If you’re lacking in direction, or even being pulled in too many directions, life can feel pretty tricky to navigate.
One approach to getting back on track is setting a theme for your life. Yes, it’s a thing – and it’s catching on around the country, albeit in different ways that work for individual personalities. Some are setting a theme for their year, while others do this monthly; some use just one word to guide them, while others try a life hack.
Why? Well, it’s a chance to guide yourself towards your values. Let me explain.
When I first came across the idea, it was in the form of setting a one-word theme for the year ahead. Not a new year’s resolution per se, but a word that stays with you for the year as an overarching goal.
That first year, life was feeling pretty messy, so the word I chose to theme my new year with was ‘simplify’. I spent that year with the word in the back of my mind as I said no to many things and removed everything from my life but the necessities and the things that gave me joy.
Japanese lifestyle guru Marie Kondo has a similar philosophy, and goes by the motto that you should bin any possession that fails to “spark joy”.
In another year, I used the word ‘nurture’ as a reminder to look after myself better.
And what I’ve noticed is that each following years’ words don’t just replace the previous. They all build upon each other, one by one, compiling to build a set of values that are important to you, and a life that fits well.
“When we set ourselves a theme it brings our attention to what our goal is.”
Angie Siargos takes the idea of themes a little differently: she recently began setting monthly themes after stumbling across the idea in slow living podcasts. The idea is that at the start of each month she tries a new theme; her list for the year ahead includes meditation, screen-free evenings, buying nothing new, self-care, and walking 10,000 steps a day.
As each month dawns, Siargos works out a plan for fitting that theme into her life. “I come up with a defined plan at the start of the month as to what, when and how I am doing to do it,” she says. “For example, with journaling, I said I would do it first thing in the morning, I would not be able to check email or social media prior to it, and I would do it for 10 minutes straight.”
This, she says, gives her the chance to try new things that could positively impact her lifestyle. “Some of my themes are based on what I know from experience makes me feel calm and happy,” Siargos explains. “I want to incorporate more of that into my life.”
Siargos describes the themed approach as “less passive” than previous attempts at making random changes that wouldn’t stick.
Psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip says themes are a good strategy for those wanting to give themselves a little push in the right direction. “When we set ourselves a theme it brings our attention to what our goal is,” she explains. “It can keep that goal in the forefront of our mind and can influence our behaviours by assisting us to create the outcome we want.”
The main benefit of having a general theme to your life is that it’s simply a reminder of the focus you want to have; it’s a value that you can filter every decision through. “It allows us to focus on that specific theme we have chosen at that time, so we can change or adjust them if and when we need to therefore releasing that pressure from ourselves,” says Dr Phillip.
And the sheer simplicity of it is the key to successfully seeing through your own theme.
So, what will your word be?