I love the movie City Slickers.
It’s a comedy starring Billy Crystal as Mitch, a vacationing businessman, who takes on the adventure of driving cattle.
In the middle of the movie, Mitch meets a rough-around-the-edges cowhand named Curly, played by Jack Palance.
Curly tells Mitch that the secret to a great life is only one thing.
Curly even emphasizes his point by holding one finger and saying, “You need to stick to that one thing.”
Mitch asks, “What is that one thing?”
Curly’s reply is “That’s what you gotta figure out!”
Hahahahah. Punchline…or more like punch to the gut?!?
Isn’t that exactly what each and every one of us desperately want to know? What is that ONE thing I should be focusing on?!
Ironically, I thought One Word was a total joke.
How can reading a book about a single word make any difference in my life and business?
Here’s what I thought was true at the time:
- Life is complex and simplifying means you can’t take the heat.
- Success is the result of working hard 24/7 until you’re burned out, beat up, exhausted, or even hospitalized because of a heart attack.
- More is ALWAYS better.
- Less is NEVER enough.
- I’m not working unless I’m constantly busy, producing or doing one thing or other…
How many of you can relate to my outdated beliefs about work, business, and success?
The funny thing is that I never intentionally adopted these attitudes. They somehow just became a part of how I operate just by breathing, living, and working.
It wasn’t until I read the One Word book that it even occurred to me that simplifying my focus could bring me a sense of freedom and peace I never knew existed. Like many of you, I’ve read thousands of books in my lifetime looking for new insights, new perspectives, and approaches to get a leg up whether that be in my business or in my personal life.
Most of the time, what I read left me feeling disappointed, desperate, and then, frankly, underwhelmed. What I was searching for was original observations and keen knowledge. Something that would fill me and lead me to all the things I desired: success, joy, health, freedom. Looking back, my expectations were a tall order and honestly, no one outside of myself could ever fulfil them.
Until I read the book, One Word.
For the first time, the advice was to look inside myself and uncover what matters to me most in the world in this place and at this time in my life. And then, showed me how to encapsulate that into One Word. It was simple, direct, and refreshing. It was both small and large at the same time. One Word was breathtaking in its ability to both shrink my focus while also expanding my life.
I’d describe One Word as this: a methodology and process for simplifying your life through focusing on only One Word for an entire year.
The results of this process and methodology is clarity, passion, and transformation.
You see—resolutions fail and goals are easily buried under a mountain of daily tasks, but somehow, some way, One Word sticks.
I was intrigued, so I tried it for one year. This was back in 2016. After that first year, I was hooked and have continued my annual One Word pilgrimage ever since.
What I found is that by living a single word that embodied the essence of my life, I found refreshed purpose throughout the entire year.
So, now after all my effervescent gushing, you too, might be intrigued and therefore inclined to try it.
How to choose your One Word
Choosing your One Word is a three-step process.
- Prepare your heart by looking in.
- Discover your word by looking up.
- Live your word by looking out.
Step 1: Prepare Your Mind & Heart by Looking In
This first step asks you to get quiet by unplugging from the noise and distractions of your daily life.
It requests you to enter a space where you can calm your mind and listen to your heart. Once you’re there, then it’s time for inquiry. Get out your journal and pen (or laptop) and answer these questions:
- What do I need? This isn’t about what you want but rather what you truly need. What areas of your life or business need the most change and why is this change necessary?
- What’s in my way? This question asks you to find what’s preventing you from having what you need. Sometimes, our life barriers are already giving us the stink eye in the bathroom mirror.
- What needs to go? Maybe you’re holding yourself hostage due to past failures or frustrations. Perhaps, acknowledging any lingering feelings such pain or anger and forgiving yourself or others will set you on a path to move forward.
Step 2: Discover Your Word by Looking Up
Not to get overtly religious, but there IS a spiritual aspect to choosing your One Word.
This part was the most enjoyable because it forced me to surrender control (ironically, “surrender” was my One Word in 2019) and seek understanding at the highest level.
After living One Word for the past six years, I like to start my search for next year’s Word in September/October so that I can take the time to get quiet and listen. This process can take days, weeks, or months. That is entirely up to you.
For me, I’ve found that the process of elimination helps. I write down several words that come to mind. Then, I spent time daily thinking about them through meditation. Then, I sought wisdom from mentors, peers, and colleagues. Lastly, I surrender and trust that my next One Word will reveal itself.
It always does.
Step 3: Live Your Word by Looking Out
Once you’ve moved through the first two steps, you’re ready to live your word out loud.
You’ll want to integrate your One Word into your daily life by posting your word in prominent places (like your computer screensaver or a plaque on your desk), sharing it with those you trust and communicating it with your team at work.
If you decide to undergo this process, it’s critical to set up ways for you to remember and reflect on your One Word regularly. Especially if you’re a busy IT professional, you’re continually faced with an onslaught of decisions to make and problems to solve.
However, it’s the constant call of your Word that will have the greatest positive impact on your business and life. Usually, it’s in ways you never even expected.
Over the past five years, I’ve experienced major growth both professionally and personally by following the One Word methodology.
I began my journey with the Word, “intentional.”
Then, I lived “breakthrough.”
After that, it was time for “surrender.”
Next, I focused on “change.”
2021 was a year of “hope.” (Good one, I know.)
This year, “resilient” appeared like a weary traveler on a long road greeting an old friend. I feel honored to behold the power this Word will bring to my life.
I started to glimpse how elegantly each Word fed into the next and the next…
The beauty of One Word is how accessible it is to everyone and anyone. All you need is some quiet, a pen and some paper, a sense of possibility, and your Word will arrive gently, at times imperceptibly, and change your life.
Like water carving out a canyon, One Word will weather and permeate your being. It will transform you. It will make it harder for old beliefs to survive. It will remove the shackles of weak-kneed limitations.
At the end of the day, life, and business is about growth. This is why One Word is such a powerful tool to have with you on your journey.
How One Word Can Help Your Business
Over the course of my life, I, like you, have endured some pretty soul-crushing life experiences. Finding a way to derive meaning from this pain has been essential to my mental health and overall well-being. One Word has been both my ally and friend in this regard.
For those of you who may still be skeptical as to how so simple a tactic as One Word could initiate and lead such a profound change in one’s life, character, and business, let me help give you a reframe.
One Word could be considered on par with living by your values. In this regard, this tactic is as old as time, or at least as Benjamin Franklin, a man known not only for his contributions to science but also for his focus on living by his “13 virtues.”
Also, psychological research suggests that identifying and consciously living your core values leads to a whole host of benefits including stress reduction, decision-making, problem-solving, improved health habits, increased motivation, more assertive behavior, compassionate communications, wisdom, and more intimate relationships. That’s a whole host of impressive results, right?
If you’re interested in going whole hog on values, this article is for you.
For me, as much as I respect Franklin’s achievements, I don’t have time to track 13 values. BUT I can track one and have found that even just living one makes all the difference in the world.
To be clear, One Word isn’t a targeted business tactic per se. Rather, it’s a personal growth approach whose ramifications will reverberate positively and powerfully in ALL areas of your life, including your business.
I want you to simplify your focus using One Word and experience the results for yourself.
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