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Focusing on Your Goals: Touchstone Words

Article by Site Editor © 10 January 2013 Debra Kreps .
Posted in the Magazine ( · News for Writers ).

If there is one thing writers understand, it is the power of words. String enough of the right ones together and you can open someone’s mind, change another’s way of thinking, or get people to feel in ways they never expected. For example, one of the most impactful short stories you’ll ever read is this one, attributed to Ernest Hemingway:

For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

No matter how you interpret the meaning of those six little words, your heart immediately reaches out to characters he didn’t even introduce to you.

The power of words.

If your heart can ache with just six words, perhaps a single word can alter your course, make a difference, change something within you. That’s what touchstone words have done for me. In December 2007, I read this article by Christine Kane and was intrigued. I don’t agree with her assessment that resolutions don’t work (I have a goal-driven personality) but I was willing to try the touchstone word idea. While the concept isn’t my idea, I can certainly provide a ringing endorsement.

Every year since reading that blog post, a single word, what I called my touchstone word, has guided me through the following twelve months. My words tend to be verbs, action words, because they are more concrete to me but I have friends who have chosen words like patience, home, consistency, and health for 2013. My words thus far have been: FOCUS, REALIZE, (be) BRAVE, INVEST, and CONNECT. What has been most interesting in my own experience is that each word, and its corresponding year, have built on each other. I took what I learned and achieved in 2008 into 2009, from 2009 into 2010, and so on. Having the words, and capturing my life on my blog, has allowed me to see just what an evolution I’ve undergone.

Now, you may think that I hand-picked those words, and most people do intentionally select their words, but that isn’t the way touchstone words work for me. They have always sought me out—tapping me on the shoulder, whispering in my ear, tugging at my sleeve—until I had to take notice. Once I did, it was amazing how easily my intentions for the year fell into place. That’s how I knew I had the right word.

A word for the new year came to me about a week ago. It was a perfectly good word and would certainly allow me to build on everything I had accomplished the years prior. I even announced on my blog that my word had arrived. But something didn’t feel quite right. I decided to be patient and perhaps it would lead me to my 2013 touchstone word.  And, it did. This morning I woke with the perfect word in mind.


Talk about the power of words. Could there be a stronger word in all the English language than BE? After all of the working on myself, learning what fuels my spirit, designing the person I wanted to become, it is time to just BE.

I want to BE the sort of person who

  • laughs often, trusts more, loves easily
  • is never too busy or too complacent to help someone in need
  • is slow to anger and quick to forgive
  • wears hats
  • appreciates and finds the beauty in everyday things
  • makes the best choices for her health, career, and relationships
  • gives without expectation and cares without limits
  • writes and reads every day
  • sets the table for dinner, even if she’s the only one there
  • is grateful for steps forward and steps backward and the lessons they bring

The past five years have helped me identify who it is I want to be and I’ve been progressing toward that with all the work I’ve done. But, this is the year that I stop trying to be the woman in my mind and just BE her. Or, to rewrite the famous line and eight powerful words of Yoda just a bit, “BE or BE not. There is no try.”

I can’t wait for all that will BE in the new year. Good luck to all who harness the power of the touchstone word and the opportunity it has to change you. If you’re inclined but aren’t sure where to start, Christine Kane created a ‘Word of the Year Discovery Tool’ a few years ago that is free to download here. I’ll be curious to hear how your 2013 unfolds.

(c) Debra Kreps

Debra Kreps has been blogging on various sites for eight years but has been writing since she first picked up a pencil, which is more years ago than she cares to mention. Her greatest goal is to live a life worth remembering and writing about in a memoir one day. She blogs for the same reason many of us do, to capture thoughts, experiences, and revelations and to express it all creatively enough that it touches someone else. And, therein she finds the beauty… that within this solitary activity, we have the opportunity and power to connect with other human beings. You will find Debra online at her blog, New Endings, on Twitter, or Facebook.