by December 19th, 2012on
A few years back I learned the Word of the Year concept.
The basic gist of the Word of the Year is that rather than coming up with the usual plethora of New Year’s resolutions for yourself (the sheer bulk of which can overwhelm you, fail to inspire you, and ultimately, make you feel like a failure) you pick one word to guide your year.
One word, one… single… word.
OK, that sounded simple enough. But I had no idea how helpful, and actually transformational it was going to be for me.
To choose your Word of the Year you need to give yourself some time and space to sit and think and just let your intuition guide you. This is not a to-do list type of exercise. Your Word of the Year is a way of setting your over-arching intention for the year. Try not to get all left-brained and controlling about it, just let it come to you.
For example, if you have some problems in your life and you know you need to make some changes, but they scare the heck out of you, you may sit and find the word “Courage” popping into your head.
When I chose my first Word of the Year, I thought of lots of what seemed to me high-minded words like Decision, Truth, Power, Clarity, Strength, etc. I was shocked when the word that came to me, the word I chose for myself, the word which I apparently wanted to guide me, was Athlete.
Now, I was accustomed to thinking of my horses as athletes, and treating them in every way as athletes, but… me? Myself? An athlete? No way!! How could that be my word?
My perception of myself was always as the smart kid with glasses. No physical talent, never played sports, always picked last for team sports at school… that was my picture of me. I loved horses and started riding at a young age, but I had this mental construct that any success I had with riding was merely graciousness on the part of the horses.
I really admired elite riders and their ability to sit in perfect balance with the horse, not interfering with the horse’s physical movement. These riders could invisibly influence the horse to express himself with more engagement of the hind end, more freedom of the front end, and more overall suppleness.
It was clear that a horse ridden by an elite rider was a partnership consisting of two athletes, and anything less was not going to produce the artistry I admired.
So deep-down I knew that Athlete was what I wanted for myself, in order to be that partner for my horses. But it is hard now to express just how scary it was to even admit to myself – let alone to anyone else – that that was what I wanted for me.
In fact, the word awed me so much I did not share it with anyone, except one trusted advisor. I didn’t even tell my husband about it until years later. In one way, I thought that the word would hold more power for me if I kept it for myself alone. But in another (bigger) way I was scared, and even ashamed, to say my word out loud in relation to myself.
After choosing Athlete as my word, things just started to happen. I signed up with a personal trainer who specialized in physical training for riders; she devised a program for me that addressed flexibility, core, cardio, and strength training; I began to work my program six days per week, turning it into a habit; I gave my diet a healthy overhaul (athletes have got to eat like athletes, don’tcha know?)
Now, if you had asked me at the beginning of that year if I had time to work-out and do all that other stuff I would have said “No way, José!” I think if I had made a New Year’s Resolution to “Start working out” or “Get in Shape” nothing would have changed. But, by having the word Athlete hanging over me, guiding me like a beacon, it feels like all these results just kind of happened.
None of the changes was easy or instant, of course. I suffered a lot from sore muscles, and from the feeling of my brain over-heating as I tried to master new ways of using my body. I had to re-learn the use of muscles that my body no longer even knew that it had! I spent months feeling like a fish out of water as my brain laid down new neural pathways.
But in that one year I proved to myself that I can push through quite a lot of physical and mental discomfort and emerge victorious. I came out the other side with an image of myself as an Athlete! For real! Me!
The benefits have been many. The constant hip stiffness and back pain I used to have are now a thing of the past. The combination of stretching the right muscles and strengthening the opposing ones has cured these issues.
I stayed the same weight, but I lost fat and gained muscle so I lost a couple of sizes. My friends kept commenting on the apparent weight I’d lost. For the first time in my life, in my forties, I could see my abs. I was definitely leaner and stronger. My body composition had been remodeled in a much more athletic way!
But most important to me are the changes that happened in my riding. I gained symmetry, and the feeling that I am riding more correctly, using my back instead of my biceps. My stamina increased, and I enjoyed knowing that I was making my horses’ jobs easier by looking after my own self-carriage.
Also, my self-perception changed, one evidence of which is that I am able to write all this down and share it with you! When we were out to dinner with friends and one of them commented, “Yes, but Lori is an athlete!”, I didn’t flinch, cringe, or turn beet red. I just let the praise soak in and felt grateful that somehow, magically, my Word of the Year had turned into my actual reality.
I don’t know how it works, but I invite you to give it a try!
What will YOUR Word of the Year be? Let me know in the comments.