Start 2024 off Strong With a One-Word Goal

Dec. 7, 2023
Nothing really impactful is accomplished when everyone works on too many projects at once.

‘Tis the season for planning for the New Year. Companies are in full swing, setting new goals while still working to complete the current year’s goals.

While I was president of Onex (a mid-sized industrial furnace manufacturer), one lesson I learned the hard way was that having too many goals creates chaos. And nothing really impactful tends to be accomplished when everyone works on too many projects at once, rarely seeing a single one to completion.

In 2018, I took a different approach. I thought, “What would happen if I chose one wildly important goal for the organization?” It was certainly a risk to only have one goal. But what I found was the chaos went away and the organization calmed down. As a team, we focused on accomplishing the one thing that would make our future brighter.

If the simplicity of setting one goal for the business was successful, why not set one goal for my personal life as well?

In 2023, I found myself in an odd spot. I was no longer the president of the company I had led for almost a decade. Now what?

My one-word goal for the year became “transition.” My plan was to move the family to our new home in Tennessee, have the boys happy in their new school and sports teams, exercise with my husband to become healthier versions of ourselves and support the Onex leadership team. If I could accomplish these things, then I would feel like my goal of “transition” would be complete.

See, it’s just one word that means so much more. But it provided just the focus I needed to say “yes” to things that supported my goal and “no” or “no yet” to those opportunities that would interfere with accomplishing my goal.

What is my one-word goal for 2024 going to be? I am leaning towards “connection.” While I have made lots of new acquaintances in Tennessee, I am working to deepen those relationships and give back to my community in an impactful way.

Now, I bet you are thinking there’s nothing to choosing just one word as your goal. But it is a bit harder than you might think. When you only get one word, you must be very intentional.

Jon Gordon’s book One Word That Will Change Your Life is a great place to start exploring and identifying your one word. Here are the steps Gordon suggests.

Prepare Your Heart

During this holiday season, I know that you are busier than ever. You will need to intentionally make time to stop and be still in order to prepare your heart. I am sure you will feel guilty because you have too much to do. However, I promise the focus that your one-word goal for the New Year will be worth the time you invested in yourself.

To prepare your heart, you must unplug. This means you must seek solitude and silence. You could rise before the family in the morning or stay up late. You could seek a spot in nature or curl up in your favorite chair. The time and place do not matter. After you overcome the initial awkwardness of silence, you will be awarded with clarity.

Answer these questions.

1.      What do I need?

2.      What’s in my way?

3.      What needs to go?

Discover Your Word

After you have prepared your heart, you have to plug in and listen. Your word is not something to add to your checklist. It is not an activity meant to be stressful. Simply begin observing your world knowing that your word will appear.

This year, mine came to me while I was reading my favorite magazine. I thought, “That’s it!” I knew from the energy and excitement within myself that “connection” was meant to be my word.

Live Your Word

Now, I cannot wait to begin the New Year. I have a focus that I will live out. I will be intentional in making decisions about saying “yes” and “no” to opportunities presented to me based on whether the experience will help me meet my goal or derail me.

I cannot wait to see what I can accomplish in 2024 with clarity and focus on one word.

Business Lessons

Now that you have practiced and found your personal one-word goal for 2024, I challenge you to use the same process for your business one-word goal. Ask yourself, “If the business only accomplished one thing this year, what would bring the most impact?”

Since it is the business, I’ll even grant you a couple more words to make the goal clear. For example, here were my business goals as president of Onex:

2018: Revenue growth

2019: Debt reduction

2020: Succession planning

2021: Earnings per share

2022: Customer satisfaction

What is your one-word goal for 2024?

Ashleigh Walters was president of Onex Inc. through 2022 and is the author of  Leading with Grit and Grace.

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