How to Focus Your Goals with Just One Word

I’m one of those people who become really excited to start something new.  I am initially energized by the excitement of what is to come. The key word there is “initially,” because once I get into the execution phase, my excitement leaves right along with the goal.  This is followed by days of being mad at myself for yet another failed attempt at follow-through.  (What can I say? I’m pretty predictable.)

A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon a new way of thinking about goals that completely changed my approach.  Rather than creating an exhaustive list of things I want to accomplish, I now place my focus on one word.  Yes, you heard right, folks.  Just one.  That single word will be the central theme of all the goals I want to achieve.

When I first tried it out, my focus word  for the year was “bold.”  As I broke down the word, it turned out that I sought out boldness professionally, personally, and spiritually.  I was able to also find books, articles, and Biblical scriptures that touched on each of those topics.  As the months went by, I not only felt closer to my goals, I also built up good reminders, habits, and words of affirmations to take with me as I continued to grow.

As we start the new year, let’s talk about how to create one word to focus your goals.  I will use my new word and goals as examples; however, you can apply these strategies to any word and goal of your choosing.


  1. Pray about what word God wants you to choose. As my relationship with God increases, I realize more and more that He is better able to direct my path than myself.  You could choose any word in the dictionary, but God can impress upon your heart a word that will move your life forward.  For me, “pursue” was the word that kept popping into my head.  Although I tried to weigh other options, pursue continued to reoccur.  I knew that was the one He chose for me.
  2. Research the definition of the word and consider how it applies to your life. Now that you’ve chosen your word, internalize what it really means and reflect on how it is currently applied to your life.  Pursue means to go-after.  According to Webster’s dictionary, it means to seek to attain or accomplish an end, an object, a purpose, etc.  Now, it took a few days of blocked off silent time for me to really engage in reflection.  In doing so, I discovered that I am really in a season of trying to accomplish goals and gaining self-discipline in all areas of my life.  What better word would encompass that continued effort?
  3. Create your vision and reinforce it.  Time to do some more reflecting! Decide how you want this word to be a goal for your life.  You could have one goal or you could choose several goals.  From my experience, just sitting with the word and owning it has brought to my mind all the ways it can be used.  Going back to my word, pursue, I saw a vision for myself of what I would feel and achieve as a result of pursuing the following:
    • clean eating diet
    • natural living
    • inner peace
    • a stronger relationship with my Lord and Savior
    • regular exercise
    • this blog
    • photography
    • financial freedom
  4. Create a plan and monitor your growth. This part is going to take a little more work.  For the strong planners out there, this would be the time to create a detailed step-by-step outline of how you will achieve each piece of your vision.  For others who prefer a more holistic approach, you could block off about 15 minutes every week to think about all the ways you accomplished your word that week.  When “bold” was my one word, I would do this.  I was constantly amazed at how much the word was showing up in my day-to-day occurrences.  I almost felt like God gave me opportunities to exhibit boldness, which made me more aware of its application the following week.

Centering my goals on just one word has really decreased the fear of following through.  I’d love to hear about ways that this approach has impacted your own goal setting.  Feel free to share your comments below!



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Elana Cole is an author, educator, and coach who is passionate about helping others in their personal journeys towards a more beautiful life. She is the author of "The Midnight Experience" and creator of Empowered Narrative, a blog about transforming the way you live and love.

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