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Don’t just pick a word for the New Year — Listen to Derek Sivers and find a problem to solve

I went on Facebook today, and there are several threads where people asked, “What is your word for the New Year? What is the one word that symbolizes your focus and your dream on how you want to live for the next 365 days?”


These are the some of the words that people chose for this year: open, better, heal, believe, act, simplify, hope, creative, better, flourish, breathe, write, focus, harmony, give , faith, inspiration, trust, brace, deliberate, play, dance, wisdom and prolific.

What problem do you want to solve?

The past few days I tried to think of one word. What would my one word be to symbolize my goals in the new year?

While I was thinking, I read Derek Sivers 2011 book, Anything You Want — 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur, and I watched a video of  his talk from the 2015  World Domination Summit. In Derek’s book and in his talk, he suggests something bolder that one word a year for the rest of your life.

Don’t commit to one idea of the future but instead, commit to a problem you want to solve. Then you can stay committed to the problem and continually try to find the ongoing and ever-changing answer to that problem.

Derek suggests we commit our future to a problem we want to solve.

Does your one word solve a problem?

Last year I had two words, because I couldn’t make up my mind. Focus, and finish, were the words I used last year. But, focus on what? Finish what?  I did clean out my closet, and clean the seven litter boxes every day. And I did finish a book. Did my two words help me last year? I am not sure. I don’t think so. I didn’t have a problem to solve, so I didn’t really focus on anything.

One problem at a time.

This year I want to take Derek Sivers advice and not just commit to one idea of the future. I want to solve a problem. The problem I choose might take the rest of my life. Or it might take a month. When the problem is solved then I will move onto the next problem. Living my life not on a yearly calendar but on a calendar based on the problem I am trying to solve.

I am not sure what problem I want to solve for the rest of my life. But, I know what problem I have to solve today. I took everything out of my half of the closet and dumped in all over the floor in my bedroom. The problem I am working on right now it to live with less. I will let you know how it goes. 

Did you pick a word for this year?

What problem are you trying to solve?

What do you think? Is a word enough, or do you need a problem to solve?

If you chose a word for this year, please tell me what it is, and why you chose it. I would love to know what you are working on. And if you have a problem to solve, please tell me.


About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • Oh, this is good food for pondering on. My WOTY is Believe, but you are right. What problem might I focus on to really test the power of Believing? I think I need to take this to the pages of my notebook to see what bubbles up. I’ll be back! 🙂

    • Hello Shari,
      Believe is a great word. Please come back and share what you are believing in. Maybe you are believing in yourself. Wishing you all my best this year.

  • La McCoy

    My word is Publish. it solves a problem because I am not published.

    • Hello Laura,
      What a great word. And one you can do. 🙂
      Wishing you all my best this year.

      • La McCoy

        Thank you Dear Pamela.

  • Danie Botha

    Hi Pamela,
    Are we allowed more than one problem? I’ve got several to solve.
    Derek Siver’s concept of tackling one PROBLEM is quite sensible.
    It includes your two words for the previous year: without “focus” and “finish,” one will not be able to solve one problem.
    My few problems (I see them as challenges) : (i) My new blogging website – going officially live next week (ii) Self-publish my first book in the second part of this year (completed ms, copyedited – historical fiction (iii) complete my present ms – contemporary fiction.
    This should keep me out of trouble.
    And this I’ll need: focus and the commitment to finish!
    Thanks for the post, Pamela!

    • Hello Danie Botha,
      Yes, we are allowed more than one problem, because more than one problem is more like real life. However, we can’t wash the dishes and vacuum at the same time, so perhaps that applies to problems we want to solve as well.
      Congratulations on your new blogging website and on your new book.
      Maybe I need my two words from last year this year too?
      You are very welcome. Please share your new blog address when it is live. It will be fun to encourage you with your first post!

  • Hey Pamela. Loved this. Thanks for this take and I’ll be reaching out soon to loop you on my problem solving goals and more…

    • Hello David,
      So nice to hear from you. I am glad this post resonated with you. I look forward to reading about your problem solving goals.
      May your New Year be filled with sunshine and joy.