I Chose a Dumb “Word of the Year.” It Changed My Life.

I’ve been writing blog posts since 2008. I get inspiration from my clients, my industry, and occasionally, personal experiences.


Those of you who have been loyal readers for a while have seen me fail at my goals, sell my business, roll with an unexpected family relocation, and even experience a hurricane.


A couple of you may have even cared about those things!  For that, I thank you.


Something amazing is happening to me. It started in October 2017. And it all stemmed from the dumbest “word of the year” I have ever heard of…




When my family relocated to Savannah, Georgia, I was determined to establish my business quickly and effectively.


In 2016, I attended 48 business networking events and met with 103 people 1:1 for coffee or lunch. Now, for a successful salesperson, that may just be your average February, but for me, it was a lot. The relocation-related tasks and business-building issues were overwhelming.


By the end of 2016, I was exhausted. I knew I couldn’t keep functioning well in this Build! Build! Build! mode.


Maybe you’ve been there, too.


So, I chose the word, “maintain” as my guiding principle for 2017. I’d never had a word of the year before. But, maintain felt right.


I needed to maintain my sanity. I had to maintain my success with less intensity. I really needed to maintain my health.


Why did I think this word was so dumb?  Well, a friend pointed out to me that for those of us who aspire to be excellent at everything (cough, cough, perfectionists, cough, cough), mediocrity feels like failure.


The word maintain felt mediocre to me.


Because of my focus on the word maintain, 2017 was a different experience for me. I targeted a few networking groups and focused my efforts there. I learned about self-care and the importance of having a hobby. I even started meditating regularly.


As the year progressed, I started feeling much, much better. My business revenues had been maintained nicely. My stress levels were managed.


I felt open to opportunities again. That was such a joy. For way too long, I had felt full and locked down.


Now, I had space in my life, and in my schedule, for something to happen.


And, it did.


I was in Chattanooga, Tennessee in October 2017 delivering a seminar to a group of 80+ accountants. During one of the breaks, I was walking around the room speaking to the participants.


The conversations were pretty standard. Until…


Melissa:  Do you have any questions about our discussion so far?


Robert:  Yes, are you a writer?


Melissa:  Yes, I am! I hope you’ll sign up to receive my blog posts via email and check out my eBooks…


Robert:  You are a great storyteller. Cue overly intense facial expression.


Melissa:  Okay…thanks! Starting to get a little concerned here.


Robert:  No, I mean it. You are an excellent storyteller. Sitting back in his chair, still gazing intensely, and nodding slowly.


Melissa:  Wow…thanks! Looking around for witnesses.


Robert:  Have you ever considered writing a children’s storybook?


Melissa:  Uhh, I can honestly answer “No” to that question. Feeling a little safer now that we are talking about children.


Robert:  Would you consider doing that?


2016 Melissa would have smiled indulgently, thanked Robert profusely for his kind statements, and moved on to the next person in the room.


2017 Melissa said, “Let’s talk.”


2019 Melissa is anxiously awaiting the release of her first storybook.


The book is about a little girl who wants to do EVERYTHING. She is so afraid of missing out on opportunities, that she has overscheduled herself and is actually missing out on the joys of life.


I know. I know. Don’t say it.


Robert, as it turns out, is the president of an organization called the National Center for Youth Issues (NCYI). NCYI has been around since the early ‘80s publishing books and resources to help kids with psychosocial and character development.


And, I’m one of their newest authors and speakers.


This song details how I feel right now. I could cry with happiness and abject fear. Sometimes, I do just that.


Note:  for those of you who can’t access YouTube at work, the link above is to Barbara Streisand’s version of Something’s Coming. Forward this post to your personal email so you can listen. You deserve to hear something awesome today.


I have written three storybooks so far, and the first one’s release is just around the corner. I will share the cover art with you as soon as it is ready for public consumption.


Because of a seemingly dumb word of the year, I now have the opportunity to speak to kids, in rhyme and meter, about the same issues you read about on my blog.


Maybe it wasn’t such a dumb word after all.


Is Something Coming Your Way?


You can set goals any time of year. The month of January does not have exclusive rights to self-development.


If a word of the year seems like a good way to direct your efforts, check out this website.  There are resources there to help you discover and honor your word of the year.


Note: I searched that website for the word “maintain” and got zero search results.


However you do it, I encourage you to find ways to increase your feelings of openness to opportunity this year.


Otherwise, you may mistake those “Roberts” you encounter for random noise and dismiss them too quickly.


As Barbara sang, “Something great is coming…maybe tonight.”


Are you open to it?


Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


  1. Susan Hengel

    Wonderful reminder of how important it is to be open to opportunities… wherever they may come from! Thank you for sharing your story Melissa.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Thanks, Sue. You have been a great provider of opportunities for me and others as well. You are outstanding!

  2. Diana Bryant

    Congratulations Melissa! I’m so happy for you! This was one of the most inspirational posts you have written – though all are excellent. I thought for a moment it was our (TVPPA’s) October accounting meeting you were referencing but you spoke for our May meeting in Savannah that year. I have not considered a word of the year for myself but think I should. I certainly see the value in a clear, simple focus on where we want to be that we can pull ourselves back to or push ourselves forward with. It would be especially helpful for people who are not goal setters that could get on board with just a word. Again, congratulations! Blessings to you and yours in 2019!

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Thanks, Diana. It was strange to me that one simple (kinda dumb) word helped me that much. It was a great day-to-day decision-making tool. I wish you luck with your one-word 2019. I hope it turns out to be amazing for you.

  3. Joihelene

    I am open to it! I appreciate your post. It reminds me of what I went through: Halloween 2017, for the first time in my life I was seriously ill. Hospitalized for 3 weeks, I had allowed 10-12 hour days on my 9to5 to stress me out. With no self-care, I was also trying to complete my 2nd audiobook by myself as both narrator and audio engineer/editor. Every waking moment of the week and weekend was filled with tasks. I slept little and worked harder whenever I felt I was at my breaking point. Not only did I suffer (3 months of Short Term Disability, home health and physically therapy) but I’m still recovering from the lack of domestic activity!

    I love your word, ‘Maintain’! That was my goal in 2018. I just wanted to breath and not focus on my usually goal activities. We are 29 days into 2019 and throughout the end of 2018 holidays I meditated on wanting to ease back into some of my old but new goals.

    So far, out of the blue, 2 major opportunities: (1) Self-published author with 3 novel series wants me to narrate; (2) New podcasters wants me to produce their new show. And I’ve been thinking about starting a video blog of some of my interests. Like your children’s book, (of which I wish you all the best!) I’m going to choose not to do everything but, enjoy the opportunities and ‘maintain’. Thanks again!

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      What an amazing story, Joihelene! We should start a “maintain” fan club, but make sure that there are no membership responsibilities to join it.

  4. Eden Lusk

    Congratulations on the release of your story books. Very exciting!


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