As within, so without…

This is my eighth year in a row of choosing a “One Word Resolution“, or one-word theme, to focus my personal growth throughout the year. I decided to share my process a bit more, by going in depth on how I set my 2021 theme, Purify.

Having a single word as a resolution is different from traditional New Year goal setting, in that it can encompass multiple goals, plans, and intentions, while also providing flexibility to ebb and flow with the inevitable changes the year brings. It is less about exercising discipline (although it can include that) and more about developing mindfulness in the direction of desires.

Having a Word for the whole year invites an integrated experience between the external world and the internal; it helps to filter opportunities that arise; direct focus to the otherwise unnoticed gems of everyday life; and it becomes a co-creative journey with life itself which can lead to surprise, delight, or being challenged in interesting ways—sometimes profound, often subtle, and always meaningful.

As I said, I’ve been doing this now for going on eight years. Whenever a year winds down and another draws closer, I begin to listen in for a word that speaks to me, that holds the essence of what I’m wanting to lean into. This is an incredibly easy, intuitive process. When I hit on the right word, I know it.

The initial spark for choosing “Purify” as my 2021 word came out of a struggle I had in the latter part of the year with negative thinking. Despite having a lot of good things going for me, I spiraled into toxic thought space. Judgmental, cynical thoughts about myself, about aging, about failing, about not doing enough that mattered, about the state of humanity and history and the world… It wasn’t dark as pitch, but it kept pulling me down into the dumps, with a burdened, helpless feeling of not really caring about anything. It was all internal. I could still get up and fully function in my work day and personal life, yet in my own mind I was at an impasse.

I needed a new anchor point. I needed to clean up and clear out my self-talk, and stop allowing the negative thought storms to rain on my parade. To create inner sacred space, and set boundaries around that space.

When I knew that “Purify” was my new word (it wouldn’t leave me alone), I spent some time mulling it over to determine what it means to me on a deeper level, and how I want to engage with that meaning throughout the year. I spent a quiet afternoon brainstorming by hand on a sheet of yellow legal paper, messily teasing out all associations and connections I might make with the word in relation to areas I want to work on.

To get the gears going, I looked “purify” up in the dictionary to find out the technical definition.

pu·ri·fy /ˈpyo͝ orəˌfī/

  • remove contaminants from
  • extract something from
  • make ceremonially clean

Similar: clean, refine, cleanse, purge, clear, free, relieve

I thought about cleansing body and mind, heart and spirit. What would that look like? How might I purify myself this new year? My vision began to take shape as four specific areas to work on came into focus. Again, this started as a messy, handwritten brainstorming, which I whittled and honed until a clear picture of intention came into view. (It’s still rather messy, but such is life.)


  • Fasting – Inspired by my brother who planned to fast for NYE, I decided to do the same. I’d only done one other fast before, last year during quarantine. I am interested enough to explore and experiment with fasting again, for a multitude of reasons but one of the primary being it is the most tangible means of “purifying” that a body can do. The other, an idea my brother pointed out, is that fasting is an act of solidarity with those who do not have enough to eat, which around the world are so many; too many. It checks my own privilege, and reminds me how much I have so that I do not take it for granted.
  • Water – One of the first associations I made with Purify and something I wanted in the new year was a high-quality water filter, an investment I’ve made together with my sister (with whom I share an apartment). It is so lovely to no longer run out of purified water and have to fill up water jugs at local dispensers; to not have to gross drink tap water as a back up; and I prefer this up-front investment over paying for water delivery service. It makes me more grateful for readily available clean water, something that much of the world does not have access to at all. Similarly to the fasting, I am reminded daily of this blessing. Having the purifier at home, I also would like to try the “daily gallon” water challenge this year (drinking a gallon every day for a month).
  • Breath – The great purifier! Beyond keeping us alive and functioning, breath cleanses the body. This idea of breath connected well early on when my favorite online yogi, Adriene, announced her annual January yoga journey would be called Breath. I have greatly missed having a strong daily yoga practice, and this was the perfect opportunity to make room in my life (and mind/heart) for it again. With a daily practice revived, I am tuning into my life force with breath, and listening to my body more closely. Purifying my being by showing up on the mat, grounding down, centering, and connecting.
  • Fire – i.e., the fire of fitness. I will ignite my physical fire with regular exercise this year. Although I commute on a bike every day to work (up to 40 mins a day), I don’t really count it as fitness, since it’s become so routine. I have thus established a plan with accountability buddies, to engage in a physical activity (such as hiking, running, rock climbing) every week this year, starting with 1x per week, and adding an additional day per week every quarter, so that by the end of the year, I’ll be active 4x per week (this is a level of consistency I have tried and failed to sustain in my life… it’s a big goal!).


  • Cleaning House – As within, so without. To represent my intention to purify, I will work to both physically and symbolically purify my personal space—which is something I have now but haven’t had much of in the last few years (due to couch surfing and be-bopping between the mainland and Hawaii. Yay I have a bedroom again!). I really love the feeling of a clean, tidy, beautiful home, free from clutter and dust, and enjoy cleaning; so it’s a win-win. I’ll be keeping things clean, fixing what need fixing, and gathering stuff to donate. I’m also decorated and arranging with greater intentionality. I have casually dabbled in the Chinese practice of feng shui before, using the tools and techniques to harmonize my environment, and found it to be a fun, and effective, method for clarifying desires, inviting change, and creating a haven in my home. Going into the new year, I am drawn back to this. I’m already feeling a difference from it (feeling more uplifted, more aware of my intentions and the energy within and around me).


  • Meditation – My default mode is to move fast, think a lot, and stress out. I have made great strides in changing this tendency, learning to slow down, calm the mind, and release anxious emotions. That said, it’s easy to sweep myself back into the rapids, especially mentally. I aim to return to a meditation practice this year, to enter into a quiet, still space more often. In the past I’ve used the app Insight Timer. I may try it again, or else use music on Spotify or simply listen to my breath or follow a visualization. A month-long daily meditation will be forthcoming.
  • Affirmation – When I was in my early 20s, affirmations were my jam. They helped me to shift the way I saw myself, to feel comfortable in my body and confident in my abilities. I’d like to see what they can do now that I’m in my 30s. There are already a couple that I use, like “My experiences make me whole” and questions such as, “What is the opportunity here?” A big one though, is affirming a deeper sense of purpose through the mantra from the 8th-century CE Buddhist monk, Shantideva. “For as long as space remains, for as long as sentient beings remain, may I too remain—and dispel the miseries of the world.”


  • Vegan – Last year, my “Year of Heart”, I felt pulled to double down on my vegan values and lifestyle. To simply be a better vegan. Not just in eating more fresh, varied whole foods on a regular basis, but also in helping to educate others, to share my why and how with more people, to be a vibrant example of living (and eating) from a deeply heart-centered place.
  • Creative Release – As a child and teenager, I considered myself an artist. I made art. As I got busy with school, work, and general “adulting”, I stopped. Occasionally, here and there, I created something, painted a picture, did some sketching, wrote an article. It’s been super inconsistent, and consequently I have a lot of pent-up creativity that wants to be let out. I feel that many ideas and expressions within me have withered inside; my inner studio needs to be cleansed. Music, drawing, painting, and writing are included in the creative outlets that I intend to express myself with this year. Specifically, publishing the couple dozen ukulele songs I’ve written; continuing to make use of the easel and paint set I got last year; drawing portraits (it used to be my favorite thing to do); and writing on this blog.

This seems like a lot, doesn’t it? Here’s the best thing about One Word Resolutions, though. All of these areas of focus are ready and available to give me a sense direction in my year. It’s what I can do to keep my theme alive, to stay engaged with my desire to clean up my act. I can shift, change position, move freely within the framework, as needed. A successful year of purifying my self and life will see much of these activities and intentions fulfilled. Yet the most meaningful purification will likely come of something I cannot see or plan for yet.

As within, so without. 

P.S. I re-read this post and saw it is riddled with typos! I ain’t even mad. My inner perfectionist has learned to chill, and the typos can chill too. It’s cool. :]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *