What’s Your Word for 2016?

skyeteam leadership development

How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along? Research suggests that many of us have already given up on what we said we were going to do just three short weeks ago. If this is you, don’t worry! I have a different approach for you to try.

Last year, I did an experiment on setting an intention (a word) for the year as a guiding force, rather than setting specific goals or resolutions. My word for 2015 was FEARLESS (in all caps of course). Last year I turned 40 and decided it was now or never. How did that work out? I moved into a new home after 13 years, started a new job, and have been doing new things at work that push me past my comfort zone every day. I have been given lots of opportunities to demonstrate my fearlessness with both successes and failures along the way.

Here is what I have I learned over the course of the last year about being fearless and making big changes:

1. Everyone is fearful. There are lots of people who I look up to personally and professionally, many of whom I admire for their bold actions and seemingly fearless approach to life’s challenges. In talking with many of them over the past year about my quest to become fearless, I discovered that most are still scared, but they do it anyway! Those who have to speak publicly (and are really good at it) are nervous no matter how many times they have done it before. They are just as sick to their stomach as you might be if you had to give a big presentation. Those who are in charge really don’t know the answers – they are making it up! There is a great misconception that leaders know exactly what to do and what the outcome will be. If you are a leader (at work or in your family) and think that your colleagues have it all figured out – they don’t know any more than you do. They have simply chosen to move beyond their fears and take a calculated step out in any direction.

“Being fearless isn’t being 100% not fearful, it’s being terrified but you jump anyway.”    -Taylor Swift

Bottom Line: There is no way to become magically fearless. You will never become fully ready. Do your homework, prepare, make your best possible recommendation, and jump! You can figure the rest out later.

2. It’s a process. I did not succeed in my “fearlessness” every time I was offered a new opportunity. In fact, I said “no” many times throughout the year. One thing I am working on is my fear of speaking in front of groups. It’s not really the fear of speaking, but the fear of not speaking eloquently or competently about the topic. Late last year, my colleague asked if I would consider leading part of a workshop (as we were driving to our customer site to deliver the program). I was familiar with the content, but had not practiced the delivery. I quickly said “no,” but realized after it was over that I could have led the topic and done a great job. This was after working on my fearlessness all year! This could be classified as an “epic fail;” however, it was a learning moment that will encourage me to make a different choice next time. That is the beauty of a one-word focus for a longer period of time. It becomes a more comprehensive approach with a clear direction.

Bottom Line: Big change takes time. You will not be perfect, but just by focusing on what you want to change, you will realize when you haven’t done it – and hopefully make a different choice next time.

3. Always share your intention with others. We know that sharing our goals with others works. That is why people are more successful losing weight when they have a workout or diet buddy. Find an Ally who will support you. AtSkyeTeam, we talk a lot about the “Ally Mindset,” which requires courage and vulnerability.

“Vulnerability is about removing the mask with those you trust. Courage is accepting help when it is offered and offering insight to others.” – Morag Barrett,  Cultivate

In order to make big changes, we must share our vulnerabilities and ask others for help and support. In the past year, I was very open about my quest and received amazing support and gentle reminders about it along the way. During some of my bigger moments last year, I received texts and emails from my Allies such as “You are F.E.A.R.L.E.S.S.” For my birthday, I received a necklace from my husband with FEARLESS printed on the back. I have utilized its secret powers on those days I was most afraid. I also had people I trust keep me focused when I wanted to do nothing but run. This would not have happened if I wasn’t willing to be vulnerable and courageous.

Bottom Line: Who can you trust to support your intention this year? Who is your Ally? If you can’t think of anyone, remember that the way to gain an Ally is to be one to someone else first.

4. Stay Focused! You have to remain focused on where you are headed and what you are trying to accomplish. You may want to post your word up somewhere. Mine is hanging over my desk. It is the constant reminder and prompt for reflection. Am I being fearless? How should I have handled that differently? What is holding me back? Or – WOW, I totally rocked that! I’m doing it! FEARLESS! [Yelled very loudly.]

Another inspiration I found last year was the book Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith. In his book, he proposes a method of asking yourself daily (or hourly) questions, as a way of triggering extraordinary effort to change behaviors. Goldsmith suggests adding the term “did I do my best” to do whatever it is that you are attempting to focus on. When I add the “did I do my best” to the question, it changes the thought process from one about my performance (did I complete it?) into one about how much I tried (how much effort did I put into it?). Did I do my best to be fearless today? Did I say “no” when I should have said “yes”? Did I even think to say “yes”?

Bottom Line: How will you keep your intention at the front of your mind? What triggers will you utilize to prompt your behavior change?

My next steps. I now fully believe that intentions work. Instead of a new word this year, I have decided to continue my quest for fearlessness. After all, these things take time! I did find a new mantra though:

“I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”         – Anonymous

What is your word for 2016?