What Are Your Words of Intention and Action?

By December 31, 2016Inspiration

intention actionChris Brogan, a writer and business coach, begins each year with three words. The three words provide a focus for the next 12 months. While some jot down resolutions, others may compose intentions for the new year. Different approaches work for different people, but the thing I like about the three-word approach is you can remember them. Three words serve as a trigger point each week, each month to ensure we are on our selected new path forward.

Resolutions fade in thirty days, and thoughtful intentions get confused in three months. Writing the words makes them more real, and they become a mantra.

Experience: Words of Intention

The first time I did the three-word concept was three years ago. My words in 2014 were Tempo, Refresh, Healthy. Throughout the year, they stuck with me, and I believe I found a better rhythm to the year, new ways to do better things, and adopted new healthier practices.

In 2015, I thought I would just place the three words into my memory. That was “good enough.” I don’t remember what the three words were. Writing is a practice that changes our behaviors.

You may be able to guess what happened last year. No words. I’ll just wing it!

Well, I wasn’t planning on doing three words this year. However, I read Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter’s three words, and I was inspired. Jacqui is a master resume writer, and her three words pack a wake-up punch – Pace, Pray, Pow!

My Three Words of Intention and Action

Here we go, rising to the challenge of a new year. My words of intention and action are – Activate, Resolve, Clean. My ARC for the new year ahead!


Activate is becoming more of a key word in my life and work. While the word is in my book, Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders, the opportunity of “activate” begins to carry a deeper meaning.

How do I activate ideas at work, in life, and in community? This question is haunting at times. More than haunting, it is motivating. Getting an idea to come to life and take hold within a family, culture, or community is tough. However, activate is the verb that helps keep the nouns dancing in a rhythmic result.

Activate is my call to learn more and do more but do so in ways that matter for the short and long haul.


Each moment is valuable. We let time slip away without meaningful momentum forward. While moments are valuable, they also can be rocky. We never know what detours, rough spots, or boulders get in our way. Too often, we get in our own way.

My mindset is one of resolve. We need the resolve to continue forward. We need to resolve the challenges that arise. I love the double meaning of resolve, and we miss both in our daily work. Here’s the usual practice:

  • Letting issues fester and leaving them to resolve another day.
  • Getting bogged down by personalities or situations and leaving must-have conversations for another day.

We need to resolve. We need resolve.

I need both.


Clean is an odd word of intention choice, but I am on a cleaning mission.

Minimalism is a key concept that I want to apply deeper in my life and leadership practices. I used to think a cluttered desk is a sign of busyness and creativity. Although there is some truth to the clutter, over time the clutter weighs everything down. I lose sight of what matters most and, most importantly, who matters most.

Clean is an activating word, too. Cleaning never just happens by itself. Cleaning takes work, and work is a blessing (a key insight recently learned).

Cleaning is more than stuff. We need to clean our mind to accept better ideas. We need to clean our soul to be a better person. We need to clean our bodies to build better longevity to our purpose.

What I have found is the act of clean is a continuous one. Left alone, we get buried. By continuously building clean in, we gain better viewpoints and relationships.

Activate – Resolve – Clean: My ARC

We are on the cusp of a new year. I don’t know what will unfold next. I do know that there will be challenges, unexpected events, and rewards never imagined. To navigate meaningfully, I believe my three words of Activate, Resolve, and Clean will help me gain more progress than any resolution or thoughtful intentions.

You may have noticed I slipped the word “action” into “Words of Intention.” Intention alone will not let us thrive. Intention and action propel us forward. Our three words require action.

My mantra is set. I am ready for the unknown. I am ready to act with focus and intention.

What are your three words to guide you through the new year?


Photo taken near Bozeman, Montana, on a hike. 

Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders.
Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Alli Polin says:

    Appreciate that you, Jacqui and others have shared your three words. It’s a powerful exercise that can create powerful results. Like you, in the past, I’ve picked words to focus my intention and they faded. This year, in lieu of my words I wrote down two phrases, and put them in my wallet. “Be Brave” and “Embrace.” I’m as ready as I’ll ever be for the new year. Look forward to hearing more about your ARC as time moves forward.

    Thanks, Jon.


    • Jon Mertz says:


      Love your two phrases! I believe the more we make the change we want to embrace into a mantra the better. We remember, and we adjust and focus. Best wishes to you in your new year!


  • Wow, Jon.

    Your blog is so rich; your 3 words — and their explanations — multilayered and actionable!

    Too many good points to ‘point out’ so I’ll just cherry pick a few. This really grabbed my attention: ” … activate is the verb that helps keep the nouns dancing in a rhythmic result.” I felt what you meant here, as well as ‘visualized’ the movement. A poetic way to capture the impact.

    How you wove in ‘activate,’ extending the meaning even beyond your “Activate Leadership … ” book, was intriguing, too.

    I think my favorite was how you integrated, “resolve,” describing the value of each moment and how some moments can be rocky, but that, “We need the resolve to continue forward.” So very (VERY) true. I think the small moments add up more than we realize, and therefore, their currency compounds. So, thank you for sharing a word that I think many of us could weave into our everyday (and as sub-words for our 3 words) for more satisfying results.

    And, I agree that ‘intention + focus’ propel forward (well put)!

    All the best to you as you act upon your words this year! I have no doubt at all you will propel forward, with gusto!

    PS – I very much appreciate the mention in your blog. And, I’m so delighted that my post could help re-spark your interest in the writing out of the 3 words exercise. Your doing so, in turn, sparks a feeling of solidarity in this process, for me (thank you).

    • Jon Mertz says:


      Thank you so much on many fronts! First, your 3 words truly did inspire me to realize the value of having a motivating focus written down. I know the first year I did this, the words stuck. More than stick, they drove personal change.

      Second, thank you for your comments and insights on my 3 words. Each resonate within me. They have been rattling around for a few months, but they now are centered in what I want to change in the next 12 months. I love the word “gusto” and I hope I embrace each with gusto!

      Again, Jacqui, thank you. Best wishes to you in your new year and your 3 words of Pace, Pray, Pow!


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