01/02/2013 11:10 am ET Updated Mar 04, 2013

The Un-resolution

I adore January. Never mind that I usually need to shed some holiday pounds or that I'm no fan of cold weather. The first few weeks of the new year feel pregnant with the possibility that this year I'll become my best self yet.

Americans love this fresh start feeling. Nearly two-thirds of us make New Year's resolutions, according to the Barna Research Group -- and I've been one of the 90 million who do. What about you? Any of these sound familiar?
  • I'm going to get organized.
  • I'm going to lose 10 lbs.
  • I'm going to stop running late.
  • I'm going to read my Bible early every morning.
  • I'm going to be a better parent ... spouse ... believer.
Research confirms what you and I have known: Before January ends most of us abandon our list of ways we intended to improve. That ball keeps dropping in New York's Times Square each New Year's. And we keep dropping the ball on our resolutions to change.

That's because change requires more than a clean calendar page. It takes more than positive feelings or wishful thinking. And transformation takes more than a couple weeks' effort.

Change is possible, but focus is required.

The problem is our attention is divided. Our lives are fast-paced and demanding. Lots to change divided by busy days (multiplied by frequent frustration) equals little transformation.

But there's a solution equation. Clarity plus grace (multiplied by focus over time) equals transformation.

That's why six years ago I ditched New Year's resolutions in favor of choosing one word to be my focus for the year. Just one word that represented what I most hoped God would do in and through me in the 12 months to come.

I stayed focused on that one word for 365 days. I thought about it, talked about it, journaled with it and prayed about it. I let it shape my choices and my schedule. And I saw change.

In looking through the lens of a single word, chosen in tandem with God, I found a new approach to personal change and spiritual formation. One that is simple, doable and, most of all, effective. Mainly because it supplies narrowed focus. In fact, the results each year have been greater and farther reaching than I expected. I want you to try it too.

Let me be clear, this is not a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps and will yourself to be different" project. Such an approach rarely works for long. Change, heart-level change -- spiritual formation -- is an act of God.

The human heart is meant to be conformed to His image. The power and provision of God will aid us in that transformation. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that, "the Lord -- who is the Spirit -- makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image." We simply need to remain in a given position long enough for this faith-fueled process to happen. My one word holds me there.

So I want to challenge you to ditch your resolutions -- your regret-based promises to change -- and instead pick one word to be your vision, focus and guide. This single word will force clarity and concentrate your efforts. And as you focus on your word over an extended period of time, you position yourself for God to form your character at a deep level.

Last year my one word was CREATE. I created more order in my home. I created a new book, and started on my first-ever novel. I memorized verses with the word "create" -- such as "create in me a clean heart, oh God" from Psalm 51:10. I found this word impacting not just my work life, but my home life, my spiritual life, and the way I looked at God and others.

My husband's one word was COMPASS. My teenaged daughter's was PAUSE. And my middle school son's was POSITIVE. Your one word will be highly individualized as well. In fact, it may only make sense to you and to God.

The important thing is that you get clarity on what you most want to see manifest in your heart and life this year. And bring God's grace on the scene as you focus on that for an extended period of time.

Here's how. Think about the kind of person you want to become. Make a list of the characteristics of that person and how they behave. Pray over your list. Narrow it down. Look up the words that resonate most with you in the dictionary and the Bible. Then, pick one. Just one. And post it where you'll see it often. On the fridge. On your calendar. By your desk. On your social media profile.

Pop over to the website and post your one word there. You'll be able to connect with others who have chosen your same word and encourage each other.

Remember, you're not making a resolute declaration to quit or start doing something. You're not making a promise that can be "broken" on any given date. You are adopting a focus for your year. Something to meditate on and move toward.

Let this be the year you focus. Join the thousands around the nation already choosing their one word for 2013. And let the power of Christ in you combined with your one word turn your resolution into a reality.

Rachel Olsen is the co-author of 'My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word.' She coaches others to create a satisfying life that's pleasing to Christ. A member of Proverbs 31 Ministries, Rachel speaks at events around the country. Share your one word with her and the nation at Or find out her one word for 2013 at