Prioritizing in 2023

For the past decade (!!!!), I’ve been following the advice to choose one word for the year, something to act as a simple guide rather than creating a list of resolutions and trying to follow through. It’s been a life-changing practice for me, one that’s helped me hone in on different aspects of life and get to a place where I feel like I have a better notion of what I want my everyday life to look like, what values I want to emphasize.

My word for 2023 was priority (or prioritize), and I have to say, it was the best word I’ve chosen. Not only did it help me choose what to do with my very limited kid-free time, which was the initial reason I chose it, but it shaped my decision-making processes for other elements, too, such as for our whole family and in my part-time work, and it relieved me of any guilt I might feel for not choosing something. It wasn’t that I just decided against it; it wasn’t a priority.

The whole year felt much truer to myself and like a better reflection of our family values than years past, when I’ve juggled not disappointing someone or worrying about what someone will think if I don’t volunteer for every opportunity–you know, a lot of what ends up under that umbrella of mom guilt. It also helped me discover what those values even are! I used to think generally about wanting to teach my kids responsibility, how to treat others, etc., basically lots of big picture ideas, but the practice of prioritizing helped me get more specific. Prioritizing a clear home-from-school routine made my son more responsible with his belongings. Prioritizing good manners rather than requiring them only when I have the energy–which is rare–made me more consistent in teaching my kids how to treat others politely.

And then there’s what didn’t get prioritized. Teaching responsibility through bed making? Nope, didn’t matter as much to me as the schoolbag and lunchbox getting put away instead of dropped in the entryway, so it didn’t get prioritized. Additional volunteer meetings beyond the ones associated with my area of volunteering just so I could look like a superhero? Nah, no thanks. Not if they’re during family time on a weekday evening. Only one of those can be prioritized.

I’ve finished the year with a sense of accomplishment and clarity that I don’t always have. And the accomplishments feel so on-point for me. They weren’t the things I felt like I should be doing; they were the things that were actually most important to me.

When I think about my word for next year, I want something that will carry on the work that I’ve done this year. I’ve been thinking a lot about time: how I use it, how I want to use it, how quickly it seems to be passing now that my kids are 7 and 3. But I don’t want to make my word time because it feels high-strung and hectic to me, like if I’m repeating it to myself the way I usually do it’ll just stress me out. I’m considering using the phrase “number my days” so that it feels more peaceful. I’d love your thoughts! Any favorite words you’ve used?

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