Why I Create Annual Themes

By Trevor McKendrick 👋 - Have you read my free newsletter?

In 2019 I received some personal feedback from friends that perhaps I could be a little more positive. Not that I was bringing anyone down, but that I could probably lift myself up a bit by doing nothing more than making a conscious effort to see things in a more positive light.

So in December 2019 (way before Covid was a global pandemic) on a whim I created a theme for 2020 called “Optimism 2020”. I immediately started telling anyone who would listen about this "Optimism 2020" thing. I said it to my family, my friends, coworkers. Before too long it started to be this thing that people would repeat back to me.

Something, somewhere would fall short of perfection and someone would say to me "Optimism 2020!" - which was incredibly fun.

And so I decided to raise it up a level and make it official by writing the Optimism 2020 Manifesto and by creating a flag for the theme:

By creating a theme, a manifesto, and a flag, I was making an extremely effective campaign at myself to help me live the ideals of Optimism 2020.

It's like doing brand advertising for the values you want to live. When you’ve told everyone you know about it not only do you remember the theme more yourself just from talking about it, but people start asking you about it, and alluding to it when they see things in your behavior that differ from it.

Without you asking or doing any extra work, people start advertising your personal value back to you.

This is really useful. None of my friends or family or Twitter followers will likely remember, say, my list of yearly goals. It’s just too many details and too long - they might ask something vague about “how are your goals” but there’s no real accountability because they don’t remember what you’re striving for.

But if instead of a list of goals you tell everyone your single theme for the year, suddenly you’ve turned it into a memorable marketing slogan that will stick in people’s brains.

And then the magic kicks on! Because instead of having to remind yourself every day of how you'd like to change, people start to do it for you! They ask you about the theme and how it's going... on phone calls, in work meetings, in texts.

And in public:

You also start to get invited to talk on panels about your theme, which makes the theme about 100x stronger because now you're representing the theme! For me I suddenly became the Optimism Guy:

The point is that now you're being reminded constantly of your single most important value for the year. People make your theme into part of your identity for you.

People sometimes talk about the value of religion and how to capture that in a more secular life. One of the concrete things of religion that the rest of us miss out on is automatic, built-in reminders of what you believe in. In religion this takes many forms: going to church every week, reading your scriptures, praying, putting religious art around your home are just a few examples.

And in my experience probably half of living a certain way is merely reminding yourself that's how you want to live. For the same reasons "you become your 5 friends" is real, changing your default mental loop is a powerful hack to become who you desire to be.

Because of this, I highly recommend you create your own theme & tell as many people about it as you can. If you do I'd love to hear about it! My email is my first name at this domain dot com.

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