For the eighth time, I begin the New Year with 3 carefully chosen words meant to remind, motivate, and guide me on my road to making the New Year my best year yet. It’s called the My 3 Words exercise.
My 3 words are printed at the top of my Daily Outcomes sheet (my prioritized to-do list) so I see them multiple times a day.
By being thoughtful when I identify my 3 words and then reviewing them on a daily basis, I have a daily reminder of my key focus for the year. These words help me stay on track and on plan.
Last year, I decided to mix it up and instead of doing the My 3 Words exercise, I did a “filters” exercise—more on that in a moment.
For 2023, I’m keeping the same filters from 2022 and bringing back the My 3 Words exercise.
In today’s post, I reveal my 3 words for 2023 and discuss how well I executed on the filters exercise from 2022.
Past 3 Words
Here are my 3 words and their associated blog posts from previous years.
2018: Spark, Community, Savor
2019: Practice, Voice, Test
2022: 4 Filters Exercise: Deep Learning, Content Creation, Flexibility, Look Forward To
Let’s look back at my 4 filters exercise from 2022 and see what grade I give myself in terms of how the filters guided my actions in the past year.
My 4 Filters
In 2022, I identified 4 filters to help me answer the question, “What criteria should I use to determine what work I will do or how I will allocate my time?”
These four filters were:
- Deep Learning: I love to learn and want to keep growing in my knowledge of areas that fascinate me.
- Content Creation: I love creating, communicating, and publishing content in a wide variety of media including written, video, and audio.
- Flexibility: It’s critical that I have complete control of my schedule in terms of when and where I work.
- Look forward to: I must get excited when I see it on my calendar.
The goal was to run all my business opportunities through these filters to ensure that I only work on things that meet all the criteria.
How did it work out?
Quite well! I’d grade myself an “A.”
The key thing that the filters did was give me a framework for saying “no” to ideas and opportunities when I did not answer “yes” to all 4 filters.
During 2022, I turned down numerous business opportunities that checked the first 3 filters but were a “no” on that fourth “look forward to” filter.
The result was, despite turning down business and referring these opportunities to other colleagues, I had my best financial year ever in 2022. Staying focused on work that checked all four filters meant I was working “in the zone” all year long.
These 4 filters are working well so I see no need to change them in 2023. Instead, I’ll focus on a new set of 3 words.
My 3 Words for 2023
This year’s words might seem a little strange as they are not particularly “work” related. Instead, they are more about a “way of being” than a way of doing.
These words started to crystalize a few weeks ago after returning from a sailing trip with my family on a small boat in the British Virgin Islands (BVIs). It turned out to be the most relaxing, calming, and centering vacation I’ve ever had.
And, true to my nature, when I find something I like, I go all in. So, my 3 words reflect my desire to go deeper with the “feeling” from that sailing experience. And I have no doubt that as I “be” more, it will positively impact how I show up and “do” more for my clients, friends, and family.
Okay, here are my 3 words for 2023.
Like gravity, we can’t see wind directly, but we can feel and see its effects.
We see the effects of wind in blizzards, tornadoes, and hurricanes. We feel its effects in the form of the wind-chill index or a stiff breeze on a hot afternoon. We can “hear” wind as it rustles through the trees or fuels crashing ocean waves. And we can harness it for clean power.
“Wind” is my reminder of the power of things we take for granted. Of how things can have both productive and destructive qualities. Of how the same thing can, at times, be uncontrollable, and at other times, be completely within our control.
For 2023, “wind” will be both metaphorical and practical for me. My plan (and my wife is joining me) is to take sailing lessons and become certified to captain a catamaran in the BVIs. And to do that, I have to understand “wind” in all its nuances.
In 2010, I read the obituary of a fascinating man named Mau Piailug. Piailug was a Micronesian master navigator who could navigate thousands of miles without the aid of modern technology. He was a “wayfinder.”
Piailug navigated by a deep understanding of the Sun and stars, winds and clouds, seas and swells, and birds and fish. Passed down from generation to generation and assimilated through experience, Piailug was one of the last people on earth with this rare combination of generational wisdom, personal experience, and “feel” for nature.
A few times over the past 12 years, I was reminded of Piailug, but it wasn’t until my sailing trip that I connected the dots.
Spending a week on the water with the wind and waves, the fish and birds, the clouds and the stars, made me realize how reliant we are on modern technology to help us “get around.” While our captain had to be alert when sailing, he could easily use the auto pilot to navigate and press a button to raise and lower the sails.
As the week progressed and I spent more time in the water, on the water, hiking the islands, looking at the stars, and feeling the sway of the boat over the waves, I longed to shed the distance between me and the natural world. I wondered what it would be like to learn how to navigate using nature, not Garmin; to be guided by a felt sense of the interconnectedness of everything.
“Wayfind” is my reminder to learn how to use everything around me to navigate, to set a direction, a course, and then use the clues of nature to guide me home.
In early 2022, I recorded a Barron’s Advisor podcast with performance coach Denise Shull. As part of my research, I came across the word “interoception.”
Our bodies are constantly sending signals to our brain to process. Through interoception, the brain is able to sense the internal state of the body, both at a conscious and unconscious level. When you get better at sensing your body’s internal state, you can get better at discerning what’s intuition and what’s just impulsive noise. You get an early warning indicator when something’s not quite right.
And you can do it without all these digital gadgets!
We can train ourselves to become more interoceptive through practices such as mindfulness and exercises like sensing our heartbeat count for 60 seconds and comparing it to our actual heartbeat count. Yoga can help, too. After a 20-year on again, off again EKG-looking consistency with hot yoga, I picked it back up again in early 2022. My yoga plan this year is to be more “present” while sinking deeper into each pose and enjoying the sweat raining down on my mat.
And as David Robson wrote in an article in The Guardian, “If you are more adept at accurately detecting your bodily signals, you will be able to form more nuanced interpretations of your feelings about a situation, and this in turn should help you to make wiser choices about the best ways to respond.”
As I work at becoming more attuned to the natural world and its signs and signals, my ability to “sense” and interpret my internal state as well as my external environment will help me become less reliant on the modern technology that dulls my senses and, instead, deepen my ability to discern through natural means.
Now, I’m not against technology. Instead, I am for anchoring my being in a deeper level of inner and outer awareness such that I can easily segue between a natural understanding of the workings of the world and one aided by modern technology when needed.
I touched on this idea of developing a deeper level of awareness in my podcast with Victoria Song.
So, there they are: Wind, Wayfind, and Sense.
My 3 Words Tips
Here are 3 tips to consider when you complete your My 3 Words exercise.
- Choose 3 individual, actionable words.
- Make them meaningful. They could be “code” words that trigger a story or special feeling that is deeply personal, but not too esoteric.
- Do more than “see” the words each day; allocate some time every couple weeks to hold yourself accountable for following through on them. Take 15 minutes and ask yourself, “How well am I living up to my 3 words, where did I fall short, and what can I do to get back on track?”
Now it’s your turn. Take a first pass at your My 3 Words exercise for 2023 and then set it aside. Revisit the next day and see if they still feel good. You can use this list of 500 words for some ideas.
There’s no reason to keep this exercise a secret. Share it with your family, friends, and even your clients. Remember, the right word or short phrase can drastically change your life.
Tweet your 3 words with #my3words and make sure you @stevesanduski in your tweet, too.
Let’s make 2023 a great year!