My phrase of the year for 2023

slow living Jan 06, 2023

Each year, I like to focus on a word to carry through the year, rather than setting a resolution. I find that I can always refer back to my chosen word when it comes to making decisions or developing new habits.  Over the past two years, I have chosen the word "simplify" - you can read about what prompted that decision here

This year, I found it tricky to find just the right word to encapsulate what I'm hoping to achieve. At first, I thought I would choose the word "discipline." This is one that pops up again and again in Zen Buddhism, and Buddhist monks are very disciplined, especially around cleaning and meditation, both of which are seen as a powerful spiritual practice for cultivating the mind. The idea of "clean space, clean mind" also fits in nicely with the simplifying I've done over the last two years. 

However, I felt like "discipline" was just not quite the right fit. The word itself seems a bit too severe, with negative overtones - possibly a connotation I've assigned to it, but regardless, a connotation I don't want associated with the word I'll be focusing on all year.

Image above taken from 'The Boy, the Mole, the Horse and the Fox' by Charlie Mackesy

So I shifted gears to another word inspired by Buddhism: "kindness." As the Dali Lama famously said "My religion is very simple, My religion is kindness". I think many people strive to be more kind, and I chose this word for many reasons, associating it foremost to self care. If we can learn to be kind to ourselves, we can then learn to be kind to others: sentient beings and inanimate objects.

This flow on effect of kindness manifested itself a while ago. I have a tendency to push myself, and incidentally, often my belongings, a little too hard. About ten years ago I had an exhibition in Sydney, Australia - which was about 4 hours away from where I was living at the time. I had a lovely little car that I was driving back and forth, and because that's so much driving, I got it serviced before I made those trips.

One night, I was driving back from the exhibition, and one of the gauges on my dash just totally stopped working. I thought, "Oh, that's alright, it's just a gauge, we can keep going. We've got to get home!" Well, it turns out the gauge was actually letting me know of a malfunction. Next thing I knew, there was steam coming from the engine, and the car was toast. We had to wait for a tow truck. But if I had just listened to what my car was telling me, I might have saved myself both time and money.

So the word "kindness" for me meant taking care of myself by taking care of my belongings and the environment around me. But I wasn't quite sure that the word itself was exactly what I wanted.

Finally, I settled on a phrase to take into 2023 instead of just one word.


"A stitch in time saves nine."


Perhaps you've heard this phrase before, or maybe it's totally new to you. A version of this saying ("a stitch in time may save nine") was first published in Thomas Fuller's Book, Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, Wise Sentences, And Witty Sayings back in 1732. Fittingly, the phrase refers to sewing, and how addressing a small hole or tear now saves you addressing a larger hole later meaning it's better to solve a problem right away, before it becomes a much bigger one.

Im also very good at procrastinating - always leaving things to the last minute, and because of this a simple undertaking often turns into a much bigger problem. 

So that's my goal for this year - take the time to proverbially stitch up the small holes before they turn into something far less manageable. Caring for the things around me - whether that's my possessions, my space, the environment, or anything else - and in turn, show kindness to myself.

Do you choose a word of the year, or set New Years Resolutions? Head over to my latest Instagram post and tell me about it!