Word of the Year: Maximize

Each December, my wife and I discuss our plans for the following year and write out our financial goals. This year I decided to take that a step further and define my entire year in one word: maximize. Taking this approach will help guide my business and personal decisions while keeping me focused on our goals.

In 2023, I’m wrapping up my Master of Education degree which makes time even more of a precious commodity than usual, so I’m very inclined to be intentional about my use of time. The goal is to maximize the value of each day, and strengthen relationships while increasing our physical and spiritual well-being.

Maximize
JPR’s Word of the Year

Maximize each day

Maximize was first used in colloquial English in 1802. Merriam-Webster has several definitions for this powerful verb, but I’m sticking with “to make the most of.” Making the most of something means understanding what can be accomplished and then focusing in on that aspect. While we all make a hundreds of choices each day, many times they’re emotional instead of focused on what’s essential to our well-being.

For example, this morning I was really tempted to hit the snooze button on the alarm but that would cut into my morning workout and prayer time. So I rolled out of bed on time and made it happen.

Maximizing vs productivity

Based on what I’ve shared, it’s easy to think that maximize is just a synonym for being productive. Not in my mind. To me, productivity is simply checking boxes off a never-ending to-do list, while maximizing means living each moment to its full potential.

Pausing in the craziness of the day to reconnect with my wife helps maximize our relationship. Setting time chunks and removing distractions helps maximize the time I’ve allotted for tasks in my work day. When drafting a novel, removing unnecessary threads and using powerful verbs helps focus the story and maximize word count.

In the end, the goal is to have a rich experience that leaves you feeling fulfilled. This is true whether we’re talking about relationships, tasks, or a novel.

Tough choices

Maximizing life means making hard decisions. Which speaking engagements to take and which ones to pass up. Telling ourselves “no” when we’d really like to say an enthusiastic yes. There’s no perfect scenario.

But, again, having a word of the year that encapsulates my view really helps make those tough choices. It’s no accident that the Word of the Year is a verb. This reminds me that I have to play an active role in life choices.

Jesus gives a parable in Luke’s gospel chapter 13 which I mentioned briefly on LinkedIn. A landowner has a tree that hasn’t born fruit despite several years of fertilization. He approaches the gardener and tells him to remove the fruitless tree because it’s “burdening the ground.” In other words, it’s taking precious resources from the earth without giving anything back. The gardener pleads successfully for one more year.

While this parable doubtless has many spiritual applications, I also see it as a good reminder that we must maximize each aspect of our lives and prune off, or remove, the parts of life that simply aren’t producing positive results. This might involve distancing ourselves from emotionally toxic environments or even cutting out junk food–whatever drags us down and hinders us from becoming the best that we can be.

The verdict

So, can I ever really know if I’m truly living each moment to the fullest?

Not really. Real life often doesn’t have pat, easy answers to its most important questions, a fact I love to incorporate into my writing. Sometimes we’re left with more questions at the end than answers. But the beauty of life is in the journey or the efforts we make to improve ourselves and the world around us.

It’s natural to think about maximizing opportunities but two weeks into 2023, I’m realizing that I should also make the most out of problems. Really, problems are “growth opportunities” although they don’t always feel like that at the time.

At the end of each day, I take some time to reflect on how I’ve lived. How could I have better handled “X” situation? Did my initiative work and, if not, how can I improve it?

These moments of soul-searching lead to a better understanding of myself while providing guidance on how to maximize both the opportunities and the problems that I’ll face the next day.

What about you?

Do you have a word that you’re using to define your life this year? How do you plan to integrate it into your day?

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