improve. Don’t simply think—don’t even simply do. Become.

Those habits take hold and this theme will subtly mold into your daily subconscious life. Your mind, body, and soul are better poised to steadily and naturally advance these themes until they are such a powerful force that they become more than a resolution. They are a part of your identity. 

This is how reputations and personas are molded—when a word becomes a person’s essence. When people describe you, this word will identify you as much as the color of your hair or your height. 

We can waste our lives aspiring to be something when our growth should never rest on the shoulders of potential. Potential gathers dust on high, hard-to-reach shelves until we completely forget about them. ‘Aspiring’ and ‘becoming’ are two significantly different perspectives of growth. The former exudes abstract and whimsical musings, while the latter is a purposeful course of tangible reality. 

 A few theme ideas to get you started

Verbs: Explore, Create, Learn, Smile, Connect, Complete, Begin, Heal, Simplify, Listen

Nouns: Peace, Kindness, Courage, Patience, Spontaneity

Adjectives: Unpredictable, Outgoing, Active, Creative

Phrases: Keep in touch, Down to earth, Let it go, Pay it forward, Be still


Do you have goals that suffer from inconsistency? Decide on a word that encompasses their united theme and slowly integrate its personal definition into your life. 


*First published 1.16.17

Also published on Medium.


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