For many years, I have borrowed a practice from Chris Brogan: theming each year by using three words to provide clarity and direction. The practice is both simple and difficult.
Some years, my three words show up as if the Universe sent them to me directly. Other years, it’s harder to pick three, especially if there are multiple contenders. This year brought me four words, requiring me to leave one on the cutting room floor. The art is in choosing the three words and recognizing what is most important about them.
Three Words That Provide Clarity and Direction
Liminal: relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process; alternately, occupying a position at or on both sides of a boundary or a threshold.
I am using the definition from Dave Gray's excellent book, Liminal Thinking. Gray points out, "The idea behind liminal thinking is that there are thresholds, doors of opportunity, around you, all the time. Most of them are invisible to you, because you are focusing on other things. But they are there, they are real, and they offer incredible potential for growth and change. Tuning your mind to liminal thinking will help you see opportunities that others will be unable to see or even imagine. It’s a kind of psychological agility that enables you to create change where others cannot.”
It can be difficult to recognize the opportunities available to us in a time of radical uncertainty. It's easy to focus on all the things that are challenging, difficult, uncomfortable, or otherwise resemble an obstacle. The "psychological agility" Gray points to is a powerful tool for recognizing that you can give up the beliefs that prevent progress and choose instead to adopt a new belief, one that allows you to change.
In 2022, I hope you’re likewise able to occupy a position on both sides of a boundary or a threshold. Taking and sharing third-party perspective is a critical skill, one too often lacking in our public discourse. It is always best to seek to understand before seeking to be understood, as Covey taught us.
You can learn to love exploring ideas that you resist and reject, and by doing so, you can grow in ways unknown to those who cannot recognize another perspective.
Presence: the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing.
In Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil Mind, Alan Jacobs cites a passage from Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow on "Mondaugen's Law:"
"Personal density," Kurt Mondaugen stated in his Peenemünde office not too many steps from here, enunciating the Law which will one day bear his name, "is directly proportional to temporal bandwidth. "Temporal bandwidth" is the width of your present, your now . . . the more you dwell in the past and in the future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are. It may get to where you are having trouble remembering what you were doing five minutes ago.”
Most of us live with a "narrower sense of now." The word "presence" is a way to think about your "temporal bandwidth," your ability to be where you are. When you are fully present, you give others the gift of your temporal bandwidth, while also widening that bandwidth.
Impact: have a strong effect on someone or something.
You are here for a short time: a human lifespan in the United States averages 4,108 weeks, some of which are now a distant past. Some people refuse to acknowledge their mortality, as if avoiding the uncomfortable might prevent the inevitable.
When you recognize how little time you get to spend here, you may well conclude that there is no real reason to stare into a tiny screen or escape to a Metaverse, especially when you could be making a contribution that benefits others while giving you the great satisfaction of giving yourself over to your great love.
Your words may be different than mine. But as you decide what they are, think not just of the individual concepts but how they could stack: presence, for instance, is always necessary to make an impact.