My Word for 2023

2022 ended with a bang for me. Literally. A tractor-trailer hit my car on the way to work one morning in mid-December. Thankfully, I was not injured. The universe did a good job looking out for me that day. And as it turned out (and as will be evident by the end of this post), I did a good job of looking out for myself from that day forward.

Unrelated, earlier in my drive that morning, I thought about the word I would choose to be my “word of 2023.” For the last couple of years, I have chosen a word of the year instead of making New Year’s resolutions. I found that the moment I faltered concerning a resolution, I gave up on it and felt deflated. A word of the year, however, gives me a theme to constantly return to and allows me to focus my energy and actions throughout the year.

I have BIG plans for 2023, and I was looking for a word that would be equally applicable to all of my goals. I considered “intentional,” “tenacity,” or “perseverance.” But the concept that I was looking for embodied much more than that.

So, by coincidence, about 25 minutes before my encounter with the tractor-trailer, I chose “discipline” as my word for 2023. Of course, I did not appreciate it then, but that word became essential to my journey in those two weeks before the ball dropped in Times Square. Almost as crucial as it has been so far in 2023.

Some associate discipline with punishment, which is reasonable because the first listed definition in the dictionary is: “to punish or penalize for the sake of enforcing obedience and perfecting moral character.” ( Implicit in this definition is the concept of self-denial. So I appreciate that for some, “discipline” seems like an oddly negative word to use as the theme for what I intend to be nothing but a positive and amazing year.

Perhaps because I am focused on creating my future, I view discipline as a positive and freeing concept. It means doing something now so my future self can reap benefits later. However, it also may sometimes mean foregoing instant gratification with the expectation of a much greater reward in the future.

The tractor-trailer caused A LOT of damage to my car. It punctured a hole in one of the rear doors that was so deep I could see the back seat through the hole. There was so much damage that it took six-plus weeks to repair.

I am naturally impatient and have long embraced the notion that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” I do not disavow that as a concept. For sure, there are times when self-advocacy is not only important but necessary to achieve a goal. However, I also have realized that sometimes being a squeaky wheel makes things worse – especially inside my head.

As to my car, I had no control over the length of time the repair would take. So yes, I did start to become squeaky around week 6. But before that, I refused to let myself dwell on it. I was unhappy not to have my car. I was unhappy to be in a rental car. I was unhappy that my insurance would only cover a fraction of the rental cost. And I could have easily let myself slip into a constant mindset of negativity and self-loathing. It certainly would not have been the first time I traveled that road (pun intended!). I am nothing if not a master of spiraling into negativity.

But I did not allow myself to do so. I refused to call the repair shop every day for six weeks as I normally would. I refused to open the new emails with the credit card charges from Enterprise. Why? Because those things were beyond my influence and control. Constantly nagging the repair shop and fixating on the money I had not planned to spend on a rental would not have repaired my car faster. But that behavior would have caused me to be obsessed, frustrated, and pissed off over circumstances that I was powerless to change. Moreover, that behavior would have distracted me from what was most important: preparing to live my dreams in 2023.

So yes, I guess I ultimately engaged in an act of self-denial. I denied myself self-pity and negativity.

In the end, I learned from a tractor-trailer driver’s failure to yield that discipline is more than just sacrificing now for a reward later. I learned that discipline is the key to keeping me focused and will allow me to achieve my full potential. I learned that without the discipline to let go of what I cannot control, I will never grow into the person I am meant to be. But, most importantly, I learned that, at its core, discipline is a form of self-love, a way of taking care of myself all on my own. No cosmic intervention is needed.