A simple way to align your year (without resolutions)

Jan 09, 2024
2024-01-09 Intentional Productivity blog image - new year 2024

Happy New Year! I hope 2024 is a year of intention and alignment with your desires, priorities, and values.

As we begin a new year, it's common to set resolutions without fully considering our underlying priorities and values. And while lists and goals might offer some initial motivation, lasting change requires aligning our efforts with what really matters.

Today’s practice presents an opportunity for what I call “values-based inquiry”: asking questions around what you value so you can get clearer on what matters to you, what kind of person you strive to be, and how to live accordingly.

I hope you’ll find it helpful for navigating (and shaping) the year ahead in a way that is personally meaningful.

Let’s dive in.



1 thing to apply


My Three Words is a simple New Year (or anytime) practice created by Chris Brogan, best-selling author, speaker, and leadership coach.

You’ll choose three words to help guide your choices and actions day to day. Think of these as your lighthouses for decision-making. When you’re wondering, “Should I say yes to this?” you can ask yourself, “Does this align with one or more of my three words?”


3 main benefits

  • Your three words provide focus and direction for your choices and actions, acting as “lighthouses” to guide you.
  • The exercise helps you identify and invest in the qualities and values you want to prioritize for the year ahead.
  • Reviewing your three words regularly serves to reinforce your priorities and reground you in your intentions.


5 minutes or less


1. Make a list

Take a few minutes to list any potential words you feel will help guide you forward in a meaningful way. These might be related to big-picture goals or qualities you want to cultivate. 

Examples: connect, contribute, friendship, patience, health, writing, family, creativity, harmony, etc.

Write without filtering or editing your ideas. Jot down any words that come to mind. 


2. Select three

Review your list and identify the words that feel most meaningful or resonant. Consider how practical, inspiring, and impactful each one feels.

Brogan recommends making your words simple, practical, and actionable. Avoid phrases or ambiguity.


3. Reflect daily

Write your three words where you'll see them often, like in your planner, on your nightstand, near your computer, or on a mirror.

Each day, spend a minute reflecting on the meaning behind each word. What does it to you? What might it look like today? Where could you seek opportunities to action or cultivate it?


Expanded version

4. Outline actions

Consider how you can start incorporating your words into daily habits and decisions. For example, if one of your words is "create", you might brainstorm a list of short, easy-to-do creative mini-projects to try each morning, on your lunch break, or before bed.


5. Additional tips

Here are three tips from Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D, author, speaker, and teacher of Stanford’s popular class, “The Science of Willpower”:

  1. To select your words: Ask yourself, at the end of 2024, in looking back on the year, what would you seriously be grateful you did? Is there a change you know that you’re going to be glad you made? What would that mean and what would it feel like?

  2. To action your words: Each day, ask yourself: What’s the smallest step you could take that is consistent with your goal?

  3. To stick to your words: Identify with your goals, intentions, and desires:

“People are really interested in creating habits, and there’s so much excitement now about habit design. Habits are really, really hard to create because they require complete automaticity. You need to basically be making choices in the absence of any motivation and it takes a long time to get that in place. But when you have a value or commitment, that’s something different. It can be a conscious choice that when you’re in a restaurant — if your identity is as somebody who takes good care of your health — then that becomes a default way to make a good choice in that moment. Anything that you do to create that identity can actually make it easier to make choices that don’t feel like deprivation.”


If you're interested in diving deeper into this and other expert exercises for planning and decision-making, check out my Making Big Picture Decisions course.



Conclusion: The practice of embedding your intentions into your daily life keeps you aligned with what's most important to you. Use this simple annual exercise to identify, cultivate, and act upon your values so you can live with greater intention, clarity, and purpose.

Your time and energy are your most precious resources. As always, thank you for sharing some of yours with me today.

— Melissa


PS. Want to be inspired? Read this blessing for a new beginning (one of my favourite poems). 



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