Introducing … My Two Focus Words for 2021!

Happy New Year, readers and friends!

Have you selected your word or words of focus and intention for 2021? (If you haven’t, there’s still time!)

After a bit of grappling, my two words for 2021 are influence and cultivate.

My goal in selecting “influence,” is definitely not to try to acquire more power and authority in the coming year. I’m not necessarily interested in chasing specific titles or official roles of leadership.

Instead, I want to end each day by asking myself the question, “Who did I influence today and how?” My goal, ultimately, is to end each day knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I made a difference in some small way to someone. Most days, I want to be able to say with confidence that I influence several people.

Developing this goal has pushed me to identify who I actually do, realistically, influence. And I confess that the list I made has humbled me. I started with my most powerful place of influence – my family. Every day, I most definitely influence the energy within my own home. Beyond that, I have schools and districts I partner with that look to me for information and, often, leadership. I want to do a good job of leading and influencing these stakeholders – not just professionally, but in how I live my life.

I also have a growing group of students that I tutor and mentor. I want to continue to influence their lives – and the lives of their families, hopefully – in meaningful ways. Some of that is through the nuts and bolts of teaching reading or supporting students in college admissions. But in that process, I also model who I am, what I value and what I believe. I tell my own stories in transparent ways, hoping to challenge and inspire. I need to do more of that this year.

My church also is a place where I hope to be a positive influence this year. I have come to church leadership reluctantly, after years of staying away due to witnessing some very un-Christian behaviors within church settings. But this year, I have new opportunities to step up and do good, and I intend to do my part.

Additionally, my family has a growing opportunity to influence our community through our outreach effort, 55 and Love. This is a project where we help distribute items like hot food, toiletries, blankets and other items to people who are homeless. We also help to connect our neighbors with opportunities to give through a local food pantry. I want to continue to give, and also to inspire others to do the same.

Looking at the word cultivate, this represents a focus on building – building friendships and professional connections and also cultivating talents and abilities.

One item that comes up every January is the desire to learn some additional Spanish vocabulary. I know I need to model this for some of the educators I serve – and I know that knowing even some basic Spanish could help bring comfort to my students and families.

I also want to push myself in the area of writing. I’ve been dabbling in some humor and memoir writing, and hope to publish at least a small book of personal stories this year. One motivation for this is being able to do a small book tour after the pandemic wanes.

Some of my goals are lofty, I know. But I know that without big goals, big achievements cannot happen. And I am determined to show myself grace as challenges arise.

What are your words? Why did you choose them? How do you hope to manifest these words in the new year? Good luck!