Three Things You Must Do Before You Pick A Word

One of the greatest practices that I have embraced in recent years is picking a word. It provides incredible promise, focusing my energy and efforts on what I want to do and who I am becoming.

In fact, I even had Mike Ashcraft, the co-author of My One Word, stop by for a guest post (you can check it out here).

However, before you join me and countless others in picking a word, stop. Don’t pick a word for this year. Not yet.

I don’t want you to make the grave mistake that makes you feel like you’re beating your head against a wall.


Are you are familiar with the analogy applied to goal setting: Ready, Aim, Fire?

Much like the concept of picking a word, it provides a great context to engage in intentional living. However, most people have it completely wrong.

I believe the majority of people only focus on the Aim, Fire part of this process, thus leaving them unprepared and surprised when their outcomes aren’t what they had hoped for.

Most people skip the most important piece: Ready.

It’s not about the action of picking a word, it’s about the process.


The worst thing in the world is setting a goal and achieving it only to realize it was the wrong goal after all. Or, realizing you were never ready for the achievement in the first place.

Too often, people jump into their resolutions and their words without giving it much thought or consideration. What ends up happening is that they change their word as the year progresses and, in the end, they find out that they didn’t accomplish much of anything.

This feeling of defeat leads to fear and, eventually, paralysis. Over time, it’s crippling.

First Things First

Picking a word isn’t some trendy practice that comes and goes, it’s a process that should go down to the deepest parts of who you are and how God is working in your life.

I usually avoid posts offering three steps to this or five reasons for that, but these three things are at the heart off any supposed success that I have experienced recently and certainly my belief in the process of picking a word.

I don’t doubt that this practice has led to six consecutive years as a top producer in my field of insurance and they are at the root of the success of my first book, Redefine Rich.

I would encourage you to consider them before you do anything else this year. I just spent two days going through them myself.

1. What’s Broken?

I know it sounds painful, but the foundation for all growth comes from an understanding of oneself and honesty to that end. For many years, I believed that I wasn’t broken and that I could just out work, out hustle, and out perform everyone else. I ended up running myself–and nearly my marriage–into the ground. Admitting my own brokenness was step one.

In my case, my priorities were totally out of line. I was wildly successful in a professional sense, but I was personally miserable.

I had to do some soul searching and found a renewed relationship with God and, in the midst of that, renewed passion and purpose in life and leadership.

Now, I begin each year with reflection on the past year’s failures and the current struggles I’m having, inviting the Creator into the process. Allowing Him to work within the broken places first is a key step in creating a solid foundation to build upon.

2. Clear Definitions

Have you ever really given thought to clearly defining the simplest things in your life? For example, define success or happiness or freedom or rich and see what you come up with.

Isn’t it true that in many areas of life you are successful, happy, free, and rich? Sure it is.

In my book, Redefine Rich, I journey with you on how I discovered the key to a deeper, more fulfilling life. And it all had to do with clearly defining that ominous word, rich. It took many years and life lessons for the true definition to take root, but now that it has, the pressure to out work, out perform, and out hustle everyone else has been reduced.

PS – We’re offering free shipping this week with the code RICH2015 at Amazon (Check it out here)

3. Envision

The book of Proverbs says, “Without a vision the people perish.” Simply put, you either have a vision or you’re perishing.

I was watching the Lord of the Rings the other day and there’s a beautiful exchange between Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins, two little Hobbits on a dangerous adventure. In the midst of their journey, riddled with impending challenges and certain death, Sam speaks up:

Sam: “I wonder if we’ll ever be put into songs or tales?”

Frodo: “What?”

Sam: “I wonder if people will ever say, ‘Let’s hear about Frodo and the ring.’ And they’ll say, ‘Yes, it’s one of my favorite stories.’

‘Frodo was really courageous wasn’t he, Dad?’

‘Yes my boy, the most famous of Hobbits, and that’s saying a lot.'”

To help cast a vision for your life, ask yourself this question: What will people say about me when I’m gone?

Let that question spark a readiness in your heart to begin moving in the direction of your dreams.

So, before you launch into this year and pick your word, pause for a moment and embrace the process. Then, get ready for an amazing journey.

I can’t wait to hear about it.



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10 Responses to Three Things You Must Do Before You Pick A Word

  1. Rick Theule January 3, 2015 at 11:55 am #

    Excellent advice, and something I have done while preparing for this new year. I’ve spent more time on the “Get Ready” portion this year than any year previous. What has come from it is exciting and interesting. I’ve been hesitant to select one word. I couldn’t quite get it down to one simple word. But, as I worked through my preparation and goal planning, one word continued to come back to me. A great friend, Rob Beaudreault, had the same experience. And, he came up with the same word.

    • Matt Ham January 3, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

      What’s the word, Rick?

      • Rick Theule January 3, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

        I’ll send you here.

        • Matt Ham January 3, 2015 at 5:19 pm #

          I love the intentionality that went into that. WORD!

        • Rob Beaudreault January 4, 2015 at 8:07 am #

          Thanks, Rick! #Word 🙂

  2. Jon Stallings January 3, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    I think I have my word Matt, but as you suggest I will not rush into it.

    • Matt Ham January 3, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

      Jon – it’s often that the first word that comes to you is what you need to stick with, but praying through it is extremely important. Happy New Year, brother!

  3. Stan January 4, 2015 at 6:32 pm #

    Beginning to answer “What’s broken?” This could be a game changer for my entire year. Thanks so much for this post.

    • Matt Ham February 1, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

      That’s a BIG question and it’s the first one we ask if my book, Redefine Rich. It’s a tough, but great starting point.


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