One of the first things my mentor Joey talked with me about when we started meeting a few years ago was our “word for the year” (not to be confused with Merriam Webster’s word of the year). He introduced a simplistic reworking of traditional annual goal-setting, and it absolutely changed my life.

Every year, more than 200 million Americans make a New Year’s resolution. However, only about 25% make it more than 30 days before giving up and only 8% actually accomplish their goals. You read that right: Almost everyone gives up on their resolution before February and almost no one actually finishes.

Why is this the case? Why do people try and fail year after year, only to roll up their sleeves in December and live out the definition of insanity?

While New Year’s Resolutions are made with the best intentions, they are built on a flawed foundation of effort and willpower. We set “to-do” goals instead of “to-be” goals and in consequence, success becomes measured by what we can accomplish rather than by who we can become. We attempt to trust the power of change to that of our heads and hands, but in the process, we ignore our hearts. But is it not true that our hearts are the very thing that inspired us to pursue change in the first place?

In 2012, three guys named Jon, Dan, and Jimmy wrote a book called “The One Word That Will Change Your Life.” The idea behind the book is simple: instead of picking broad and complicated goals for the upcoming year, pick one word that you want to be your focus. Don’t make some well-crafted mission statement or cool slogan: simply pick one word.

You might be thinking: that’s great Coach Ryan, but what the heck should my word be? I’m glad you (might’ve) asked.


Last month, we talked about the One Thing (if you haven’t read it, go read it, and give me 5 burpees for good measure). We talked about cutting away the multitude of distractions from our minds and focusing on the one thing we could do that would provide the most benefit to us. This process is similar.

First, Unplug.

Get away from the noise and create space to genuinely think; not about your work, friends, family, or that weird Impossible Burger ( impossible-burger-everything-you-need-to-know/) thing. Create space to think about you. For one hour, challenge yourself with:

  • No TV
  • No Music
  • No Computer
  • No Phone
  • No Other People
  • No To-Do Lists(Pro Tip: If you can’t take one hour before the end of 2019 for yourself to complete this exercise, consider working on your time management!)

    Second, Ask Some Questions.

• What do you need?

‣ What areas of your life need the most change, and why? (Emphasis on need, not want.)

• What’s in your way?

‣ What is preventing you from having what you need?

• What needs to go?

‣ Sometimes we are held hostage by our past mistakes. Other times, words like should have or could have prevented us from moving forward. Jocko Willink ( says that the road to freedom is paved with discipline, and taking a hard look at our current habits and routines is necessary to make real and effective change.

Remember: sometimes we can focus too much on getting somewhere (in this case picking a word) that we forget the why behind it. Center yourself on why you want change, and let the “how” come with time.

Third, Pick The Right Word, Not a Good Word.

When thinking through possible words, you may want to jump on one because it sounds really good or because when you shared it with someone in your life and they went “Wow! I really like that!” However, spending the time to make your word personal and specific is worth the extra effort. “I want to hear what people close to me think about my word!” isn’t a bad thought by any means; for many, having a few “cheerleaders” in your life can be incredibly helpful and encouraging. However, I would

advise you to pick your word before you share it with anyone. This word is for you and not anyone else. For myself, I find that keeping my word a secret has been the most effective. As much as I’d love to share it with everyone, it maintains exponentially higher value when it’s close to my chest.

Over the years, words like Heal, Build, Hone, and Forge have infused discipline and real change into my life in a unique way. My hope is that I can share that experience with you as we head into the next year, and we can we can choose to become more rather than simply just do more.

Enjoy the (freezing) last few days left of 2019. Finish well,
Coach Ryan