My Word of the Year for 2018: Progress

Happy 2018 and welcome to my annual ritual of choosing a word of the year for the upcoming 12 months.

Picking a “word of the year” continues to be an alternate path for those of us who don’t want to be weighed down with myriad (and easy to break) New Year’s resolutions. Readers who have been along on my journey over the past couple of years might have noticed a theme with the two “words of the year” I had previously chosen in 2017 and 2016 — “essentials” and simplify.”

At the time, those were vital concepts I needed to address, since I’d noticed my life had gotten a little too hectic and harried.

The good news is I lived those words so well that I recently had an epiphany: I think I’ve cleared enough space to try something different. As I’ve been noodling on it the past few months, I knew I wanted my word for 2018 to convey that I was ready to go about the process of “adding back in,” both professionally and personally.

I also knew that I wanted my 2018 word to be one that could serve as a “test” of sorts, so when I considered an activity or decision, I could ask myself if it was contributing to [insert this carefully chosen word here] before deciding to move forward.

The word “growth” came to mind right away, but it didn’t quite capture the nuance I was looking for. I think “growth” is often used to describe a process that’s moving on its own—maybe even a bit out of control—like when you talk about “growing like a weed,” or, more frighteningly, a “malignant growth.”

So, one day I was talking about all of this with my amazing personal trainer Madeline Harbick, and I shared with her that I wanted to include my fitness goals in my word of the year. We talked about the pros and cons of words like growth, expansion and development (I swear I was also working out at the time!), and she mentioned that in the world of fitness, trainers prefer to use the word progress — as both a noun and a verb.

Voila! My word of 2018 was instantly clear. (Thank you, Madeline!)

Progress Starts Here

As I thought more about the word progress, it was easy to see where I could apply it right off the bat in my life.

  • Personally, I’m always trying to progress in my knowledge. I’m an avid reader and constantly looking for great books, podcasts or TED Talks that can help me up my game (and I love reader recommendations — keep them coming!)
  • Professionally, in 2018 I’m planning to make progress toward new avenues in my business, including offering more products and services to my community. I realized my audience was hungry for more content when I saw the incredible response to my TEDx Talk, which has had more than 55,000 views (thank you for watching and sharing!). So stay tuned for one of the first new projects I’ve already made progress on — a free webinar I’ll be launching on Jan. 30 at 12 noon EST: “Your Personal Brand: Make 2018 A Year of Focused Growth & Deeper Purpose.” Sign up for my newsletter to make sure you get the registration information when it is available.

Evidence of New Respect for Millennials

On a larger scale, I’ve been heartened by recent advances I’ve seen in my mission of helping advance respect for millennials. Two areas of genuine progress happened in the last few weeks of 2017:

  • @WSJ recently acknowledged they would no longer refer to millennials “snidely” or “treat them as an alien species.” As their recent blog post stated: “We risk alienating [millennials] if we write about them with such disdain. Increasingly, we are not just covering how economists or marketers perceive this generation. We are writing for and about a group of people who are building major companies, altering the way we work and live and challenging long-held notions of family and society.”
  • @OxfordWords just named “youthquake” as its word of the year, making progress toward how we as a society value the opinions of young people. My UK readers and clients might be more familiar with this word as it has grown exponentially on that “side of the pond,” but for those who are unfamiliar it’s defined as “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people.”  Sounds like exactly the demographic change happening here in North America and in many other regions as well.

Progress, Not Perfection

Finally, I like the word progress because it’s been part of one of my favorite mantras for many years — “progress, not perfection.” As a self-aware perfectionist, I try to embrace this phrase and accept that progress can sometimes be painful…and painfully slow. But nothing worth gaining happens instantaneously. As I enter 2018 with “progress” on my mind, I am working to remind myself that little steps matter…

  • I’m not going to single handedly solve generational issues, but developments like the ones mentioned above feel like genuine progress and should be celebrated. Individual voices can and do make a difference.
  • I’m not going to magically perfect my latest book proposal, but maybe I can take a deep breath and send off the almost-there proposal I’ve spent the better part of a year tweaking. There’s no time like the present, right?
  • I’m not going to master harder yoga poses every single week, but I get a little stronger and more balanced with every class.

So, you might say that part of my journey on progress is embracing progress itself. Happy New Year, everyone!

Do you have a “word of the year”? What do you think of mine? I’d love to hear in the comments. Share below or on Twitter.

Lindsey Pollak is the leading expert on millennials and the multigenerational workplace, trusted by global companies, universities and the world’s top media outlets. A New York Times bestselling author and keynote speaker, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her presentations have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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