2021 Create One Word Leadership Focus

A few years ago, I ditched the idea of writing New Year’s Resolutions. Why you might ask? Well, the truth is that I rarely kept them. I started the year with boundless enthusiasm and herculean sized will power to make meaningful change personally. But after a few weeks, my enthusiasm fizzled like day-old champagne and my will power shrank down to microscopic size. “What happened?!” I would think to myself. “Why couldn’t I activate my stick-to-it-iveness and sustain focus over a more extended period?”

I realized the reason I was “breaking bad” and breaking resolution after resolution wasn’t because I lacked enthusiasm, will power, or tenacity.  It wasn’t because I lacked the commitment to do hard things. And it wasn’t because I didn’t have an organized, codified, tracking app or device to record my daily behaviors and provide regular updates regarding my progress.

I struggled to adhere to the system that I created because it was based on the type of person that I was tired of being rather than the person that I wanted to become. My resolutions were rooted in the past and they didn’t provide me with a vision for the future. They focused more on what not to do instead of what I could do confidently and assertively. And they didn’t leave room for growth or all that accompanies a transformative process, like recognizing efforts and risks (no matter the size) or taking on new challenges to become a better me.

Many of us set unrealistic expectations that are too burdensome. For example, we say we’re going to implement an open-door policy for team members rather than saying we are going to set boundaries and expectations to fulfill the goals of collaboration and trust. With the first, if a few unscheduled “drop ins” occur in a day, our flow and protected time is interrupted, and we second guess our ability to be efficient. With the second, if we set ground rules for when colleagues are to seek our input when they need us (e.g., current protocol is adversely impacting patient care and our approval is required to provide an alternative) or we schedule weekly fifteen-minute one-to-one meetings with team members where they set the agenda, then we’ve succeeded in actively fostering an environment of trust and transparent communication. The first is a finite goal; the second is a leadership shift that can have a substantial long-term impact.

With my executive coach’s assistance, I learned a simple process to replace the chain of broken resolutions with vision for real change. I learned how to see the changes that I needed to make and a way to determine whether the changes were happening. I learned the process of selecting ONE WORD to be my focus for the year ahead and to help keep my attention set on the goals that I wanted and needed to achieve both personally and professionally.

ONE WORD helped me have clarity and focus because it empowered me to set my life direction and make it happen.

Now, I’m not saying that by choosing ONE WORD, I exceeded every target or accomplished every goal I undertook. However, the process helped me to make positive changes and progress toward my goals. Choosing ONE WORD helped me feel more in control of my life, know what I wanted, and go after it with sincerity and conviction in my ability to succeed.

So how do you go about choosing a guiding word for the year?

Here are a few steps to get you started…

Step 1: Reflect on the past year

Yes, 2020 was an unprecedented year of heartache and chaos, but there were also triumphs and jubilant spaces. Ask yourself these questions and jot down your answers without self-editing.

  • What went well? What didn’t go well?
  • What were the silver linings in this pandemic time?
  • What could I use more of? What could I use less of?

Write down whatever thoughts come to mind.

Step 2: Visualize the future

Imagine what you hope to accomplish in the coming year.

  • How do I want to feel when I start my day at work?
  • Throughout my day at work? At the end of the day?
  • What characteristics would I like to naturally display?
  • What would the perfect day look like?

Visualize yourself living and leading on a perfect day.

Step 3: Brainstorm a list

  • Write down a list of words that embody the perfect day.
  • Remember not to self-edit and jot down whatever comes to mind.

Spend 5-10 minutes journaling.

Create one word leadership goals for 2021
Step 4: Narrow it down

Review your list and narrow it down to the top two or three selections. As you refine the list, your favorites will emerge. You may even notice a common theme among the words. Do any of the words speak to you, leap off the page, or make you feel excited? Or perhaps they make you feel anxious or uncertain, or even bring about an inner sense of calm? Don’t be afraid of the emotions that are generated. Emotions are data and provide additional information to aid our decision-making.

Permit yourself to experiment with the list of favorite words. Say each word aloud. Be quiet with your thoughts and think about each word within the context of your professional life. There is no need to overanalyze this process; follow your intuition and let the word reveal itself.

Step 5: Select ONE WORD

Having allowed yourself the chance to play with each word, select one.

Ask yourself: Does the word empower me to be my own best ally?

If your response is, “Well, kind of” or “A little bit,” I’ll validate what you already know to be true – it’s not the right word for you. On the other hand, if your response is, “Yes! I see that I can actively create success in my life”, claim your ONE WORD. Remember the law of attraction: Whatever we focus on is what we attract. If you operate from a mindset of ambivalence, rather than a mindset of success, then you will give up more easily when setbacks occur. A positive “ally” message is needed to act deliberately to achieve the outcomes you want.

Congratulations! You committed to selecting a word to guide you throughout the year. This word can be an anchor to help you set intentional goals and make decisions to become the leader that you are destined to be.

What’s your ONE WORD for 2021?

I hope this overview has been helpful and I want you to enjoy the full benefits of choosing ONE WORD. If you’re going to make 2021 the year you clear the decks and maintain unfailing focus, join me for a free live workshop where we’ll walk through the steps together and you also can learn how to embrace your word. I’ll show you the “insider tips” that I learned to help me achieve meaningful goals.

This is the first and only time that I will be running this workshop, so I wanted you to receive a personal invitation from me.

Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, 5 PM PST/6 PM MST/7 PM CST/8 PM EST

Will you join me for 75 minutes of goal setting, simplified?   

Sign up here 👉🏽 ONE WORD Webinar

Teresa Dean Malcolm, MD, FACOG, MBA, CPE, CPXP, ACC, is zealous in her belief that an exceptional experience in clinical care, the human(e) experience, is achievable through meaningful and authentic relationships with others. She has served in executive positions, integrating people with process and purpose, and successfully aligning the ideas of the team with a compelling vision. She is a Certified Physician Development and Executive Coach. Her coaching philosophy, The Malcolm Method, is rooted in positive psychology, social and emotional intelligence, and strengths-based leadership. Through thought-provoking conversations, she strives to deepen the awareness of her physician clients and further their actions, thereby helping them to thrive as they lead. Dr. Malcolm (known to her friends and family as Terri) is a loving wife to her husband, Nate. Together they have three charming boys, Nathaniel, and twins, Roman and Colton.

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