New Year: My One Word for 2015 and Why I Can’t Leave 2014 Behind

In Korea people don’t stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year. Instead, they get up in the middle of the night and they hike a mountain. They climb through the dark, snowy pre-dawn hours and when they reach the top they stand with their faces to the sky to greet the first sunrise of the New Year.

What a contrast to how we in the West often enter the New Year – stumbling out of bed at noon, tired and quite possibly hungover. For many, January 1st is a day of recovery. We spend New Year’s Eve celebrating the ending of something and the beginning of a new thing. We bombard the internet with reflections on the previous year. Even the less introspective among us take a moment to declare the past year, “the best” or “the hardest” or “the craziest” year of their lives.

I can never bring myself to make those kinds of statements. Because I don’t believe a year can ever be just one thing. Life is never just one thing, and what is a year besides a microcosm of an entire life?

Elaine’s comment on my Year in Review post explained this perfectly. She said she was struck by “how every year is a little life – with birth, death, family, love, travel, new things, familiar things, difficulties and good friends all swirling through it.” I thought this was profound because of what it says about the year we’ve just lived and what it means for the year ahead.

2014 had a life that is both self-contained and part of a larger whole. Entering the New Year doesn’t mean we’ve finished with the old one. We can’t discard it like a worn-out pair of shoes. We carry our past years deep inside our bones. They make up the very DNA of our lives.

The person I was as a child is markedly different from the person I am today, but I could never say I’ve left her behind entirely. You never completely stop being the person you were at 8 or 18 or 28. You carry all of these selves inside of you and they shape who you become. In the same way, we each carry dozens of lives with us –the lives we lived in our previous years – and these lives become part of our future.

But carrying the past year with you doesn’t mean you have to be weighed down or shackled by it.

In the past, I’ve looked back on my previous year and made some promises. I’ve set goals for the year ahead that were largely lists of how I would do better, be better than I was the previous year. I used to think that doing this was a way of leaving the previous year behind, but maybe all that is is a way of letting the previous year enslave me.

I don’t think we have the choice to throw out the previous year or any year of our lives. But we do have a choice about how we let it shape our lives. I can either look at the previous year and allow my mistakes and disappointments and perfectionism drive me to guilt-ridden resolutions, or I can look at the previous year and simply embrace it all, both the proud moments and the parts I wish I could undo, thank God for them, and let them be part of my story.

This year, instead of making a list of resolutions, instead of thinking of all the ways I failed in the last year or all the things I want to do better, instead of making 2015 a giant to-do list, I’ve decided to join the many people I know who choose One Word. The idea of One Word is to get rid of your list and to choose just one word to focus on for a whole year. “One word that sums up who you want to be and how you want to live.”

I’ve been thinking about my word for several weeks. At first I thought about “Belief,” because it’s something I desperately want more of – in God, in myself, in the world. And then I thought about “Present,” the practice of being fully engaged where I am instead of constantly thinking of the next thing or the last thing. Both of these are important to me, but when I really considered what summed up who I want to be and how I want to live one word rose to the top. My word for this year is Wholehearted.

Wholehearted is about sincerity and commitment. For me this means authenticity in my life and my writing. It means commitment to continue my faith-wrestling and to asking sincere questions. Being Wholehearted is also a commitment to courage, compassion, and connection. It is the courage to be vulnerable despite the risk, the compassion to love other people well and to extend grace quickly, both to myself and to others, and the choice to develop genuine connections with others. Wholeheartedness means committing to being fully present, to showing up for every day of my life instead of checking out when things are hard or boring. It means engaging with Today and believing that every day is a gift. And Wholehearted means believing that I am worthy of love and belonging – not because there is anything especially great and deserving about me, but because we are all worthy of love and belonging and because we can’t fully accept love and belonging unless we believe we are worthy of it.

This year I want to step into the New Year with intention. I want to turn my face towards the sun and say, “I’m here. Whatever you have to offer, I am fully present and ready to receive it. The births and the deaths. The joys and the fears and the disappointments. The beauty and the brokenness. The faith and the doubt. The longing and the contentment. The adventure and the mundane.” May 2015 be a step on the journey towards Wholeheartedness.

Happy New Year.

 

Image Credit: Iamidaho at Deviantart.com
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1,082 comments

    1. Every year is an opportunity to grow and New Year’s resolutions are perhaps a reflection of our failure to fully take that opportunity last year, and our idea that we can change everything in the next. This is impossible because we’re only human.

      Liked by 10 people

  1. I love it!! You are so right about past years, too. We never really do leave them behind, and why should we rush to leave them behind, anyway? I actually thought a lot about the word Waiting or Wait because I think we are always rushing and always need instant information and instant gratification. This year I want to only check FB and mail a couple of times a day instead of constantly checking to see if I have an email or a like. I want to learn to wait and to enjoy the waiting, and I think that has much to do with the idea of being present you mentioned, too. But the word that I eventually chose was enough. I was really plagued with self-doubt, feelings of failure, and self-hatred in 2014. I have to receive and believe the message that I am enough just as I am (to borrow from Brene Brown’s work!). I am good enough. I love the Korean tradition on New Years Eve . . . I might try it sometime. Maybe.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Oooh, Waiting. That is such a good one/hard one. It’s so hard to believe that waiting could be good, not just something to get through or endure. But I really love and resonate with “enough.” I have spent most of my life trying to be good enough and always, always feeling like a failure at it. It’s a worthy challenge to spend this year changing how you see yourself. I look forward to encouraging you in that! And my wholehearted definition also borrows from Brene Brown. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I love that! It’s easy to whine about the things we don’t like in our lives. It’s much harder (but much better) to take initiative and intentionally choose the life we want to live. Blessings on your journey!

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  2. This is a beautiful concept, and I love your word. I love the fact that it holds no false promises of happy ever after all sprinkled with fairy dust. It’s big enough to encompass joy and grief, fun and frustration – in short, the whole rich bag of living that you’ll get to unpack over the next 365 days. May they be blessed!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Btw, I’ve been sharing this all over the place. So many hurting people out there. I have been in that place – in fact I continue to hang around its doorway quite often. Somehow what you wrote here encapsulated something meaningful to me, in terms of moving forward. Thank you again.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. “A rich bag of living” – I love that image. Thanks for your good wishes and thanks so much for sharing this. It makes me so happy to think that this might bring hope to some who are hurting. Happy New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Looks like we have the same word! That’s great! 🙂 I love this post. I love the feel of inspiration and excitement that it has, and that’s a great picture choice! Thanks for sharing!

    thatfreespiritedblog.wordpress.com

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I really enjoyed this. We never really leave the past years as you said. The concept of one word is brilliant. I concur with a few you have mentioned but the one for me would have to be ‘hope’. I chose this because I don’t want to doubt this coming year. I want to hope I can be the best I can in every ramification irrespective of the shortcomings and all winds of life that are blown our way. Thanks once again.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Have you ever read Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Hope is the thing with feathers” ? I always picture Hope the way she described it in the poem – a little bird perched in your heart that sings without stopping and without asking anything of you. We just have to listen for it. Hope keeps us from being crushed by life’s inevitable sorrows and disappointments. May you hear hope echo through your life this year. Thanks so much for sharing!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks so much lilyellyn for your comments -truly inspiring. I shall certainly be listening to hear the singing of the bird in my heart to ensure I stay afloat when the storms of life billow across. Thanks once again, wishing you the very best too.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. We tend to measure life in beginnings and endings, benchmarks of joy and loss that gauge contentment. There is so much beauty in the middle, the overlooked accumulation of days that are witness to the shape of our whole. I imagine standing on a mountain peak the perspective invites a more wholehearted appreciation for the vastness of life’s complicated and imperfect beauty. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Exactly – most of our lives are lived in the middle. I think the perspective from the mountaintop also reminds me of how small even my “big” moments are. It’s humbling, but remembering that my life is not the center of the universe is also part of being wholehearted. 🙂 Happy New Year to you, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Have fun this year doing just one little word rather than disappointing yourself in February when those resolutions slip by. I also agree with not leaving past years behind, I’ve truly enjoyed them so why let that go? Live with no regrets

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My goal is to live more and more without regrets – not because I won’t make mistakes or experience hard things – but because I want to learn how to see those things as part of my story and to learn and grow from them. On New Year’s my brother always says something to the effect of, “This year my resolution is to do exactly what I did last year.” It comes across like he doesn’t want to grow or change, but what he means by it is that he looks at the past year with satisfaction. He doesn’t have regrets and he wants to keep living that way. And I think that’s pretty cool. 🙂 Happy New Year!

      Liked by 3 people

  7. What a lovely post. Wholehearted is a word that will serve you well.

    We’re like trees, aren’t we? Every year we lay down a new ring of life experience.

    I’ve spent a lot of the day marvelling at a 10 hour radio dramatisation of War and Peace on the BBC. If you have chance, I’d highly, highly recommend downloading the 10 episode podcast here http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/warpeace or catching it on iPlayer here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04wz7q2/episodes/guide It’s one of the most life and love affirming things I’ve ever heard. And one of the saddest. If you get lost in Russian novels, with all the different names, don’t worry. Everything important is clear. The actors are fantastic too. I think the podcast’s available for 14 days and the iPlayer version is available for 4 weeks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, we are like trees. 🙂 Thanks for the tip on the War and Peace podcast! I love radio dramas AND Russian literature and I am doing deskwork all day today so it’s perfect. Thank you! And Happy New Year.

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      1. I think you’ll really enjoy it. They played it straight, from 9 am to 9.30 pm today (with a break for lunch and breaks on the hour for the news – or the loo!) I was so impressed. Wonderful voices and very clever dramatisation. It can’t have been easy to have distilled the book into just 10 episodes, but they did it beautifully.

        Do let me know how you get on with it.

        All best wishes

        Elaine

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Love your thought you brought up that life can never be one thing. It is interesting that so many (Including myself) push everything into a “good, bad, or ugly” category based on one experience throughout the year.

    Also, being fully present and learning to completely engage in life and with the people I come across is teaching me to enjoy life more. It has and is teaching me to appreciate the little things in life, and if I can do that in this new year, I will be satisfied with 2015.

    Happy New Year! God Bless! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think we like to push things into a category because it makes us feel like we’re in control. And really, we’re not at all. The question is how to actively participate in our lives even when we can’t control them.

      I hope you love and enjoy life more and more in 2015. Thanks for sharing and Happy New Year!

      Liked by 4 people

  9. You’re the second person I’ve encountered who has mentioned the “one word” way of approaching the new year and even choosing one word to define the year that is done. I like this idea but, man, what a job trying to find that one word. I wholeheartedly hope you embrace the variety of experiences that will come your way in 2015. Wholehearted is an excellent word to live by.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. A breath of fresh air reading this. I was just telling a friend yesterday that although there is skit of´ sameness´ each year our reaction and attitude can change. Thank you, you’ve given me disunion to think about that I may share later. Forgiveness is my word.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Forgiveness. What a hard, beautiful word. I pray for grace for you as you embark on a year of forgiveness. I also think our reactions and attitudes can change our lives even when our circumstances don’t change. Thank you for sharing!

      Like

  11. Its amazing!
    Though technically each day is a new year cause exactly an year later it gets back to where it was an year ago!
    So lets celebrate each day with same zeal and joy!
    As they say time only exists in watches.
    Cheers and a happy new year!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. My word for this year will be “Brave”
    I’m going to take on obstacles in my life head on
    Dive, jump and soar out of my comfort zone and plunge into my worst fears
    I mat succeed and I may not but I’m sure about one thing, I will never regret it.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Absolutely! I’m looking for people to join me. In community, there is accountability (and it just makes things more fun).

        I have a journal on my site that can be downloaded/printed to be used as a guide.

        Keep me posted on where your adventures take you!

        Like

  13. What a wonderful post to begin the new year. I spent the first few pre-dawn hours of 2014 walking to the water’s edge on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland to capture an unbelievable sunrise. This year, though, I chose to bring in the new year a little differently — with friends that I haven’t seen in some time. I’m glad I did. They were my sunrise by the water; they were my pre-dawn walk.

    Wholehearted… an absolutely magnificent word for 2015. Here’s to you, and all that you bring to this world in the coming year.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Rus, that sounds perfect. We actually spent our New Year’s babysitting for some friends who hadn’t been out on a date in 6 months. It was an anti-climactic New Year’s by the world’s standards, but it was exactly where we needed to be. Thanks for your kind words and thoughts. I hope 2015 is full of pre-dawn walks for you, symbolically and otherwise. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Creativity is a fantastic word. It can apply to your artistic work – writing, music, art, etc., but it can also apply to your outlook on life. You can implement creativity in how you look at problems and how you find solutions. You can use creativity to see beauty in the mundane. And you can use creativity to bless the people in your life. Creativity is the ability to create something beautiful out of odds and ends that don’t seem to go together. I think that’s pretty powerful. And awesome. 🙂 Happy New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Love your viewpoint on the new year. The past makes us who we are. The best new years resolution is to better yourself. Discover who you are and aim for a better future. Something that makes you happy. The past is what makes us stronger.
    Happy New Year! I wish you the very best for your 2015 endeavors.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s interesting…maybe I was making assumptions, but my Korean friends and coworkers told me that’s what they do. Perhaps it’s more popular here because my city is completely surrounded by mountains? Didn’t mean to over-generalize! Sorry if that’s not the case everywhere.

      Like

      1. Korea is 80% mountains. I thought it funny because New Years Eve I was in the supermarket watching them buy crates of soju. I’m sure some do. They’d be intrepid folks: that time of night in the mountains it could be below -20℃. I’ve hiked in winter but it would be dangerous at night. Don’t mean to bust your bubble.

        Like

      2. No, it’s fine. I think it’s probably an age group thing too. Most of the people I know who do it are sort of middle-aged. The younger people definitely party it up too. 🙂 I do think though regardless of the hiking the mountain part that the sunrise is of more significance in their New Year tradition than it is in the West. I had the same reaction about it being freezing and terrible at night. They said it was worth it, haha.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I know there are a number of sunrise festivals for the new year. I did a quick google cause I was curious why I had heard so much about this and there are a ton of blogs and articles and Korean websites that talk about it.

        Like

  15. Deep and rich. I agree wholeheartedly and I love how the Koreans celebrate the new year. We view life not as it is but as we are. I like the higher vantage point that comes from living with quality.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Maggie. I really like that thought about how we view life not as it is, but as we are. I have found it often true in my life that when I’m unhappy with my life and circumstances what really needs to change is me! Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Beautiful! I loved your heartfelt post – and your word for the year. (I do that too… My word is Expectant.) 🙂 I hope this year blows your expectations and dreams and is truly one to be remembered – wholey.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ooh, Expectant. That’s such a good one. It sort of incorporates Waiting and Hope in one word. Waiting to see what comes and full of Hope about whatever it is. I hope 2015 exceeds your expectations. Thanks so much for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Reblogged this on Breeze6's Blog and commented:
    Found this is interesting , it’s not about all that celebration , it’s how we preparing ourselves , and welcoming first day of the year , with thanksgiving , for all we’ve been through and surely what we’re going to achieved this 2015 , Cheers !

    Liked by 2 people

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