I first learned about the concept of theme words years ago when my young adult class leader told us to stop making resolutions and instead pick a “theme” for the year. To explain more clearly, a yearly “theme” is a trend of change summed up in a word or phrase that will represent the focus and direction of the coming year. It’s a broad and flexible concept that can be applied to various areas of your life, from career and personal development to relationships and health. It allows flexibility in how you achieve your thematic goal while also increasing your chances of achieving a form of meaningful change in your life.
When I was first introduced to the topic, I was about to go to college and wanted to make sure I thrived there. I am naturally a bit shy and didn’t want to live a life empty and alone on a campus full of people that I could interact with. So, because of this, I chose the word “Live” as my theme for that year. I wanted to live with “no reserves, no retreats, and no regrets.” This theme helped me make the most of my college experience and make many new friends and memories. By the end of the year, I had made many friends who would influence and change the direction of my life forever. Had I not chosen the theme word, I would have lost out on a ton of growth and experiences in that year.
In order to live out my theme of “Live,” I had to make sure to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way. I had to interact with my collegian, participate in college events and activities, and make an effort to meet new people. I set goals for myself as they came up and worked hard to achieve them in the moment.
This “in the moment” concept is what makes the yearly theme so powerful. Rather than being restrictive, you are making yourself responsive to the opportunity to make the right decisions instead. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the idea that positive reinforcement is more effective at shaping our behavior than punishing ourselves for undesirable behavior. If we know this is true, then why are we punishing ourselves every year with these “resolutions” of restriction and not giving ourselves positive thematic drives instead?
You may be wondering if I have any other examples of success. Well, there is! In 2022, my theme word was “Relationship.” I wanted to focus on building connections and opening up more, so I made an effort to put myself out there and make new friends. This theme helped me let down some walls and allowed me to form deeper, more meaningful relationships. I can say this year was a success because, as a result of that theme, this year I was able to get happily married to a wonderful woman.
So let me tell you again that a theme for the year is more achievable and can make a bigger difference in your life than an empty resolution. Themes provide a sense of direction and purpose and allow us to make progress in a way that is more flexible and adaptable. Instead of making specific resolutions that are easy to break, try choosing a theme word for the year. It might just help you live a more fulfilling life.
As Christians, we can look to the Bible for guidance on how to set up these goals and themes for our future. In James 4:13-17, we are encouraged to make our plans in light of the Lord’s plans.
“Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” – James 4:13-17
Instead of bragging to others about our lofty goals or resolutions, let’s seek to grow ourselves in the power of the Lord. Seek God’s direction and purpose for your life and align your plans and goals with His will.
A theme word can be a helpful tool for doing this, as it allows us to focus on a particular area of our lives that we feel God desires us to grow or develop in. For example, if our theme word was “Prayer,” we could make an effort to spend more time in prayer and seek a deeper relationship with God. If our theme word was “Serving,” we could look for opportunities to serve others and use our gifts and talents to make a difference in the world.
No matter what theme we choose, it’s important to remember to seek God’s guidance and direction. As we make plans and set goals, let’s ask God to help us align them with His will and purposes for our lives. With His help, we can make progress and experience growth and fulfillment in the coming year.
I encourage you to consider adopting a theme word for your next year. Take some time to think about what you want to focus on in the coming year, and choose a word that represents that focus. Whether you choose “Live,” “Serve,” “Thrive,” or any other multitude of themes, a theme word can be a powerful tool for personal growth and development. So why not give it a try this year?
Happy New Year, Everyone!