Every year people create New Year’s resolutions. And every year, many of those resolutions fail. Well-meaning goals get buried under the chaos of day-to-day life. As a working professional, life can get pretty chaotic and busy. Between projects to complete, people to manage, and a business to run, stress and anxiety tend to come with the territory. That’s why it’s so important to set time aside to prioritize your mental health. It’s important to focus on ways to stay calm, focused, and energized. But how? The key is finding a focus phrase.

Why a Focus Phrase Is So Powerful

The power of a focus phrase over a resolution is that a focus phrase keeps you open to change. A resolution feels like a fixed activity. Therefore, if you have to quit the activity, you quit your resolution. Focus phrases are driven by more internal, emotional, or philosophical motivators. If you have a theme of becoming more productive, that doesn’t limit you to accomplishing a certain amount of projects. Your definition of “productive” is open to evolving as the year goes on. However, your focus remains the same.

Additionally, focus phrases act as a decision filter. When opportunities come up, or hard decisions have to be made, you ask yourself whether your choice fits your theme. If it does, great! Run with it. However, if not, you have permission to say ‘no.’ Focus phrases empower you to protect your time and your energy. Focus phrases only work if you have the courage to be honest. Setting goals like “As a developer, I’m going to complete a million lines of code” or “I’m going to start a new business” are good. However, they don’t address why these matter to you. Your focus phrase reminds you why an action is important to you. You have to start with what honestly matters to you on a personal level.

Why Matters More Than What

So, begin by asking not just what you want from your year, but also why it matters. The answer to this question has to be something you feel in your gut. It has to resonate with you on an emotional level. Otherwise, it becomes too easy to rationalize giving up. Without a deep, personal reason for why you are putting yourself through this, it is very easy to quit. This is true whether starting a new business or creative venture or increasing the number of projects you complete a quarter. We love stasis. Our bodies and minds crave stability. So when that stability is challenged, our natural inclinations fight back to regain that stability.

When you know what’s at stake for you, when you have a clearly defined why and a short focus phrase to help remind you of that, you can push through any resistance and find your victory. In his famous TED talk, Simon Sinek emphasizes that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” He also says that “What you do simply serves as the proof of what you believe.” You can watch this great talk below:

Your Actions Prove What You Believe

There’s an adage in screenwriting that says, “A character is what a character does.” Meaning, you get to know your character by putting them in situations where they have to make a choice. The choice they make tells you who they are. Action reveals character. It proves what a character believes. This is true of stories and it’s true of life. We know people based on the actions they take, not on what they merely talk about doing. No matter what a person says about being a writer, for example, you stop believing them when you don’t see any writing. Because their actions prove what they really believe about themselves.

Start with Why and You’ll Be Surprised by What Can Happen

If your goal is wanting to be a developer, use a focus phrase like “Become a developer.” This way you can analyze what you are doing against that theme and recognize if you are moving in the right or wrong direction of your goal. If you are ready to take the lead in 2021, then find a focus phrase that will help you define what matters most this year. Write down some ideas. You’ll know when you hit the mark because you will feel it in your gut.

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Share with us what your focus phrase will be for 2021 in the comments below!

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