Rowan, a blue tabby and white cat, sleeps with his paws up in the air on a black and white herringbone couch-style cat bed. Behind him is a guitar and some records, with U2's Rattle and Hum facing out.

My Word of the Year for 2023: Essential

Last year, in a rush of frustration and unexpected clarity, I chose “No” as my word of the year. It turns out that was an excellent choice, and it helped me to shape my year into something both constructive and manageable. It’s amazing what we can accomplish by giving ourselves permission to NOT do the thing.

In a similar vein, and to build on what I worked on last year, my word for 2023 is “Essential.”

Now that doesn’t mean I’m cutting out all the fun extracurricular stuff. Quite the opposite. I’ve made a goal list for the year, not so much tasks I must complete, but things I want to invite into my life, or have more of. A list of what I want to hold space for.

I won’t post my entire list, but here are a few examples of the kinds of goals I have for 2023:

  • Finish and polish my novel-in-progress
  • Take more pictures
  • Make plans and time to do more hiking
  • Spend more dedicated time with my dog, Cooper, who turns 16 this March
  • Meditate daily
  • Actively nurture my relationships, and reach out to friends I haven’t spoken with in a while

These, among others, are my essentials for 2023.

Obviously I will still need to be a rockstar at my corporate job and pay my taxes and brush my teeth and do laundry and make dinners and clean house and and and. The list of have-to-dos could wrap around my town and back and not be complete. But on neither my goals list nor task list is “worry uselessly about the state of the world” or “spend several hours on social media” or “wonder why that person didn’t follow me back” or “hold on to anger so strongly that it keeps me up at night” or “agonize over what I said in earnest that might have been taken the wrong way.” Also not on these lists is “buy things I don’t need for an extra hit of dopamine”––is that shiny new thing essential, based on what I really want and what truly matters? It probably isn’t.

The one constant we all have, and will always have, is the limit of time. (Unless you have a time turner or machine, in which case, please share with me, your new best friend, and we will have the wildest of adventures!) I want to spend my time making things––pencil to paper, camera to eye, stringing words together until a story falls out––and building relationships. And in order to make time for these essentials, those other things have to go.

There is a yogic breath exercise that I’m fond of: on the in-breath, you breathe in a thing you want more of, and on the out-breath, you release something that no longer serves you. “Inhale joy, exhale anger. Inhale relaxation, exhale tension.” This is how I’m starting my new year, by inviting in what matters and releasing what doesn’t, and then closing the door on all that stuff that I don’t want to let back in.

Year of No #2, refocusing on what’s essential.

What are your goals for this year, and do you have a word that represents them?