My 2016 Word of the Year Isn't Actually a Word At All
Every year January 1st rolls around, we contemplate how “involved” we want to be in reflecting on the past and setting intentions for the future.
Some of us find excitement and energy in establishing New Year’s Resolutions and setting goals while others don’t really see the value in setting these arbitrary goals that we end up breaking anyway. I think the majority of us lie somewhere in between; we want to take time to reflect and make some changes for the better, but we know that if we put so much pressure on it, we won’t succeed in carrying out our goals or life will simply get too busy.
I think this conflicted desire is part of the reason the popular “Word of the Year” trend came about. Think about it: choosing a meaningful word for the year is a fairly noncommittal way of setting intentions without having to accomplish something tangible or even measurable. Don’t get me wrong: just because it’s not a SMART goal doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. For a while, I thought the idea was kind of cheesy until I realized it was kind of genius. In a world that teaches you how to hack your way through life, how to multitask, how to squeeze more into your days, how to hustle, it’s refreshing to settle on one word--one intention--for 365 (or 366 in this case!) days.
Once you decide to participate in this “Word of the Year” thing, you start to wonder how you can possibly decide upon a word or even a phrase. In a bit of a panic to make a decision (because it’s apparently important to have this word ready to go by January 1st, as though that day really does hold magic beyond a placebo effect. Oops.), some will default to the practical and fairly obvious choices--success, determination, challenge, joy, love--and I can’t say I blame you. These are solid choices and can have a variety of meanings for people. More often than not, though, you’ll hear people say that the word found them.
Naturally, the word that found me isn’t actually a word at all.
Okay, so it sounds like it should be a real word, and, to be honest, I’m shocked that it’s not. And no joke, I actually looked up as many synonyms for it as I possibly could, but it turns out there’s not really a word out there that exists that explains what this word conveys.
My word of the year 2016 is “uncondition.”
Immediately my autocorrect makes this word “unconditional,” but sorry Apple, I really do mean uncondition. (And yes, every time I type this, I have to correct it. UGH.) Before I go on, am I crazy? Is there a word out there that means the same thing that I simply just don’t know? No? Whew.
To understand what uncondition means, let’s take a look at what its inverse means. In this case, I’m referring mostly to the verb, though the noun certainly has its place here, too.
Condition - (v) bring something into the desired state of use; to train or influence something/someone to do something or to think or behave in a certain way because of a repeated experience
Athletes participate in pre-season conditioning to prepare for upcoming sporting events or races.
Over time, we are conditioned to the cold temperatures of the winter.
We establish habits to condition ourselves into a desired routine.
Conditioning can be a wonderful thing, right? Humans crave repetition when we want to accomplish things and it’s no surprise that dedicated training can lead to great success.
However, conditioning can be a barrier, too. We’ve all been conditioned to believe certain things, to accept certain truths, to act a certain way. While not all of these things are bad, there are times when the way we’ve been “trained” or “influenced” can limit us.
I find it interesting that “uncondition” found me this year because I thought I already learned to let go of the notion that things would always go according to plan, that I needed to make my own judgements and decisions, but it turns out I still need a deep study in what it really means to “uncondition” myself.
To uncondition means to let go of what is supposed to be, what is supposed to happen, what we’re supposed to do and feel and think and act. For me, this is manifesting itself hard core when it comes to this blog. And I suspect many of you are feeling similarly.
Allison of Painted Summers put it succinctly when she said:
You're "supposed" to tack a shiny opt-in onto all your posts to grow that list.
You're "supposed" to have big, beefy posts stuffed with tons of images. Examples. Data. Charts. Graphs. Infographics. Click-to-tweets. Stats. Links. ALL THE THINGS . . .
But lately, I’ve realized something: I don’t want to create "epic" content.
I’ve been on a hiatus for nearly six months. And while it initially came from getting a new job and moving, a huge part of it was overconsumption and feeling jaded from the creative entrepreneur niche. I no longer wanted to write anything at all because there was all of this pressure to make it VALUABLE. To do all of the things that I’ve been taught that work. That bring in readers and boost your engagement and lower your bounce rate and make your post pin-worthy.
Somehow over the last few years, blogging has become so saturated that in order to stand out we felt like we had to add all of the bells and whistles--the free content upgrades, the opt-ins, the worksheets, the videos, the Periscopes, the webinars, the workshops, the actionable steps--and NONE of these are at all BAD. In fact, they’re amazing and wonderful and helpful. BUT. If we’re conditioned to believe that we won’t find success or that no one will hear us if we don’t have or do all of these things, then half of us won’t have the guts or time or energy to even write at all. And the half that do will stay awake later than they should and sacrifice time spent with loved ones or taking care of themselves or cloud what they’re really trying to say by trying to do A, B, and C because it worked for so-n-so.
There’s nothing wrong with being strategic and providing additional value to your content. But there is something wrong with feeling like you have to in order to be valuable. You, me, our stories--they’re all valuable. We are enough. Our words, our thoughts, our ideas are enough.
And so I’ve settled on this word “uncondition.” For me, it means to abandon, to let go of, to shake free from, to disregard, to CHOOSE OTHERWISE.
I’m abandoning the idea that I have to be on every social media platform.
I’m abandoning the idea that you have to blog at least once a week.
I’m abandoning the idea that you have to offer content upgrades with every blog post.
I’m abandoning the idea that every blog post needs to have action steps or it’s not considered “professional.”
I’m abandoning the idea that to hustle means to lose sleep, to neglect your social life, to put your self-care to the back burner.
I’m abandoning the idea that every blogger in the creative niche wants to go full-time (it’s okay if you do! but it’s also okay if you don’t!).
So, after abandoning all of these things I’ve been conditioned to believe as truth, I am now embracing what I choose to believe as truth. I choose to do what feels right and aligns with what I believe. And sometimes I will include content upgrades or host webinars or blog more often. But when I do, it will be because I want to.
I am excited about exploring what “uncondition” means outside of this blog. Perhaps I will uncondition myself from the idea of who my ideal man is supposed to be or what I need to do next in my career. Whatever happens, I hope I can stay true to who I am and what I believe, not simply what has been projected on me to believe.