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The Totally Zen Way to Focus Your Efforts in 2016


wordsFor the last several years, I've chosen a word or phrase to focus myself for the year. In each case, I chose the specific word or phrase to bring something into my life that I was missing.

In 2013, I focused on pleasure. Deep in the trenches of early childhood, I felt like I had neglected that part of myself that actually enjoyed life.

In 2014, I focused on space. Space to breathe, space to think, space to be. With Littles running all over me, I was very intent on making "a room of one's own." (Also, getting rid of YEARS of accumulated clutter.)

In 2015, I went big and bold: spark joy and live life well. I don't think it was a coincidence that within weeks of making that declaration, I was invited to spend a totally indulgent and life-changing week in Paris!

In each case, selecting an overarching theme helped me focus my thoughts and efforts in a totally Zen way. As long as I kept my theme in mind, decisions were easier to make and intriguing opportunities appeared out of the blue.

This year, I'm betting on myself.

My Theme for 2016: Keep Going, No Pressure

I recently came to the startling realization that I expect results.

I expect results from courses I take, from work that I do, and from myself. Lickety-split, I might add—if things don't pan out after 6-8 weeks, I'm out.

Unfortunately, flash-in-the-pan efforts rarely produce genuine results. It takes sustained action over time to make any real progress. If you add pressure to achieve on top of that, you create frustration (okay, I create frustration) that can lead to tossing the whole thing out and starting over.

Genuine results require sustained action over time. (Tweet this!)

Personally, I'm sick of starting over. So I'm going to keep going. (No pressure.)

How to Create Your Own Theme for 2016

I came up with my theme for 2016 while updating Get Sh*ft Done. I was in a space of inspired creation, and all of a sudden, BAM! It hit me like lightning.

It may be totally different for you. You may be driving, or talking to a friend or significant other, or you may require total silence. However you get it, the first step is to get into flow.

If your theme comes to you quickly, write it down and own it. If you need a little more refinement:

2. Get quiet and allow your mind to wander. Let your rational mind turn off for a few moments and follow your stray thoughts. Don't edit yourself yet, simply allow those random ideas to surface.

3. Write down what comes up. Those stray thoughts aren't exactly "stray"—they're your innermost desires that get stamped out by fear or other programmed thought.

4. Bring your rational mind back into play. Look over what you wrote. Which ideas, words, or phrases work well together? Which ones make you feel alive? Play with your ideas a little bit.

5. Wait for the Zap. The Zap is when you feel things falling into place. When you read over what you’ve written down and go, “Yeah, that’s good stuff.” When you feel the little tug at your heartstrings, that’s it. That’s your theme.

6. Own it. Even if it's a little scary, own your theme for 2016. Keeping this word or phrase in the back of your mind for the year will help you make decisions, no stress needed.

Supercharge Your Theme with Pictures

One of my favorite ways to give my dreams a little boost is to create a Vision Board that encompasses those dreams. Last year, I created one specifically relating to my theme for 2015.

Lynn's Vision Board for 2015

Of the things that I pasted onto this board, a good 80% of these things happened. I went to New York and France, neither of which I expected. I certainly got inspiration and quiet—my youngest started kindergarten, which freed up large chunks of time on weekdays. I had plenty of terrible ideas that I started—some with bang-up results.

To create your own Vision Board, grab a piece of cardboard or other stiff paper, a stack of magazines and newspapers, scissors, and glue.

Then, take some time to cut out images that relate to your theme for 2016. When you find a picture or phrase that evokes the feeling you want to create, clip it out.

You can arrange the images and phrases any way you want. Linear, tilted, illustrated, photomontage—whatever works for and inspires you is perfect.

When you're finished, place your Vision Board somewhere where you'll see it regularly. I personally like to keep mine over my dresser in my bedroom; other good places include your office or personal space, as a digital wallpaper for your phone or laptop, or even across from the toilet in your bathroom. (You know you'll see it regularly!)

Have you chosen a theme for 2016? If so, share with us below!