Jennifer C Vigil

Can Three Words Change Your Life-Focus, Balance, Exploration

Can Three Words Change Your Life?

I hope so . . . As New Year’s Day approaches each year, my attention shifts to the possibilities the next twelve months hold–opportunities to travel, finally accomplishing a long-held dream, committing to a daily exercise program and losing those last 10 lbs, etc. The possibilities are endless. January is filled with anticipation, increased determination, and dedication to my goals.

the problem with New year’s resolutions

Unfortunately, many of us have experienced the first quarter fall off. That point early in the year when our commitment wanes, our old habits rear their ugly heads, and we start to make excuses as to why, just for today (we tell ourselves), we aren’t doing what we said we were committed to doing.

I used to have typical New Year’s resolutions–lose weight, exercise regularly, spend more quality time with my kids, family, and friends. Then about fifteen years ago I switched to more abstract goals–be happy, live in the moment, be better at asking for help, and have more inner peace. These were a bit harder to quantify. Did I achieve them? Difficult to say. Ultimately, I think I was going in the right direction, but I  still hadn’t found the right path towards the continued transformation that I was seeking.

The typical goals where one picks an activity to add or delete from one’s life didn’t seem to work. How do those types of resolutions fit into a larger life plan? Often they don’t. I finally found the answer in late 2015.

The 3-word Approach to goal setting

Last year I started something new. Instead of resolutions, per se, I picked three words to guide me with my goals and the direction that I wanted to go for 2016. I came across this approach in Chris Brogan’s blog post (you can read about how he frames this). The idea is that the three words are related to the goals that I want to achieve in all aspects of my life–personal, professional, relationships, and spiritually.

I had routinely set annual goals, and the resolutions always seemed to be a separate, disconnected plan. The three words approach, however, created a framework for all my goals and projects.

My three words for 2016 were confidence, clarity, and focus. Since it was the first year, I was unsure if it would work and even more unclear on how to assess success. I had debates with my friends about whether I had chosen the right words. Did I mean “confidence” or was “faith” actually what I intended? In the end, I meant confidence, but I also knew that I needed faith that I could achieve my ambitious goals.

As I reflected on 2016, (I don’t feel like I had much time to do that given my busy show schedule and solo show at De Grazia Gallery the first two weeks of January.) I realized that this new approach had worked and that Chris Brogan was on to something. I was eager to try it again this year.

choosing my three words for 2017

The first part of the year got away from me. It took me several months to decide on my three words for 2017 and even longer to finally share them with you:


Yes, “focus” is a repeat. Last year, focus meant narrowing down the direction I wanted to go with my business, what projects did I want to do.

But why focus again this year; because I tend to have multiple projects going simultaneously. This year I am working on doing one thing at a time (ok maybe, in reality, it is more like two or three things; I am a work in progress lol😜). Can you relate?

Focus can be a challenge, as Brogan notes. It can lack specificity; focus on what? But for me, I am trying to concentrate my attention and efforts on fewer projects. This means mastering the art of prioritizing. Prioritizing is an area of growth for me. As a mom, I have spent the last twenty-three years multi-tasking (not by choice), and I need to retrain my brain to stay focused and work on one task at a time to completion.

When my children were young, it was hard to have a complete thought without interruption, and that was before texting was ubiquitous.  Now I am constantly interrupted by texts, calls, emails, and requests. I have turned off notifications and established set working hours (do not disturb me time for my office work and my sacred studio time).

I have instituted a “two lunch dates a month” policy. Being an artist and working in my home office and studio, people see me as having a flexible schedule. They think that I can just drop everything at a moment’s notice and get together, help them with a project, etc. I know that solopreneurs face this all the time.  By the way, if I make a date to see you for coffee or lunch during regular business hours, consider yourself a VIP in my life. I have been firm with my two lunch a month policy so if I am breaking it; it means that you are really important to me or that I know you need support right now.

With all the “noise” and demands on my time and attention, it can be difficult to determine what is most important. What should I do next? Staying focused on the most important projects that will move me forward on my goals is paramount. Work can be all consuming. That is why balance is the next word.


Balance is a bit more obvious. I have been working on this for, well, most of my life. I have never been good at work-life balance. I tend to be an “all in” person, intensely focusing on projects. It applies to all aspects of my life.

I am working on making time daily for creativity, work, rest, play, self-care, and relationships. Having a morning ritual is an important part of this process. Also having set work hours is crucial for overall balance. When my husband gets home from work, I am done with work. We change and head to the gym. Then have dinner. Knowing that forces me to commit to getting my work done during my set hours. Scott is so much better at work-life balance than I am and he lovingly helps nudge me in that direction.

I will be sharing my balance journey and my morning ritual in future posts.


Exploration emerged out of my unfulfilled need to create sculpture and 2D work. Most of my work has focused on functional ceramics. While I enjoy creating beautiful pieces that enrich our daily lives, my creative muses have been ignored (they have been knocking at my door more loudly every day) and my creative soul untapped.

Jennifer C Vigil in her studio drawing
Me working in my studio. Zen tangle is a wonderful meditative drawing practice that gets my creative juices flowing

So as this spring’s show season came to a close, I made a commitment to my muses and myself that I would schedule time weekly for artistic exploration. This has meant shifting the focus of my work and signing up for art classes:

  • Gillian Lee Smith’s Drawn to Expression and Portraits–Your Art, Your WayGillian is an amazing artist whose work inspires me. It reminds me of the work of German Expressionist artists Kathe Kollwitz and Oskar Kokoschka. I had a chance to meet up with Gillian in London this past September. What a treat! If you are looking for online art courses that go beyond the simple demonstration of technique, sign up for one of her classes. She shows her students how to find their artistic voice while continuing to encourage them to grow as artists (at whatever stage they are). I like her teaching style and am eager to work my way through these two classes and deepen my drawing and painting skills.
  • Holly Wilson’s 3D Encaustic Mold Making and Exploration June 26 – 30, 2017. This week-long course is part of the Idyllwild Summer Adult Arts Program in Idyllwild, CA. Holly, like Gillian, pushes her students to find their artistic voice while expanding their technical repertoire. This class accomplishes two things for me, getting me out of the Tucson June heat (I don’t do well until the monsoon season hits, slight dehydration leads to too many low blood pressure days, ugh!) and gives me another way to resolve the technical issues I have been having with my ceramic wall pieces.
  • Holly Wilson’s Small Scale Bronze Casting July 3-7, 2017. Another class at Idyllwild Summer Adult Arts Program. This class focuses on small scale bronze casting that can be done in any studio. I am hoping to add bronze casting to my repertoire.  Both of Holly’s classes will be offered again next year during the same weeks.

I have cleaned my studio, purchased more art supplies, and made room for my muses to inspire me in my new work.

Art supplies-Golden acrylics, paint brushes, drawing pad

What are your muses calling you to do? For more about following your muses, click here.

I will be sharing images of my work from the classes and new work on my Instagram account.

With June’s arrival, I am half way through the year. At times, I think that I haven’t accomplished much. However, when I look at my weekly accountability forms, I realize how much I have done. Getting my new website up and finally having a place to blog is one of my biggest accomplishments. Click here to read about my website redesign process.

So can three words change your life? 

Yes, they definitely can!

choosing your three words

Think about your top goals for each aspect of your life–personal, spiritual, financial, professional, physical, and emotional. Is there a theme that ties them together? What comes to mind when you think about them?

  • Take a walk and reflect on your goals and see if any words keep coming to mind.
  • Spend 10-20 minutes and journal about your goals and the words that came up when walking.

Finally, don’t be afraid of picking the wrong word. It is ok to change a word if it doesn’t work. It’s also never too late to start.

June is the perfect time to refocus and reboot your goals for the year.


What are your three words for the year?

How do you feel about the first six months of 2017?

I’d love to hear about your experience. What is working and what isn’t? What have your learned?


The classes in Idyllwild went well. I am excited to begin adding both encaustic and bronze casting to my work. I have ordered all the necessary materials and am working on new pieces now. Follow my progress on my Instagram account.

I posted images of my work during the class on my Instagram account but here is a peek at all the fun:

Jennifer Vigil at Idyllwild Arts Program


Bronze casting mishap Idyllwild Arts Program
The mold for my base exploded. The molds had been over fired so we added additional flashing to the other molds before pouring them.
Jennifer Vigil's Bronze Sculpture Idyllwild Arts Program
My final piece. Needs more finishing work but needed to stop so I could put it in the end of the week show.
















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