It’s been years since I set New Year’s resolutions. But for several years now, I’ve picked a word to serve as a focal point or mantra for the year. I try to pick a word that serves many facets of my life—professional, physical, social, etc. It goes on a post-it above my desk, so I see it regularly and can keep being drawn back to it.
In 2021, the word was center. It was about establishing practices that would ground me. That would help me show up as the best version of myself I could be each day. That would help keep me from falling hard when inevitable challenges hit. In 2021, I tried some new things (some stuck, others didn’t) and re-established consistency in others. Centering work, of course, is an ongoing practice, so the focus was on taking the actions and creating the rituals that make it easier to weave these threads into my daily life.
Now it’s time for another word. I have some big personal goals for the year already—ultra-endurance events, mountain adventures with the spouse. Professionally, I’m continuing to shape the future of my team’s work. I spent some time in 2021 reflecting on core values and crafted a purpose that I’m excited to explore in the coming months and years. Thinking about a potential theme for the year ahead, I rolled around some different ideas. What do I want it to capture? What do I want to set as a guidepost for the next 12 months? How do I want to grow in the next year?
I did something in 2021 that surprised me. I was supposed to originally do a 50-mile race in September, and I was just thinking about beating cutoffs. That event was canceled due to a storm with potential wintry conditions. We made the most of the weekend anyway and had a lot of fun. I found another 50 miler a couple of months later. My strength and pace on trails has improved significantly in the past year, and as race day approached, I found myself thinking not just about finishing but actually pushing a little for a time. I set an ambitious goal. I missed it by 10 minutes. But there was no disappointment in missing the goal, because I’d just done something I hadn’t thought possible a few months before.
To imagine a stretch goal and then to really go for it… that was something powerful, even if I didn’t quite make it. I recognized the progress I’d made and allowed myself the confidence that came from the work I was doing and the results I was seeing. From some recent reading, I’ve also been thinking more about where I set the bar. Some folks think that, if you’re making every goal you set, you’re not taking enough risks. Now, I think there’s something to be said for setting realistic targets, but I’ve also started to wonder: Do I hold myself back? Could I reach another level, do something that surprises me, if allow myself to set audacious goals?
I realized that my word this year needs to be big enough not only to wrap around the goals I’ve already set for myself. It needs to be big enough to challenge me to reach further. Big enough to give me space to try and maybe fail. Big enough to explore all of who I am, what I can do, and where I want to be.
After sifting through a few options, I finally arrived at the one word for 2022:
Dare. Dare to be ambitious. Dare to set audacious goals that may or may not come to be. Dare to deepen the relationships and shape the spaces to try different ways. Dare to reframe or work through the fear and anxiety and other feelings that keep me from fully chasing some things I really want to do. Dare to find my voice and make it heard when it matters. Dare to dream big, not just for this year but for the years to come.
I know, at this point, it all likely sounds very vague. Some parts I’ve shared with others in different circles, and I expect to write more about different parts in time. To be honest, it feels a little scary put this out there for the world to see (or for the couple of dozen who will read this post). But that’s part of daring too—daring to take an idea that’s in my head and make it known to others, to put myself on the hook to show up and try. Maybe I’ll fall on my face (and that could be quite literally in some of these endeavors), but my hope—and honestly an abiding belief—is that, if I dare to put share my journey with others, my community will be there to help me tend the wounds as necessary, dust off, and get back on the path toward who I am becoming.