yearly theme

Earlier this year I stumbled onto a low-maintenance, high-return way to make the most of yearly planning. After musing, daydreaming, and wishing for a while, I picked a theme for the year. All year, it produced results more complex systems hadn’t in previous years. And I’m a systems junkie, so that’s a bold statement.

Lisa Sonora Beam and her “Goal-Setting for Creatives” system of annual planning (see links below) gave me the initial idea of using a yearly theme. I also like Chris Guillebeau’s annual review process, with its focus on measurable goals. As much as I yearned to follow their leads, though, I kept getting bogged down in the process and missing the excitement and anticipation I crave from annual planning.

Taking the single simple step of picking a theme for the year changed everything. 2010’s theme has been Homing In. For years, I’d been floundering, going in too many directions at once and yet not going where I really wanted to go. Homing In, once chosen (which took some delving), became both a beacon and an enzyme, showing me which way to go and prompting specific decisions.

All year, I’ve found myself repeatedly asking questions like, “What’s at the heart of this matter?” and “Does this lead me toward or away from Home?” and “What can I get rid of to help me home in?” As I answered I discovered clarity, and came to see that my heart symbolizes this year’s theme. In getting to the heart of the matter, I clutter-busted everything from email accounts to work projects and closets, homing in on who I am, what I want, and where I want to go. The results have been magnificent – far beyond my expectations.

2011’s theme is Rock Steady. Now that I’m crystal clear about my path, I want the strength of Earth’s drum beating through my clutter-busted heart. I want groundedness, vitality, core strength, depth. I want to tap the source. Feet are the body part that symbolize 2011’s theme. The enzymatic questions will come. I can feel some of them already forming, like, “Is this beating to my rhythm?”

I’m playing with 2011’s theme by creating a flip book of images for it. Starting with a little spiral-bound notebook with blank pages and sturdy covers, I’m carefully choosing images from magazines that depict elements of my theme of Rock Steady. They often surprise me. I lead with intuition, then examine a chosen image to figure out what about it fits the theme. I learn a lot. And, best of all, I end up with a book that will travel with me wherever I go, stand open on a desk or dresser, showing this image or that one to give me a visual jolt of connection with the year’s goal.

The yearly theme idea needn’t be exclusive. It’s a bird’s-eye view of the landscape. On the ground, month by month, day by day, lots of different planning systems are available to help us navigate and stay on course. Whatever system or combination of systems you use, what would 2011 be like if your system generated excitement all year long? That’s the system I wish for you.


Lisa Sonora Beam’s four-part “Goal-Setting for Creatives” series:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Chris Guillebeau’s “How to Conduct Your Own Annual Review

5 comments to yearly theme

  • Stephani

    I’ve been doing this for several years just for personal growth goals. It started when I didn’t want a typical New Year’s resolution, so I chose to Make Every Change For The Better. Then Boldness, then Be Prolific (In Every Way), and something about The Perfect Human is coming around now. I agree, it’s a great way to feel coherence in what I do, and it always relates into my personal growth and my creative efforts.

    Thanks for what you share!

  • Sam

    I love this. As usual, Grace, you blend searing truths with gentle encouragement. I’ve never thought about something as “enzymatic.”. It’s brilliant. Makes me feel like my very cells are on my side, busting their butts to get me to where I want to be.

    • And that’s saying something, Sam, since I know you as already someone who’s gone far and has a far-vision. I can’t wait to see how your 2011 is with the theme you choose. Keep me posted!


  • Andrea

    I love the idea of a yearly theme. It’s so much more encompassing (and forgiving) than New Years’ Resolutions.

    Rock on, Rocky Steady!!

    • My Rock Steady theme is already really pulling me forward. I can’t wait until 2011. That tells me how right it is. You rock steady, too, Andrea, whatever your theme may be (or not be). xoxo