A Theme for 2021

Jan 05, 2021

Proms have themes. (Yuck.)

Conferences have themes. (Yay!)

Do years have themes? (Hmm…) 

I’ve heard talk recently, from people like brilliant writer and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin and others, about the value of selecting a theme for a year. There are a lot of themes that 2020 handed to us, so, being a “grab life by the horns” kind of person, I’m choosing a 2021 theme for my life before it chooses me. 

Despite that sentiment, I think that my 2021 theme did choose me. It came to me in the way that the hidden images in those Magic Eye books of my childhood would appear: suddenly, yet somehow gently, leaving me equally elated and relieved.

How having a theme spurs Creativity (and hopefully Innovation)

A theme can be a guiding light, the bumpers on your bowling lane, or that little angel on your shoulder that says “Focus, damnit!” The word theme might even be a euphemism for constraint. 

As Whitney Johnson discusses in her book Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work, constraints are essential for innovation. For instance, having fewer tools forces you to be more creative with the ones that you have, generating innovative uses that never would have come about with infinite resources.

Whether a euphemism or not, I will embrace it with an improvisational “Yes, and…” mentality. By focusing on my theme for the year, it will cause me to be more creative with my actions, my book choices, and the lenses through which I peer out at the world.

Year Theme Criteria

Some boxes that I needed to check to make sure that the theme would work for me include: 

  • It couldn’t be a purpose.
  • It should be something that I could practice and explore.
  • I wanted something that would help me grow in all aspects of my life, personally and professionally.
  • It needed to be simple enough that my young children could understand — so nothing cutesy, but hopefully something pun-worthy.

My 2021 Theme

The theme I picked for 2021 is Patience. (In the spirit of this theme, I would ask those of you who skipped ahead to this header to go back and read this whole post. Thinking about how valuable themes can be to bringing more creativity and innovation to your life is worth it!)

When telling others who know me well my choice theme, I got the “Oh, but you’re already pa…” response, trailing off when realizing that patience isn’t one of my top strengths. I’m proud of how patient I am during transatlantic flights, while reading deliciously long novels, and when helping adults learn new skills. Let’s just say that my patience could be improved when it comes to things like kitchen efficiency, raising kids, and growing my business. In some cases, I want instant home-cooked meals (yes, I already use the Instant Pot), children who are old enough to appreciate Harry Potter, and a business that serves all those who can benefit from what I’ve learned over the years. I think that I am patient when I enjoy the process as much as the results (traveling, reading, teaching), but that’s for me to suss out in my themed journey this year.

What about YOU?

Will you join me? 

If a word easily comes to mind, try running it by my criteria list above, or against your own. If not, look through some lists of values, feelings, and traits; highlight the words that pop out, write up to ten on notecards, and then whittle down to the top choice by comparing two cards at a time until the best card wins.

First Steps

Since I apply the Cresta Solutions Project Framework to pretty much everything I do, I am starting my practice by Clarifying what Patience is. My Kindergartener informed me in a very serious tone that it is “waiting for a long, long, looong time without whining or complaining!” While I agree with her, I think Patience is something much more than that. My next step is reading books on the topic, as soon as I can get my hands on them. (Ugh! Taking forever! 😉)

What recommendations do you have? Let me know!

P.S. Looking for a more intense kick in the ass to get you going in the new year? Check out this post about heeding the wake-up call that was 2020.


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