Three Little Words

Setting your own signposts and nudges for the year ahead.

Happy New Year

Towards the end of 2012 I made an attempt to distil some of my 2013 aspirations into three words. On that occasion, I chose Focus, Finish and Fun as my three little words. In the coming months, I struggled to hold onto my three little words and though I’m sure my 2013 contained elements of focus, finish and fun – the experiment didn’t stay with me as I had first hoped it would.

I didn’t repeat the exercise last year, but over Christmas I saw that Michael Vandervort had posted a blog post by Chris Brogan about the idea on Facebook, which you can read here. In his post Chris suggests avoiding words like ‘focus’ because they are too vague. This may go some way to explaining why my first attempt at this experiment didn’t sustain. He also suggests avoiding negative words too. So – after a failed attempt followed by a rest year, I’m going to give this another go. I’ve thought carefully over a period of time about some of the things I need and want in order to have a successful and enjoyable year, and here’s my attempt to distill things into three little words:


I want to be more conscious about the good stuff that happens to me and around me. In part this means getting better at recognising and acknowledging good work. When I get positive feedback about the work I do, I will take it more readily than I’ve done in the past, and think about how I can build that feedback into my own development. When I see good work happening around me I will offer timely feedback with as much clarity as I can. I will also invest in deepening my understanding and my use of Appreciative Inquiry as an additional framework for making work better, and I’m currently investigating a few training courses to help with this.


I’m good at planning for things in the near term, this has been identified as a strength for some time now. However I am much less able to set an effective direction over time, which is In part because things change often, but too often I think I’ve used that reason as an excuse to drift. This year I’m going to build on my ability to prepare and plan short term and sketch some longer term thinking out too. Nothing too detailed because like you I’m hopeless at predicting the future, but enough to improve and sustain my motivation. This is the biggest challenge of my three little words, and if you have any ideas on how I can bring this to life, I would love to hear from you, thanks.


I want to develop more improvisation into my practice. This means, among other things, a greater focus on my continuous professional development so that I have a broader range of options to offer up in my work as a facilitator. Art for Work’s Sake is a great example of improvisational process, of being open to possibilities, and to adapting and improvising. I can now be very loose with an Art for Work’s Sake session or more structured – depending on what people need and want. I’d like to explore improvisation further so I have invested in The Comedy Store Players Improvisation Academy Foundation Course.

So there you have it, my three little words: Appreciate, Plan, Improvise. Not so much a set of resolutions (because nobody makes those, right?), more like a nudge in a helpful direction. Will they work better for me than finish, focus and fun? I hope so – this certainly feels like a more intentional, useful set of choices. We shall see. Maybe you’d like to try this three little words idea for yourself?


Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

3 thoughts on “Three Little Words”

  1. This comment is from Broc Edwards – when he tried to input it directly, my website sent him down some dark alley, oops!

    Doug, I really like the 3 word approach (though I’ve yet to try it – need to rectify that immediately). I’m intrigued that you have selected both “plan” and “improvise”. They seem like opposites (though I suspect they are really not). On some level I get that you can create structure that gives you the freedom to play in the moments – that planning makes improvisation possible, or better. I suspect this jumps out for me because I often find myself stuck between, neither planning nor improvising. Good stuff, Doug, though it appears I’ve hijacked your post as an excuse to think aloud. Cheers!

    1. Hi Broc – thanks for your comment and sorry the blogosphere devoured it previously.

      Plan and Improvise do have a conflicting nature about them in some circumstances, and I enjoy playing with mixed feelings, with yin and yang. And I think there is benefit in having thought through a few ideas and pathways as part of preparation, rather than a fixed direction. And where I want to look and work more deeply is in experimenting with a longer term plan which is flexible enough to meet the uncertain needs of my environment, and has enough direction to help me get somewhere useful.

      As you can see – I have far to go. Here I am already being much more vague with the notion of Plan than my other two chosen words – I said it would be the one I struggle most with!

      Cheers – Doug

Leave a Reply

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