It’s February, which means that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions have already failed. Womp, womp. If you’ve come to realize that you’re in the majority, it’s ok. I’m offering an easy alternative that foregoes the laundry list of yearly aspirations for little more than a single word.

Yes, that’s right. One word. The word, of your choosing, will serve as your North Star — something to guide your goals and actions from now until year-end. 

My word for 2020? Drum roll, please … Challenge.

I chose this word for a number of reasons, most importantly because I feel like I’ve developed a bit of a comfort zone over the last couple of years. I’ve got this work-life thing down to a science — or, better yet, an equation, and while I’ve achieved a lot (and failed plenty, too), I know deep down that I can be more, do more, and make more of an impact than ever before. This year, I challenge myself to push out of my comfort zone, professionally, personally, and civically.

When I consider what it means to “challenge” myself today, it’s different than it was in the past. At this point, I’ve got 50 years of life experience under my belt. I’d like to create a fresh perspective, looking at what I’ve accomplished and learned thus far, and then apply that half-century of know-how to this very moment and double-down in the next 50 years. (God willing.)

Last year was a banner year for my early-stage investment group, HPA. Not only did HPA invest a record amount in two dozen high potential startups, but we also returned more capital to investors than in the previous ten years combined, which puts our investment performance at the top of our industry. In 2020, I challenge myself to continue to maximize our financial performance by leveraging our human capital and bring even more heat to the Chicago VC scene while keeping my mind open to new, exciting opportunities (a.k.a. challenges) that push me to be my best.

I also plan to lean heavily into P33, taking a lead to help Chicago become one of the top global entrepreneur hubs in the world by 2033. I’ll leverage my knowledge, network, and determination to help make this a reality.  

Outside of my VC role, I’m challenging myself with what happens to be a literal “challenge” in itself. The Chicago Wellness Challenge, which I piloted last year, is back for round two this spring-summer. This project is a beast to produce, but it is something that I am truly passionate about. What it became, or is in the process of becoming, is different than my initial vision of it, so I am working to reframe what success looks like — what’s the model, how’s it sustainable, how’s it scalable? Ultimately, my goal is to create a positive impact on my community and on individual lives. I want to challenge and guide others to create a lifestyle that allows them to show up as their best self every day.

Just as with resolutions, accountability to your “word” is key. I’ve written mine down where its easily visible, and I’ve created goals that ladder up to it and are aligned around my purpose pillars of connection, health, values, and vocation. I’ve shared my word with others personally, and now for the whole internet to see. Over the year, I’ll track against it, keeping it in mind as I go about my tasks. 

Now, it’s your turn. What’s your word?

If you’re unsure how to dial down the next 11 months into one single word, begin with thinking about your “Why.” What’s your purpose? What do you want to accomplish this year and what would help to guide you? Maybe you need Courage, or to cultivate Joy, or to find more Balance — all of these are great guiding words. 

Once you’ve landed on a word, here’s my tried and true method for holding yourself accountable to it. 

  1. Empower it. Display it somewhere, meditate on it, visualize it. Do whatever you need to do to make it stick.
  2. Own it! Share your word with others. Consider asking friends, family members, or colleagues to hold you to it and create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals that will help you live it every day.
  3. Track it. Check-in with yourself from time to time. Are you acting in accordance with it (and your goals)? Reward incremental success. And if you find that you’ve fallen by the wayside, be kind to yourself. Give yourself time to reset and get back on track.
  4. Enjoy it. Have fun with the process! Take pride in your commitment and honor the improvements you’re making, big or small. 

I’m a firm believer that if you have a clear vision of what you want, and a plan to get there, writing it down and sharing it with others will only increase your probability of success (hence, this post). I encourage you to do the same. Also, remember to keep it realistic — recognize your strengths as well as your limitations. Realistically, I will probably hit about 60% of my goals for the year, and that’s alright by me. It’s about progress, not perfection.

So, who’s up for the challenge? What’s your word for 2020? Share it with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram.