My 3 Words for 2021

Published on December 27th, 2020
Year 2021

Remember that feeling at the end of 2019? It wasn't just a brand new year ahead of us. We had a brand new decade to kick off. Such potential! Such hope! So many New Year's resolutions and goals!

Of course, we all now know the joke. WTF was the point of owning a 2020 planner? By March, the world had turned upside down. Nearly every modern society was forced through a series of dramatic changes. I won't bore you with the details because, well, you lived it. You probably had to significantly alter life as you knew it as well as abandon most (or all?) of those goals.

Fortunately, about a decade ago, I adopted the "3 Words" strategy popularized by Chris Brogan. The idea here is to not list 5-50 specific goals in incredible detail. Instead, you pick 3 (and only 3) larger themes. The neat thing about this is that individual goals can be added, altered, or subtracted at any time. You simply try to keep them within one or more of these themes.

2020 Results

Looking back at My 3 Words for 2020, I feel like I had a psychic premonition.

  • Hope: In a year of so much fear, pain, and relentless change, we needed to carry hope in our hearts that we would overcome any/all challenges.
  • Tranquil: In a year where the world was becoming more animated with stress, division, and hate, it was critical to stay grounded and not get swept away. The world needed order and not more chaos.
  • Conviction: In a year where it was easy to become paralyzed into inaction, it took a lot of courage to take bold steps without knowing if things would work out. Sometimes we had to act on faith with little to no reliable information available.

While most years I give myself a satisfactory score in how I did, I really felt like this was a breakout year. While I have many battle scars from this year, I really stepped up and leveled up as a leader in each of these areas. I wasn't perfect by any means. But in the darkest days, I leaned into these words to help get me through. Now we have a new home with a new family member, and we couldn't be happier.

I hope to carry this momentum into 2021, but this time with 3 new intentions.


This word may seem a bit odd at first but stick with me. In the Memory Optimizer course by Vera Birkenbihl, there was a lengthy discussion about people who get into a flow state (aka "The Zone"). We used the archetype of a Matador because they have a particular way of carrying themselves with confidence while having laser focus. After all, they have to be focused because one wrong move can result in permanent injury or death.

While I have no intention of harming animals for sport or entertainment, I want to embrace many characteristics. I want to be the person that can confidently step into the arenas of life and not spectate from the sidelines. I want to not waste movements and be able to act swiftly while staying relaxed at all times.

I don't want to be cocky because that will get you hurt. I want to show up in each moment of life with confidence. I want to walk like a matador.


I'll never forget that Tony Robbins TED Talk where he asks the crowd to give them all the reasons they haven't achieved their next goal. After they shouted them all out, he challenged them to find the underlying theme. Care to take a guess? I'd encourage you to watch the video, but the punchline is: they are all resources.

The problem with this thinking is that it externalizes the problem. I can't achieve X because I don't have Y. However, the reality is most people already have resources all around them. We're just not resourceful.

I love resourceful people. They just get shit done and get around most/all roadblocks that show up. On the flip side, those who are not resourceful need constant help, assistance, or someone else to do the work.

So here's where I need to be bone-crushing honest. I think I'm very resourceful. However, I still find myself like the participants in Tony's talk. Rattling off reasons 1, 2, and 3 why I can't yet achieve X, Y, and Z.

Here's another point of reflection, I can't demand in others what I'm not willing to do myself. So to that end, I want to level-up and lead by example. I want to become as resourceful as possible. I want to leverage what I already have access to instead of bitch and complain about what's missing.


Moving from Colorado to Oklahoma during a pandemic was not easy. Even more challenging was having a new baby while the world is still on lockdown. While we are blessed to have family living close by, it's been difficult to connect with people. We used to meet friends, colleagues, and family on a regular. Now it can be weeks in-between visits.

Community is essential for so many reasons. We are a tribal species hard-wired to work together. So it's been a challenging year for many, including my family. However, that's not to say it's not possible if you're creative and determined. We are. Before we moved, we knew that creating and joining communities would be an important step in making Oklahoma feel like a home instead of just a place to live. Our goal is to be here for 5-10 years, which sounds like tons of time. However, we spent an equal amount of time in Colorado and only formed a handful of close connections.

To that end, we plan to be much more intentional in making and strengthening relationships (both locally and remotely). It's crucial for our kiddos, given the lack of play time with other children.

And You?

Given your goals for 2021, what 3 words will make up your mantra?

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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.