What’s Your One Word?

one word

Each year, roughly 87 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. 

Campus rec centers around the country are generally the beneficiary as traffic flow into our facilities is at its peak in January, filled with those set on changing their habits. Unfortunately, nearly half of those resolutions fail by the end of January. 

Many of these resolutions are simply not sustainable for one reason or another, or just too plain hard or too drastic of a change. In many cases, the absence of accountability plays a key role in letting behavior slip back to old norms. I am no different as most years I set about for an annual goal only to either somewhat succeed or to fail epically. 

Finding One Word

A little over a year ago during the winter break, I was fortunate enough to come across Dan Britton, Jim Page and Jon Gordon’s book, “One Word that Will Change Your Life.” The premise of the book is actually quite simple. Rather than focus on complicated resolutions requiring action plans for the year as many of us do, you select a one-word vision and focal point for the whole year that connects to and expands across all of the dimensions of wellness: spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual, occupational or social within life. 

Several large companies and groups such as Hendrick motor sports, Pepsi Co., the Los Angeles Clippers, and countless other professional and collegiate sports teams such as the Clemson football team have implemented it to success. I decided to utilize the exercise with the five direct reports on my team in order to provide a focus throughout 2018 as our group looked forward to a full slate of upcoming and very difficult projects. 

How We Did It

As a group we talked about the idea of a one-word vision for the year and agreed to give it a go. Two weeks later we met and each presented our one-word and gave the reasoning behind it. My word was “patience” as it is something I constantly struggle with and something I would need a lot of to successfully navigate the challenges ahead. Other words were “perseverance,” “positivity,” “learning” and “intentional.” We did this in order to create a sense of accountability to each other and our word. 

I am not ashamed to say, some of my direct reports were quick to point to the word on my door when I was not being patient. We also together came up with a team word for the year: “finish.” We all knew the grind we would be up against throughout the year, and it would be crucial for us to finish each project strong and attack the next one until the end. Each of us posted our word on our office door as a constant reminder of where we wanted our focus to be for the year. Quarterly, we set aside time in our bi-weekly working meeting to talk about our team one word as well as the impact of our individual word on our work, with our individual teams and in our personal lives. 

The Result

The result was a more closely-knit team that leaned heavily on each other but was able to finish all of the projects we set out to accomplish on time and under budget. The members of the team are also now much more self-aware. As the book says, one word “sticks,” it motivates and encourages team members to lift one-another up. I could not tell you what my last New Year’s resolution was, but I could tell you the one word from every member on my team as well as my own and how it truly made for a better year. 

Now, as we face the end of the calendar year, we will shift our focus individually and as a team to a new one-word vision for 2019. If you are looking for a way to improve the chemistry, accountability and motivation on your team, give the one-word a try. It could change your life in ways you never could have imagined.

Matt Beck
Matt Beck, MS, CPRP, RCRSP is currently an associate director for the department of wellness at Oklahoma State University. Matt’s expertise is rooted in recreation programs and facility management with specialties in leadership development and project management. He has worked in campus recreation at multiple institutions in the roles of associate director of programs, and associate director facilities and operations, as well as serving as a parks and recreation director for two different communities. Matt’s collegiate recreation service has included the NIRSA Assembly, NIRSA State Director, NIRSA Professional Registry Commissioner, NIRSA Wasson Award committee, NIRSA Campus Engagement Coordinator, NIRSA Mentor Program, Oklahoma State Workshop Planning Committee Chair, NIRSA State Student Leader, Director of Officials and Officials Committee member at numerous NIRSA tournaments, as well as a presenter at the NIRSA National, Regional and State level conferences. He is also currently pursuing a Ph.D. in health, leisure and human performance at OSU. Matt can be reached at mrbeck@okstate.edu.

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