framing your year ahead

Planning the Year Ahead in Just 3 Words

Do you go for the New Year’s resolutions routine? Does it really work for you? If so, great! More power to you. BUT to me, planning the year should be a very personal thing. It’s YOUR year, after all. And how “personal” does doing something that everyone one else does feel?

If you want to move yourself forward, to choose and commit to a better mentality and approach to your year, you must plan ahead and look to yourself first. Are you ready to make that choice and commitment? Are you the type of person that would? You want to focus on areas that benefit you not only at home but in your work. You can’t better serve yourself and those around you: your co-workers, employees and customers, if you don’t reassess regularly.

For myself, I work to refocus the days ahead. How I might want to look at the world differently, what I want to reinforce in my habits or what new habits I want to form. And for me, that comes in three little words.

Those 3 Words

Every year on my birthday in November (for at least the last few years), I’ve picked three words to theme the coming 365 days. Three words to filter my goals and decisions through, to be more productive and drive myself forward in helping myself and in how I can help others grow. These are used to frame and theme my year, my projects, my intent, my interactions… all to help me strive to do and be better.

Why my birthday? Because it makes it more personal. Really, you can start at anytime but it should mean something. And for me, New Years feels very disconnected and forced. I want this to be something I’m excited about, and another trip around the sun does it for me.

I also make them start with the same letter because alliteration is fun. (Mike Vardy‘s idea)

For my 44th birthday, I picked creativity, connection and consistency.

For my 45th birthday, it was metacognition, moments and movement.

For this, my 46th year, I’ve chosen:

  • Opportunity – to create in a way that grows my community and my connections to open my world to new experiences.
  • Optimism – to approach the world with curiosity and hope, not judgement.
  • Ownership – to embrace my role in my own success and the environment to make that happen.

Credit goes to Chris Brogan who originated the approach and Mike Vardy, the Productivityist for first introducing me to this idea. It’s certainly been a nice guiding light for me in the past and now into my future.

This year, I’ve also added another word. Hey, it’s my year. I can do what I want. The word: RELATIONSHIPS. Everything I’m working on in the coming year is in an effort to create, nurture, grow and support them. So even through I have my three words, this will be a catch all or umbrella word to keep me focused.


3 words for the year

Making it Operational

  • Journaling – in my daily Bullet Journal, I plan the day ahead and review the day that was. For that look back, I review my three words to determine if I’ve considered them through my day and made an effort to prioritize them. Did I take steps towards more opportunity, further optimism and own the experience? It allows me to celebrate daily success and to look at the next day as a new beginning to do better.
  • Creativity – in my writing and recording, each of these words are considered and weighed. What I’m designing, voicing, typing, etc. must provide an opportunity to grow, have a sense of optimism, and feel genuinely me. If it doesn’t, it pushes me to be more creative to reach those themes.
  • Awareness – the minute I know what my three words are, I put them on a white board where I can regularly see it. I can’t escape my themes if they keep looking at me every day. The key is to make sure they provide a sense of inspiration, not a sense of burden.

The Benefits

  • Direction – by establishing these words every year, I feel like I have a path to follow. They aren’t goals or mission statements but rather guiding lights for the year ahead.
  • Consistency – journaling every day, and considering these words every day, keeps me focused.
  • Energize – it’s fun to have a personal declaration you can hang your hat on. It’s exciting and really helps me kick start and have a touchpoint to my year.

Considerations for You

If you’re thinking of taking on this yearly exercise, I’d recommend first checking out Chris Brogan’s article and then consider thinking about:

  • What you want your next birthday to feel like based on the year before.
  • What areas you feel need regular and more attention.
  • How you could prioritize your values more.
  • What is getting in they way of what you want to achieve.

Considering these things could frame your year in a way that gets you closer to your goals.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”― Wayne Dyer

What would your three words be?


  • Love it! Thank you for the inspiration.
    Before I was finished reading my 2 words came to me (someone asked me for my NY resolution and I told them I don’t do that, they asked for a word, I picked Cardio). By the end of “Those 3 Words” I had a post it on the screen I look at every day Cardio, Compassion, Curiosity, I had to laugh at the last bullet of Making it Operational.

    • I’m glad you found this post so useful, Krysta! Thanks for the kind words. Great words.
      Liked “operational” huh? It’s true. It’s got to be part of your daily process or it’s just an inspirational quote you think of from time to time but doesn’t bring about change. Let me know how you’re doing with your three Cs!

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