No need for a full page of New Year’s resolutions. Sum it all up in one little word, and see the big influence it can have on your life in 2018.

Coffeen peggy
Coffeen was a former editor and podcast host with Progressive Dairy. 

For three years now, I’ve traded in an annual goal list for a single sticky note that reminds me of the word I’ve chosen to direct my personal, professional and spiritual growth. This is based on the concepts in the book My One Word, written by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen, which encourages people to center on just one word to create a vision for the future. My word for the past twelve months has been “fearless.”

While I didn’t go skydiving, swim with sharks or base jump into the Snake River Canyon during my annual trip to our office in Idaho, I do believe I lived out this word in a meaningful way. For me, “fearless” was not about seeking thrills, but rather, abiding in faith. I looked to 2 Timothy 1:7 as my guide: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

I put my word into practice at times when I felt worry or doubt creeping in by asking myself two questions: What am I really afraid of? What would I do differently if I weren’t afraid? I realized I could choose to be fearful or fearless; for me, that choice came down to relying on my own imperfect strength or choosing to trust the Lord and His goodness in all circumstances. Just a few weeks into the new year, I was already finding out what my one word meant for me.

In fact, one of the most fearless things I did in 2017 was step out in faith to write about my one word and its very personal meaning last January. I’ll admit, I felt a little uncertain and uncomfortable at first, but I chose to put fear aside and trust that God was putting a story on my heart that someone else needed to hear. After the article was published, confirmation came through emails, kind words and Facebook “likes.”


Several people shared with me how the article touched them and the words they were choosing to live by for the year. I recently followed up with a couple of those individuals to see where their word took them over the past 12 months.


Josh Hushon, who works in dairy and beef marketing for Cargill, chose the word “lead” to direct his thoughts and actions in 2017. He talked about a time when he felt a little nudge telling him to act on that word:

“Heading into the year, I had been challenged by my manager to lead more from the front. Over the past two years, I was more part of the team or only led when I felt 100 percent prepared to. Early in January, I got a test right away. A colleague had not planned adequately for a meeting where people had flown in from around the country. It became apparent about an hour in when everyone started looking around to figure out what we should do.

“Even though I wasn’t 100 percent confident in our next steps, I thought of my word and stepped forward to figure it out. I started proposing new ideas and activities, ultimately helping get us back on track. It was an early confidence boost that I tried to use throughout the year when stepping into uncertainty. Sometimes, as a leader, we need to take on challenges that help our business succeed. Every time I wasn’t sure if I should, I thought of my word ‘lead’ and made the best decision I could, even if it felt risky.”


A dairy veterinarian from the Upper Midwest chose “exemplify” as his word for the year. He planned “to seek to exemplify what it looks like to follow Christ.”

“I started the year thinking the word ‘exemplify’ was going to be me showing those around me what a follower of Christ looked like. It was a rough year with several unexpected staff changes disrupting life. God had some lessons for me as to what that really would mean to exemplify Him. It would mean less selfish focus on me and more caring for others. It meant letting go of things that I couldn't control as I was reminded of the words from the Lord's prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ It became clear that He really wants trust, just one day at a time. It means having a peace and a joy not rooted in circumstances.

“There were times during the year I really hated my circumstances, but He reminded me repeatedly to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). That's not easy, but it forces you to see a bigger picture where God is in control. When I started really looking around and seeing what others were going through, I saw people with difficult circumstances all around me. In the end, I'm not so sure I exemplified Christ as much as I was taught what it really meant. I pray as the year draws to a close that I care more about others, depend more on Him and less on myself, for peace and contentment in all circumstances, and that I'll care more about what He cares about in the coming year.”

Both of these people can attest that the one little word they chose at the beginning of the year went on to impact them in big and unexpected ways over the subsequent months. One little word guided personal, professional and spiritual growth in a way a resolution could not. One little word served as a mantra, a reminder and that extra little push make a change. One little word, that’s all it took.

So what about you? What word will define your year in 2018?  end mark

Peggy Coffeen

PHOTO: Photo courtesy of Thinkstock.