As it approaches the end of the year, I thought I’d let you in on an annual habit that has changed my life over the last two years.

You may have already seen my tweet about it but thought I’d put pen to paper (or finger to key) and share this habit in more detail. So, for the past three years, I have defined a single word, or verb to be accurate, in December that forms my theme for the upcoming year. Here’s what those were and will be for next year:

  • 2019: Learn
  • 2020: Act
  • 2021: Grow

There are two reasons why I establish an annual word — let me explain.

The Reasons

First and foremost, it’s so that I can achieve more in a single year. In every important decision I make throughout a year, I have a single word at the forefront of my decision-making process. This makes it easier to say ‘HELL YEAH!’ or ‘NO’ to various opportunities. In 2019, I really wanted to learn more, but specifically about startups and the process behind starting my own, so I took on every opportunity that led me to learn more. This also led me to my first mentor — but that’s a story for another time.

I also wanted to learn more and grow as an individual so I read around 50 non-fiction books in 2019 because I knew my theme for the year was to mainly learn, as such I wasn’t so focussed on other aspects like taking action. But, December of 2019, I quickly realised this has worked phenomenally well and now I have an abundance of knowledge, so naturally, the word for 2020 was: act. Then this entire year, I took action, now we’re at: grow. You get the idea.

Secondly, it’s to foster discipline. It’s no secret that if you work on something consistently and regularly, that it turns into a habit. Again, as I was learning so much in 2019, it quickly became a habit. One that I carried forward into 2020 and will do going forwards life long.

Prior to 2019, I genuinely loathed the idea of reading. I thought books were a waste of time. Self-growth? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Now, going into 2021 there are two things I absolutely don’t worry about. I love learning new things and I have absolutely no qualms about taking action on new projects or ideas. Only because in 2019 I learnt for an entire year and in 2020, I took action for an entire year.

Final Remarks

Try it for yourself. But be intentional with picking your annual word.

Look at your current growth or personal needs and pick a word that represents a single thing if you worked on for an entire year could either a) change your life, or b) solve all your problems within that domain and foster discipline such that in forthcoming years it would no longer be a problem.

Lastly, as I was discussing this habit with a friend, we discovered that there is an entire book on this by Jon Gordan creatively titled, One Word That Will Change Your Life. Poof, there goes my unique ritual. Proof that there are no unique messages, only unique messengers.


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