Last year I remember seeing Chris Brogan’s “Three words for 2009” and thinking what a good idea that is. Instead of making New Year’s Resolutions, Brogan thinks of three words that he uses as beacons or guideposts of his year. They may sound unrelated, and sometimes obscure, but the three you choose should have relevance to you, your life, your work, your path. (Here are his 3 words for 2010. The comments have other examples, with some really inspiring stuff.)

I decided late in 2009 that I was going to do this instead of making resolutions. I rarely follow through with resolutions to the letter (which ends up feeling like failure), and when I occasionally manage to do so before December 31, I feel like I’m cheating if I don’t come up with new ones for the rest of the year. Three words are better for me because they will work all year long, and they don’t feel as “pass/fail” as resolutions feel. There’s wiggle room there.

So instead of a word of the week for this first week of January, here are my three words of the year: Aspire. Prune. Kindness.

1. Aspire: Remember when you were a kid and there was something you really wanted? I can remember really longing for things (mostly toys), and feeling breathless if I thought I’d never have them. As an adult I have often tried to avoid that feeling; I have told myself “that’s impractical,” or “that’s too complicated, I’ll never be able to figure out how to do/get/be that.”

Aspire means to long, aim, or seek ambitiously; to be eagerly desirous, especially for something great or of high value. The archaic meaning is to rise up or soar. And literally, “aspiration” means breathing. Longing for things that are higher than we are and bigger than we are is as natural as breathing. So this year I’m going to remember to breathe. I’m going to consider ideas and plans that might be too complicated or impractical (a larger work space, perhaps?), and allow myself to long for things that might be just out of my reach. And then I’m going to rein myself in with the next word, which is…

2. Prune: I grow raspberries and some years I pick as many as 11 quarts of fruit from my canes. Late summer, after the canes are spent, I cut the dead wood to make room for new growth the following spring. Pruning allows me to see the new growth clearly and care for the plants properly, making for a bigger harvest.

Sometimes it’s tempting to allow personal and business responsibilities to grow wild. More is better, right? But cutting out “dead wood” makes room for new growth outside the garden, too. Unhealthy relationships (with friends or clients), unprofitable product lines, anything that makes you feel negative, unhappy, or unproductive is dead wood and needs to be pruned. So this year I’m also going to remember that there’s no room for new until I’ve removed some of the old.

3. Kindness: I always think that when I see the same message over and over again, someone’s trying to tell me something. As I was choosing my three words I considered many, but kindness appeared on every list. Articles I saw online and in magazines kept talking about kindness. And when I tuned in and considered why this word kept appearing, I realized that this has really become the center of my work.

When I give a brief description of my job, I tell people that I “specialize in designing tiny thank-yous in personalized packages.” As I work with people every day, I’ve come to understand that in helping people to say thank you–to make others in their lives feel special and celebrated–I’m helping to spread kindness. (It’s actually a pretty cool job.) Kindness is also a perfect word for my personal life because it can remind me to be kind to myself in all of those ways that I tend to forget (eat right, exercise, get more sleep…yes, Mom…).

Those are my words for 2010: Aspire, prune, kindness. Have you chosen words or resolutions for the year? What are your plans for 2010? Please share your thoughts!