What is a Theme?
A theme for the year can be a word or phrase, something meaningful to you that can help frame everything you aim to do for the year. It’s flexible, and you can expand upon or narrow it down as you see fit during the year. After you’ve discovered your theme for the year, you can go back to traditional SMART goal-setting as long as it aligns with your theme. If you’re interested in hearing instead of reading about some of the reasons why I love themes and how I got started, check out Episode 3 of my podcast Black Woman Rising. Don’t believe in the power of crafting a theme for the year? Take it from another creative, it changes lives out here.
It All Started with a Bible Plan
The year: 2015. The plan: One Word That Will Change Your Life. That was my introduction to the idea of having a theme for the year. Although it started with one word, I progressively moved toward having a few words or a phrase frame my entire year. I read this plan in February of that year, and it completely changed the way I thought about resolutions and goal-setting for the year. It talked about how focusing on one word for the year that God places in your heart allows you to live a distraction and clutter-free year. Aligning everything you do and hope to accomplish within the year with that one word simplifies your life and helps minimize the stress of not completing a ton of smaller goals that may or may not have a greater meaning in your life. Every year after reading that Bible plan, except 2020, I had a theme for the year, and it has helped me manifest everything I’ve wanted and that I believe God meant for me at each point in time.
How You Can Craft or Discover Your Own Theme
Whether you’re Agnostic, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, prayer can be an eye-opening experience for you to rely on God to guide your theme for the year. You can ask God to guide your heart and mind and let you know where you should be focusing your attention in alignment with God’s purpose. If you don’t want to rely on prayer alone, you can also use a governing or sacred text, if any, to supplement your spiritual life. Personally, I’ve found a mix of both have helped me shape a theme.
Maybe you don’t have any set religious or spiritual beliefs, then what? I highly recommend meditating. Meditation helps you get clarity by training your mind to gently push out distractions as you focus on the present moment. The end goal of meditation is not for you to have a completely empty mind clear of distractions but to help you learn how to manage the distractions that come up when you’re trying to direct your attention to one thing. By focusing on the present, you can analyze and ideate how you’d like to grow in the year and then fine-tune it from there.
Journaling is an excellent way to process and later reflect on thoughts, feelings, and reactions. If you’re anything like me and have kept a journal, it can give you insight into the things you dream or think are out of reach and your personal strengths and weaknesses. Let 2021 be the year that you focus on those things that you thought were impossible or too far away and figure out what strengths you can hone and weak points you can develop to create a theme to get you closer to those things. Leveraging my journal and prayer is actually how I came up with my theme for 2021, which shows there’s more than one way to get to your theme.
Nailing Down the Theme
Take Your Time
There aren’t resolution police forcing you to have all of your goals in by January 1st. Take your time, even if you have to iterate until the end of January. If the suggestions above didn’t help, check out this article from Psychology Today for more ideas and steps to decide on a theme. It’s never too late to align yourself with your purpose or start thinking about what that purpose is! Read a lot, write a lot, spend a lot of time in deep thought so that you land on at least one word that you’re happy with sticking to for the year.
Expansive or Narrow
If you at least get to that one word, you can keep the theme at one word or make it into a phrase. Although it seems counter-intuitive, the more words or longer your theme becomes, the more you’re narrowing it down. Conversely, the shorter your theme, the broader it is and flexible you can be with your specific goals within the year. How general or specific you want to be is really up to you; just remember that this is for you and should work with and for you. If it’s stressing you out, go back to the drawing board and start reworking.
Okay, now you’ve got your theme. The next step is to start living your life and setting specific goals. I prefer to set them monthly or quarterly, short-term goals that align with my theme. This makes goal-setting much easier and more fulfilling as you accomplish them because you know they’re working toward a bigger purpose.
For example, my theme for this year is: disciplined and passionate. What does that mean to me? I’m glad you asked. In the year of chaos, 2020, I realized that I was feeling unfulfilled in my life. It led to me feeling burnt out, anxious all the time, and genuinely miserable. After much prayer, meditation, journaling, self-reflection, and therapy, I’ve concluded that God has been telling me to calm down and focus on the things He’s placed in me to be passionate about because that will help me move into working in my purpose. That’s fine and dandy, but I know myself, and I tend to get very distracted and have hands in 20 different pots. In order to solve this, I decided I needed to be disciplined in those things that I’m passionate about. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m really interested and excited about something, I’m enthralled and can be very regimented. Once the newness wears off, I tend to slack off but no more. This year I’m going to be disciplined about my passions so I can see them flourish into the beautiful things I know they’ll become for my career and personal life. I’ll check back in next month with my goals for Q1 and how I’ve progressed on them. Can’t give away too much now!