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I have designated one little word to be the touchstone for each year for I think 11 years now. They usually come to me pretty easily but I don’t do the best at holding onto them through the year.
I thought this year’s one little word was going to be build, but the more I thought about it, I decided it was really attention.
What is One Little Word?
One Little Word as a concept comes from Ali Edwards, and I joined her program the first year I did it, which is helpful for keeping you focused on the word throughout the year.
She describes it as having “a word to focus on, to live with, to investigate, to write about, to craft with, and to reflect upon as I go about my daily life.”
I usually think of it as something I want more of or something I want to focus on throughout the year. It’s sort of like a resolution but more general. It gives you a way of thinking about decisions and actions and how you want to move through the year.
How Do You Pick a Little Word?
I’ve never really had trouble coming up with one little word for the new year. I usually start sort of thinking about it in early December, but not in any deliberate way. It might come up in my morning pages, or while I’m thinking about the past year and what I want for the next one, but I never sit down and think “I’m going to pick my one little word today!”
It may be that just thinking about the concept gives you an idea, or you might need to give it more thought.
My words generally have to do with creativity, clearing spaces and shaking things up mentally. My first word was create, and since then I’ve done things like clear, simplify, progress and energy, which honestly I’d forgotten was ever one of my words. You sort of see a theme though, right?
My one little word for 2023 was calibrate, and I think it was a good one for a year that was full of upheaval and changing expectations and plenty of hard things. But as usual I haven’t given it much attention (ha!) lately.
The Washington Post calls one little word a nudge word, and they have a tool to help you find yours (it doesn’t look like you need a subscription to view, but if it does let me know and I’ll try to make a gift link!).
What Attention Means to Me
Attention could just be a variation on a lot of the words I’ve done in the past. It is focus and progress and energy, and there are definitely creative things I want to give my attention to.
The other day I was thinking about writing this post and it reminded me of a writing retreat I went on many years ago now that was at a Zen center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Each day we had chores to help with the upkeep of the center, like weeding the gardens or hulling beans or sweeping the walks.
Sweeping was my favorite. There was something about the combination of focus and the ability to let your mind wander. The idea of trying to make it perfect, or the best that I could, while at the same time knowing probably no one else would see it looking as good as I left it. And even if they did, they wouldn’t wonder who did it or what they were thinking or experiencing while they did it.
This kind of attention is what I want to kindle in the new year. (Looking back I wrote I post back then about the mindfulness kind of paying attention that also came out of that trip, and is another facet I want to focus on.)
I feel like attention is really noticing what’s going on, and doing what I can to make situations, spaces and the things I make just a little bit better. Attention to detail, and really thinking about if there’s something to add, something to take away, something to do more or less of or slow down for.
Slowing down I think is a big thing. Noticing. Paying attention.
How to Do One Little Word
The times I’ve been most successful at One Little Word have been when I had specific aspects of the word to focus on (and blog about!) each month. I’m still working on what that might look like for attention, but here’s what I have so far. Read each as attention to…
- detail (as much in craft projects as anything else)
- systems (business stuff, having editorial calendars more consistently and the like)
- routine (both having one and relishing that predictability after a year that didn’t have much)
- reading (thinking about starting a reading journal again, and just being more attentive to/thoughtful about the things I’m reading)
- relationships (this one is specifically family, I think)
- myself (sad it took me so long down the list to come up with that one!)
- learning (new crafts and techniques are big for me this year
There’s probably something specific to mindfulness/meditation as well but I don’t know how to make that an “attention to” statement yet. And I know that’s not 12 but it’s a work in progress. Each of these is an all-year project, too, but each month I can think more specifically about a particular aspect and report here on how that one is going.
Do you have a one little word? I’d love to hear about it!