I discovered the three words process only last year from Chris Brogan. It worked nicely for 2019, so I repeated the exercise for 2020. Since publishing the three words in my annual new year newsletter, a number of people have asked questions;

  • where did the idea come from?
  • what are the rules?
  • can you tell me more about the process?
  • is it ok to have four words?

etc etc

So first – not my idea. I got it from Chris Brogan – but I don’t think he started it. To fill in some gaps – this is what Chris has to say.

What is My 3 Words About?

The My Three Words idea is simple. Choose 3 words (not 1, not 4) that will help guide your choices and actions day-to-day. Think of them as lighthouses. “Should I say yes to this project?” “Well, does this align with my three words?”

My take : Rules are made to be broken. I get why three is better than one … for me – but whatever works for you. This is an exercise to help you shape your thinking and actions in a consistent way throughout a year.

How to Choose Three Words

I started this process back in 2006. Back then, my 3 words were “Ask. Do. Share.” I picked these very simple words and they served me very well. One of my best years ever. When I asked questions, I learned. When I took action based on what I learned from asking, I made more ground and took over more of the universe. When I shared what I learned with everyone, I made connections and some friends.

Choose any three words you feel will guide you forward. I can tell you a few things about this:

  • Don’t make it a phrase. “Publish the book” is a terrible choice. “The” is wasted.
  • Try to make the words actionable. “Expand” is better than “bigger.”
  • The more utilitarian the word can be, the better. These words have to be your compass.
  • Stick with the 3 words all year. Every time I’ve changed one a month or two later, the year mucks up. I can’t explain it. But I can report it.
  • Years where I’ve tried “fancy” words with layers of meaning, I lost the thread. Use plain words, maybe.
  • BUT the words don’t have to mean anything to anyone but you. Don’t worry about explaining them.

My take: Can’t argue with anything here. That last one is probably the most important. The three words are not for you to explain to others. They are your words, for you.

Review Them Daily

The more you review your 3 words, the better. I have mine built into my daily planning guides and action stacks. I try using them for a mantra when I can. Sometimes on walks, I just repeat them over and over. I like to reflect on them and meditate a little with those words in mind.

My take: I didn’t do this last year. I am going to try this year, particularly since this year’s words have a very specific direction in mind, whereas last years was more of a broader ‘raise the boat’ theme.

My Three Words

I have decided to follow Chris’ example and publish my words in a single place and so annually, will revisit this post and update.

2019 – Uncertain – Less – Different [published here]

2020 – Believe – Move – Ascend [published here]

Leave a Reply