Lasting Change: One Word at a Time

Originally written Jan. 22, 2014

Last year as I looked ahead to 2013, I knew I wanted to make some changes in my life but really didn't know where to start.  I was told about a book called "My One Word" that propelled me into an exciting search for what creates internal motivation for lasting change. 

The idea for choosing one word to represent an underlying character change was developed by Mike Ashcraft, a pastor in North Carolina.  After becoming overwhelmed with all of the areas that he wanted to see improvement in his own life he decided to try an experiment.  He decided to funnel everything that he was trying to work on down to one word. 

It takes a lot of thought and reflection because the idea is to focus on "being" words instead of "doing" words.  An example would be that maybe your goal for the new year is to become better at time management.  What you need to do is look deeper into this area and look for character traits that people have that are good time managers.  In this case, your word might be FOCUS since you determine that these kind of people are good at focusing on what needs to be done at specific times. 
Ok, you get the idea.  As I was trying to decide on my one word, I didn't want this process to turn out like my yearly resolutions have in the past. I, like a lot of others, have set lofty goals to change something once Jan. 1st hits only to have forgotten them by Valentine's Day.  At one time, these changes were important to me, but some part of me inside just didn't care after a few weeks.  I wanted this to be different.  But how?

Then I stumbled onto a really interesting theory developed by an Education Professor, Baxter Magdola.  I was immediately intrigued by anything a woman named Baxter would have to say.  It's such a cool name!  Anyway, to simplify her theory a bit, she felt as though she had discovered the 3 areas all of us grow and mature emotionally: our identity, our purpose, and our sense of belonging.  They are all distinct areas, but they overlap and effect each other during this constant development.  She was primarily looking at this process through the lens of education, but I can see how we grow in these areas constantly throughout our lives. 

I decided that my one word needed to have an effect on all three of these areas in order to get the lasting kind of impact that I was looking for.  Now, I started to get excited about picking one word because I was creating my own internal motivation or "buy in" to take this change seriously.

Then, I discovered the cherry on top, so to speak.  Since my relationship with the Lord is most important, and all that I do needs to pass through a spiritual filter, I wondered how this theory lines up with what God says is necessary for maturity and lasting change.  After spending some time in the Bible, I found evidence that God already knew about this theory.  He did create us after all so He knows exactly what we need to do to become the people He wants us to become. Even more, dare I say, than a woman named Baxter.

In Mark 12:28-31 and Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is, or the most important thing for us to do to serve Him.  Jesus said that first, we need to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind (that's our ultimate purpose), love others (creates belonging) as we love ourselves (understanding our identity).  If we focus on those areas, we will experience the growth that we long for each January. 

Baxter Magdola named this theory "Self Authorship" which I love.  Donald Miller wrote a great book called "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years".  Its a book about the process of turning his previous book "Blue Like Jazz" into a movie.  It was a tricky thing to do since his book is made up of chapters that each tell the story of a personal life experience, which he then links to a life lesson learned through that experience.  The producers of the movie needed to create an actual story line when there really wasn't one.  Through this process, Miller started to look at his life as a story or a script and didn't necessarily like how it was playing out.  He decided that since he is the author of his life (even though God is the ultimate editor!) he needed to change how the script was reading, so he made some changes.  Actually, he made some pretty radical changes and his life took an entirely different course.  It's one of the most motivating books I've read and I highly recommend it!

His choices made a difference in his life and in turn, he is now living out the life he believes God created him to live.  He has a ministry specifically designed to help people live out a better story for themselves.  It all started with his determination to make some changes, much like choosing one word that God can work on to create some much needed changes for us.

For me, the area that needed the most change was the identity part.  Because of the codependency issues that I have suffered from, I was not living out my true identity.  That in turn kept me from living out my purpose because how could I love God with all my heart, soul and mind, if I didn't even "own" those parts of myself to offer up to Him.  And if that wasn't enough, I was not connecting to others out of authenticity which affects the belonging part.

That's why last year, my one word was REROOT.  God has been pulling me out of my false beliefs, has stripped away the lies and deception that I took in as truth about Him, others, and myself, and is now rooting me in His truth.  I fully believe that this has occurred because I was faithful enough to sincerely choose this one word and surrender to the process that He would take me through in relation to it.

For 2014, my word is TRUST.  I am asking God to help me trust Him without hesitation and also to trust myself.  Trusting myself only makes sense if I am being led by the Holy Spirit instead of falling prey to trusting my own human power.  Trusting others is a whole other issue and maybe I will try to work on that in 2015! 

To get more information about the "My One Word" concept, go to www.myoneword.org.  It will help you figure out what your word could be and will bless you as you read about the amazing things that God has done in the lives of others who have dedicated their one word to Him.

One of my favorite quotes is by Nelson Mandella.  He said, "There is no passion to be found playing small-in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."  Lets live out that life!  Now that would be a story!