LOOK. For a long time, that was my favorite word. I used it all the time while teaching first graders, because that was what I wanted them to do–with everything. Just look. I would tell them that when you look closely, the whole world opens up!
Words are important to me. I experience the world through words the way others experience it through numbers or art. I use words to help me process my thoughts and feelings. Words have layers of meaning that add new dimensions to old ideas when I apply them to different life situations. Words help me sift through the confusion of my muddled mind. And words help me solve problems.
I once read of an project that made this even more meaningful for me. It’s called the “One Little Word” project. Although it was intended to be used at the start of a new school year, I’m going to do this for myself as the calendar year changes. The intent of the project is to choose (or ask your students to choose) one little word that is going to color the way you live through your next year. Some might choose words like “learn” or “try”. Others might look at it differently and choose a word such as “thankful”. I’ve been thinking for some time about the word I would choose for myself, heading into 2016.
I’ve been doing this on a smaller scale for awhile. During the past few years, when I’ve been faced with a dilemma, a troubling situation, or confusing thoughts to process, I’ve found myself focusing on a word or phrase that in the moment at hand makes a big impact on me. Sometimes it is a simple, obvious word like “trust” or “listen”. Or it could be a reminder, like “have patience”. Sometimes I need to give myself a pep talk to take action and “get going with it”! Once I used the word “otherwise”…and I don’t even remember now what that was supposed to mean for me! My words come most often when I am struggling with something, but they also occur to me when my days run smoothly. Sometimes I fight for a long time before the right word hits my heart, but other times I know quickly what I need to focus my thoughts for the day. I started writing these words in a list I keep in my journal, but I noticed that they kept shouting louder and louder in my head, and could not be contained in a book. So, since I have the entire contents of my former classroom stored in my basement, I pulled out my old sentence strips and bought some awesome colored Sharpie markers. Now when I need a focus word, I write it out on a sentence strip and stick it on the fridge or on my kitchen table, where I can see it all the time. There is something about writing it BIG that gives it BIG meaning for me. I leave it there until I don’t need it any more, and soon it is replaced by another.
I’m not going to give up my sentence strip words, but I am excited at the thought of picking one Big Idea of a word that I can focus on over the course of a whole year. It’s been an interesting process trying to decide what my word should be, and I’ve narrowed it down to a few options. I think that I’ve made the right decision, but I’m reserving these last few days of 2015 to make sure I’m connecting to just the right idea for the upcoming year.
In the meantime, I will keep adding sentence strip words to my list and using them to get through the challenges of my days. It amazes me when the right word comes along at just the right moment! I can be frustrated over something for hours, turning it over and over in my head–and then find the right word to bring a little peace to my heart. Sometimes I have to try several before the right word resonates–but I always know when I’ve found the right one. My words bring me comfort and give me little clues for direction as I deal with the twists and turns that life brings. They give me a little visual anchor for my flyaway thoughts and settle me down. I’m hopeful that I’ve chosen my new word well, and my One Little Word for 2016 will bring the clarity, attitude, and focus I need to make a difference in the way I live out each of my days in the upcoming year.