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What’s Your Theme Word for 2018? Looking Back and Looking Ahead

By Ruth Carter

This time last year, many of us were anxious for 2016 to end. But instead of smooth sailing ahead, I feel like the universe started 2017 by saying, “Hold my beer” and it has spun chaos ever since.

During the past month, I’ve been looking back on the year’s achievements and setbacks and looking ahead to 2018.

How Did 2017 Go?

Last December, a member of my business mastermind group posed this question: What theme word encapsulates your hopes, goals and feelings for the coming year? (See “What’s Your Word for 2017?“) The word I chose was “invest” — invest in myself, in my business, in my relationships.

I had high expectations for the year, but things did not go as planned. With aspirations to write a book, create an online course and take the California bar exam, I probably aimed too high. Without client work or other obligations, it all may have been attainable, but that is not my life. It felt like there was a lot of action, but too often without results.

To be honest, this year I was constantly dealing with issues that hijacked my days:

  • A neighbor’s water heater flooded my condo. (I’m still dealing with the responsible party for reimbursement.)
  • A delivery truck driver rammed into my driver-side door, followed by three months of physical therapy.
  • My mentor was diagnosed with and passed away from lung cancer.
  • I accepted that I am non-binary, but I still deal with gender issues.
  • I live with depression and anxiety, which I have to manage to keep in check (though that isn’t easy given how distracted and affected I am by current events).

Looking back on 2017, I was tired a lot. Making time for a proper diet, exercise and fun with friends helped, but it’s been a rough year.

Theme Word for 2018: “Execute”

When my business mastermind group started discussing theme words for 2018, I asked: “What word means ‘get your sh*t done?’” Someone suggested “do,” but I settled on “execute” because it has a more focused connotation. It’s too easy to “do” a lot of stuff without accomplishing anything of substance.

My plan for 2018 is to be more goal and task-oriented — to have more structure and break projects down into tangible tasks and deadlines. I suspect this will lead to less time in the firm office and more time in my home office, or wherever I can get work done without distractions.

Correspondingly, I want to decrease mindless screen time. And I will turn off my notifications more often and put my phone where I can’t see or hear it. In general, I don’t have to respond to every message or email the moment it arrives.

As I was working on this post, I stumbled across a quote attributed to Leonardo da Vinci: “Fix your course on a star, and you’ll navigate any storm.”

That may be the line I use to calm and focus myself for next year.

Circling Back: Fellow Lawyers’ 2017 Theme Words

I followed up with the contributors from last year’s “theme word” post to see how their year went. Here’s what some of them had to share:

Billie Tarascio – 2017 Theme Word: “Intentional”

“We, as a company, were very intentional this year. As a result, we are more unified and healthy. We intentionally hit revenue goals, closed early on Fridays for yoga, and became more selective about the clients we accepted. All in all, being intentional in 2017 served us very well.”

Mitch Jackson – 2017 Theme Word: “Leadership”

“This year, while continuing to build my brand on social media, I made a conscious decision to stop chasing shiny objects and stop worrying about what everyone else was doing. As a leader in my online communities, I gave myself permission to trust who I am, what I know, and to do things in my own way and in a transparent fashion. Doing so enabled me to lead by example, build better relationships, and connect with more people who share similar goals and missions.”

John Kokolakis – 2017 Theme Word: “Grow”

“My theme word worked out great. We all have our good and bad days. Focusing on growth gave me the strength to persevere during the bad days and increase momentum on the good days. Irrespective of the good or bad days, I focused on transforming my practice from an ‘old-school’ reactive model to a fresh new proactive model. This change allowed me to grow into a better practitioner as I continued to focus on increasing the value I offer each client. Heading into 2018, I continue with the word ‘grow’ but add the word ‘perseverance’ (or perhaps ‘tenacity’). As great a theme as ‘grow’ is, we must be reminded that it is not always easy to take the steps required to grow.”

What’s Your Word for 2018?

It’s always interesting to hear other entrepreneurs’ themes for the year. The results reflect the many ways to define success and priorities.

Where do you want to be a year from now? What will be your theme word or mantra for 2018? Please share it as a comment below.

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Ruth Carter Ruth Carter

Ruth Carter — lawyer, writer and professional speaker — is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing on intellectual property, business, internet and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author of “The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers,” as well as “Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.” Ruth blogs at and

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