What’s your word for 2019?

Kathryn Crawford Saxer Career Management

A coaching client told me about getting angry at work. He was petulant with his manager and almost walked out of the meeting, he said.

“If you could have a mulligan on that meeting, how would you handle it differently?” I asked him.

He stumbled around, trying to come up with an answer. “I’d manage my body language more carefully,” he suggested. “I’d try to keep my body language open, rather than crossing my arms across my chest.”

We agreed that was a good plan, but not really a guiding principle.

“What’s your word for 2019?” I asked him. He looked at me blankly, as my clients often do.

I explained that I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. Too much obligation and commitment. But a single word can act as a guiding principle as you make decisions and choices in your day-to-day work.

Plus, it’s easy to remember.

I told my client that I’ve been a runner since I was a teenager. For years, running was an obligation, a chore, a discipline to maintain weight and fitness. I would grind out the miles.

Recently, I’ve realized that I’m just trotting in the woods with my dog. No idea on mileage. No grind, no obligation, no discipline. Just trotting along quietly by myself.

It’s relaxing.

My 2019 word is “relax.” I’m thinking about how other obligations in my life could be relaxing. Not relax, like spend more time at the beach; more like, how can I change the sense of struggle and stress in my day-to-day commitments?

Writing this column right now, I’m typing on the couch in front of the fireplace with a dog and a kitten sprawled at my feet. I can hear the hum of the dishwasher. Teenagers doing homework in the background. It’s relaxing. This work of writing is relaxing. (Dog just barked … not so relaxing anymore.)

I have another client, a young woman focused on becoming a leader in her technical field. Her 2019 word is “bold.” That word will be a guiding principle as she picks her battles, makes her asks and navigates her hierarchy at work this year.

Back to my client who got angry and sullen at work. “You know, you seem like a calm guy,” I told him. “What if your 2019 word were something like ‘unflappable’?” I asked.

He reflected for a moment. “That is something I can aspire to in 2019,” he said with a smile.

First published in The Seattle Times. Read my archive of Seattle Times Explore columns.