I have always admired the kind of people who, at the beginning of every year, can write a detailed post of their goals and aspirations for the coming year (and then at the end of the year, write a similar post recapping the year against those goals.) I’ve also always thought I’m not the kind of person who can do that sort of thing.

But then, I’ve never actually maintained a space where I would be able to do that sort of thing. A space like this blog! So in the spirit of growth and of emulating the behaviors of people I admire, here’s my “goals for 2023” post.

Nudge Words

I had initially meant to write a conventional list of goals, but then I read this Washington Post piece about Nudge Words and found that concept a lot more interesting. Rather than setting a concrete list of specific goals or broad actions, the nudge word is meant to “capture the mindset you want to adopt in 2023 – a word that will nudge you toward positive change whenever you think of it.”

My nudge word for 2023 is intentionality. Other words that could be substituted here are deliberateness or purposefulness, but for no reason in particular I like intentionality.

Intentionality Defined

Last year, my wife and I took our first vacation since getting married to Asheville, North Carolina. We had a terrific time. Part of the reason we had such a great vacation was because we were so intentional and deliberate with our time. We made sure that we had plans for each day – not rigorously structured itineraries, but loose outlines of the target activities we wanted to hit for each day and roughly when we’d hit them. This type of planning allowed for some flexibility while also helping keep us both on track and ensuring that we didn’t waste a lot of time trying to figure out what to do next or in “analysis paralysis.”

When we returned, we settled back into our regular routines, but that also meant that we lost that intentionality that we had had while on our trip. For me, this loss of intentionality led to a bit of a depression as I sank back into the “work -> post-work -> sleep -> repeat” banality of my regular routine. By not being intentional with my time, I ended up wasting a lot of time doing things I didn’t want to do (social media, doomscrolling, obsessing over news I can’t control) and not spending nearly as much time on the things that I actually wanted to do (reading, spending quality time with my wife, playing guitar, carving wood, starting this blog…)

Toward the end of 2022 I started to realize the difference in my mindset between the time I was on vacation (intentionality) and the time when I was not (no intentionality.) I tried to spend my time a little more deliberately then: again, not rigorously planning schedules, but having some loose target list of things I’d like to do during free periods of time so that I feel more fulfilled with how I spend my days. It’s yielded good results, but I’d like to be even more intentional – enough so that I am making it my nudge word for 2023.

Intentionality In Practice

So what does this actually mean in practice? Well, to be honest, I’m not totally sure. I’ve mentioned a sort of “loose target list” of things I want to do during my free time. I think that’s something I’ll keep trying to do and refine. I have started time blocking my work schedule, which has been effective, but I’m not sure I want to bring that level of rigor to my free time yet – it’s supposed to be leisure time, after all! We’ll see how it goes.

There are, of course, some concrete things I’d like to be more intentional about. In no particular order, those things are:

  • Spending quality time with my wife
  • Maintaining friendships
  • Guitar
  • Wood carving
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Self-improvement

Intentionality for each of those things will look different. For guitar, it means carving out time to actually do it, but it also means making sure that I’m spending that time well: ie, not just “noodling around” but actually focusing on improving and on learning songs and techniques that I’d like to learn. For wood carving, it means a similar thing: improving my skills and techniques, but also ensuring that it’s a relaxing, positive activity for me.

For things like reading and writing, things that I want to do more of but that have historically been hard for me to do consistently, right now it’s enough for me just to make sure I do those things regularly.

For spending time with my wife and maintaining friendships, intentionality looks like making sure that I am giving ample time and attention to the people and relationships that I care about, strengthening and deepening those relationships.

For self-improvement, intentionality generally looks like, well, being more intentional about my actions, thoughts, and behaviors. Being more open and honest with myself and my family. Being more flexible. Advocating for myself and my feelings and setting and enforcing boundaries, both in my work and personal lives. “Putting myself out there” more (like by continuing to write posts for this blog.) Living my truest, best self.

I’m hoping that this nudge word concept will help me lead a more mindful and happier life in 2023 than I did in 2022. I guess I’ll let you know how it goes in my year-end recap post!

What’s Your Nudge Word?

If you like this nudge word concept and would like to pick a nudge word for yourself, let me know! You should be able to leave a comment below or you can message me on Mastodon. The author of the Washington Post piece is also collecting nudge words for their newsletter, so feel free to let them know too if you like!