My 3 Words for 2012

Published on January 1st, 2012
2012 Numbers - Eleek Inc

I love goals. They give me targets to focus on, move towards, and (ultimately) achieve. And I agree with Jack Canfield that it’s EXTREMELY important to be very specific and clear in the wording… lest you set a goal so nebulous, lofty, or vague that one can’t objectively tell if you achieved it or not. Easy example: the goal of “losing weight” versus stating “I’ll weigh 201 pounds by March 1st 2012 at 6PM.”

But I know from personal experience that goals are not enough. If you have a bucket list of 101 things to achieve before you die, odds are that you can’t go after all of them at once. Believe me, I’ve tried! (and failed…) Taking on too much either a) destroyed my momentum or b) paralyzed me into inaction because there was just too much to do. It got so bad that I wrote two articles to inspire others to not fall into the same traps.

From Goals to Themes

I love themes. While goals are specific, themes are useful in terms of finding areas of alignment among many goals. In this way, it can be easier to achieve many goals at the same time as they build on top of or support each other. Personal example: I completed two bucket list items this year by focusing on the theme of “increasing my mental toughness through physical exercise.” Within 2 months, I completed a 10 minute wall sit and a 6 minute wrestler’s bridge. Not too shabby considering I started and gave up on both of these goals several times in the last few years.

From Themes to Words

Even themes can get lost in the day to day life because they are still a bit wordy. They need to be tighter, more compact, and almost mantra-like.

Last year, I discovered a process described by Chris Brogan where you encapsulate themes into 3 words for the year. Although I didn’t achieve all my goals for 2011, using the 3 words approach definitely galvanized my thinking when setting goals and deciding on what to focus on.

Here is a recap of my 2011 experience and a look towards my new words for 2012.

Recap of 2011

My words for 2011: outsource, write, close.


In 2010, I was all about control in my business. I was working crazy hours and not delegating, training, or outsourcing the tasks that should have been given to someone else so I could focus on the details that only I could do. I was naive, and still getting used to the concept that I was in business for myself.

So I decided to make this a keyword to remind myself that it was important to give up some control in order to not burn out and to also keep my focus on the truly exciting, important, and financially rewarding parts of my company.

Of the 3 words in 2011, I probably did the worst on this one for reasons you’ll read later.


I love to teach, share, and express myself. Problem: when I was in K-12 school, I was always known as the math genius that couldn’t write anything without red ink all over my paper. I grew to detest anything involving grammar and spelling.

But I loved writing poetry because it allowed me to ignore syntax and focus purely on making and conveying a moment. And I loved coaching because it allowed me to impart wisdom without dwelling on ending a sentence with a preposition.

Tired of being afraid and missing out on all the fun, I decided to make it a point to improve my writing skills. This blog is one of the many ways I get to learn, experiment, and grow in this department. My focus is less on grammar/spelling and more on style, meaning, and whether or not people get something out of anything I can share.

I think I did a damn good job in this department. Yes, I’m not Seth Godin. That’s not the point. The point is I succeeded in getting myself out there and overcoming a fear and turning it into something I enjoy doing.

In that sense, I won big time with this keyword…


September 2010 was a horrible month for my business. Due to unforeseen financial circumstances with my main client, I found my budget slashed to almost nothing (and no, it was not because of the quality of my work).

The blessing was that my partners and I were already considering turning our idea into a product. But after months of dealing with the chicken or the egg problem that all startups face (e.g. “Is it ready yet?”), we were in serious need to close on some work and some contracts to keep this dream alive.

Even though we didn’t land the levels of business we needed (and I ultimately left that project in August of 2011), I feel I succeeded on this issue. Why? Because this word gave me the courage to ask and be direct when dealing with potential clients. The old me would have been more passive, timid, and wait for someone else to come to me. The new me was active and more bold to try even when the odds were stacked against me.


Although 2011 wasn’t a smashing success, when I look at who I’ve become, I’m extremely happy with the results because I now know I have more of the skills, tools, and perspective necessary to take on the challenges of next year. I attribute a lot of this to having selected 3 words, which is why I’ve selected another set of 3 for 2012.

My 2012 Words: Communication, Courage, Trust


I’m happy with the progress I’ve made in my writing style, structure, and confidence. Now it’s time to go holistic.

How is my writing being perceived? How can I prevent miscommunications? How can I better connect with the reader instead of writing for me. How can I develop my speaking skills? How can I improve my voice? How can I make an IMPACT?

I will continue to write because there is always room for improvement. But writing will be a part of the larger goal of communication.


It takes balls to dream big dreams, go after them, fail, get up, keep trying, and fall again. It takes a lot of strength to have friends, family, and colleagues give you a strange look when you tell them you’re changing your course in life to something wholly unfamiliar to them. It takes courage to stand up for what makes you wake up in the morning feeling fully charged and alive!

And also… …2011 was not an easy year and my ego/confidence took a ton of hits. But hey, it builds character (or so I’m told).

Courage to me means waking up and saying YES. It means acting on inspiration instead of suppressing it with the prison cell of fear. It means not avoiding the uncomfortable, but rather facing the fear and doing it anyway regardless of the (perceived) danger.


I’m at point A and I want to get to point B. In between, the only known is the next 1-10 steps. Beyond that there is no straight line, only a question mark between me and my destination. There is no map to guide me and no one to make it for me. It’s my journey to take and my map to make.

Trust is where I listen to my gut, combine it with the things I’ve learned in life, and take a step into the direction that appears to be the most appropriate given the context.

I may go backwards from time to time. I may fall of a cliff and set myself back several years worth of effort. But if I let that stop me, I’ll assuredly go nowhere and never have the chance of making it to point B.

Trust (to me) is embracing the unknown. To not trust is to undermine courage and to stand lonely among the crowd of bystanders of life… watching, but never doing.

Therefore, my last and most important selection for 2012 is the word TRUST.

And You?

Given your goals for 2012, what 3 words will make up your mantra?


2012 image was created using some of the beautiful photos by Eleek Inc.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.