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Picking a Theme for Your Farm-Fresh Year

Goal Setting with Themes -

Do you ever pick a theme for your entire New Year?

If the idea of goal setting makes you squirm…consider picking a theme instead.

A theme can be less daunting than picking a bunch of goals or writing out a page of to-dos.

It is like a GPS guide post without laying out the whole map on how to get there.

It is just your beacon to help keep you on track.

Although I have previously set themes for seasons within my years, I have never set an over all theme for the entire year.

In fact, I would say most of the time the universe does the picking for me. I just sort of let the year unfold a universal theme without any input on my part.

Last year ended up like that. And it was terrible!

If I look back over hard times, 2015 sucked for me on many levels.

I had a family medical emergency that started in May, many months of living away from my children to care for my father and then the year ended with the loss of my beloved father in October.

So, I could easily look back and say the theme for a hard year like that was to “beat Theresa down to her knees“.

But I am trying to have a different outlook when the cards deal me a tough time.

I want to use what I learned about myself during those tough time to look forward with new eyes on the future

And one of the ways to do that is to pick a theme before it picks you.

Goal and Theme Setting -

Picking a Theme:

Pick a short phrase (1-3 words) that will encompass what you want this current year to be for you. The theme can take several forms.

It can be:

  • Just one special word
  • Several words that each focus on different parts of your life: health, family, business
  • Or a short phrase

Here’s what I mean….

If I use that hard year of 2015 as an example, I would say my theme for that year was: Resiliency.

It was the theme that the universe had picked for me.

And if I had the brain power while in the middle of my family’s crisis to even think…I probably would have picked that word as my theme myself.

Because I believe that if I had that word (or theme) written on my computer, on post-it notes or even just out where I could see it while I was trudging through my dreary days of 2015…it would have helped me.

Heck, it helps me now as I come to grips with what I went through.

The word resiliency is hopeful, positive and builds me up rather than pulls me down.

It it sounds better than having a theme of “life sucks” – Ha!

So that is why I now always pick a theme for every year.

setting themes -

What’s My Theme for the next year?

My theme is Restoration.

I have come to realize that I have a lot to restore in my life.

I am focusing on restoring my:

  • Health after too much stress
  • Life, business and garden after putting so much on the back burner.
  • Family’s heirloom orchard in Northern California. After spending 4 beautiful days there pruning fruit trees (and thinking about themes), I realized that the orchard project keeps me grounded. Working there is always incredibly therapeutic.

Picking a theme for the year -

So I Challenge You:

What is your theme for this year?

What do you want to work on, be a part of, or build this year?

Pick something…a word or a short phrase…that has meaning for you.

Right it down. Post it on your computer or on your bathroom mirror.

And tell me what it is in the comments.

I would love to hear…

Apple TreeNote: Take a closer look at that photo in the middle of this post – the one that says “Resilience”.

See the tree in the background?  It is the tree we fondly call the “Harry Potter” tree. That poor tree has been through a lot and just keeps on coming back. 

For the past 3 years, I have nurtured a little whip of a branch that wanted to grow up through the center of the hollowed out trunk. On my recent trip to prune trees, this little whip is transforming “Harry Potter” into a very beautiful and productive tree. 

Now, THAT is resilience.

Apple Tree -

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.


  • Dana says:

    Theresa, I don’t know what my theme is…. I’ve been making my goals – detailed, actionable, measurable, the whys…. but there is so much. Possibly transformation? Hopefully, expansion and creativity. I know one year can’t possibly be everything, but still I work towards doing it all. Ha! I’ll let you know how it goes. Be well in this new year.

    • theresa says:

      I think transformation sounds like a perfect theme. It ties it all together. And if any of those goals get away from you, you can still look at the year and see a transformation. You don’t have to reach ALL the goals to get that. I like it!

  • My new theme needs to be “Learning when to say NO! Unfortunately I have a problem with saying no. Then I get so stressed trying to complete all the things agree to. I have to help with my divorced son who has 3 teenagers, and an absent mom. And a 92 year old Aunt who needs help. And a husband whose health is failing and has quit driving, so I am his gopher! WHEW!

    • theresa says:

      Oh Dara – that’s a tough one, isn’t it? But the thing is…if we don’t say know to things, we can’t fully be there for the other things. There are only so many hours in the day and only so much energy a person can dish out. You must set time for you so you can recharge. Maybe schedule it into your calendar so certain days/times are locked down. Then when something comes up, you can say “Oops. I already have a commitment at that time” It would be an honest response.

  • Craig Halle says:

    I nearly died in early 2015 from a lung disease. Stress in 2014 likely caused me to be unable to recover from lung problems which I likely had for years, but always got over. I used to be able to easily and gently lift my Mother-in-law to the seat in our van and also lifted a 200 pound stove to the back of a pick up truck by myself (had I realized the weight I might not have tried that!). Now I am lucky to be able to lift myself out of a chair or carry a gallon of milk.
    I am frustrated by my lack of stamina, strength, and desire to do things I would not have passed up in the past.
    I guess STRENGTH is the word that best describe what I want to attain in 2016. Without that, many things that I can’t do make life a rather unhappy experience, I’m afraid. So I am going to push myself with exercise, more fruits and vegetables, and the attitude of “go for it”. I am starting to believe it will work as several supplements I gave up, while on medications, I have started taking again and I feel better than I have felt in a long time.
    I really appreciate hearing the things you do and the satisfaction you seem to get from your accomplishments. You give me hope that I can be a “doer” again and get satisfaction from life. Please take good care of yourself because whether I want to do what you are telling us about or not, I enjoy and am encouraged by what you have to say. Keep up the great work!

    • theresa says:

      Thanks Craig. Man, the loss of your strength has to be extremely frustrating and deflating. Strength sounds like the perfect theme. Best of luck on your mission of gaining strength, my friend. Each step will get you one bit closer. I’m so glad you are here.

  • NormanW says:

    My theme is “Progress – A little every day”.

    I have a big project, restoring an old Croatian smallholding. There are orchards to restore, buildings to work on, a new language to master. But it is a Mediterranean climate, not dissimilar to some parts of S. California. I am in Csa under the Köppen–Geiger climate classification system (, roughly USDA zone 10A. I wish sunset would publish how they work out the maths for their 26 zones.

    Next week I will go to the annual Seed Festival in Split. I want to find Apricot, Kaki, Peach and blood grapefruit trees, as well as apples and pairs! So I better do some planning…..

    • theresa says:

      Awesome Norman – your project sounds amazing! Your climate DOES seem very similar to S. CA. So, you should have great success. Good luck with your quest to find all the fruit trees of your dreams.

  • Lisa says:

    My theme is joy! Find joy in whatever circumstances you are in.

  • elizabeth says:

    Cheers to a better year! 2015 was pretty terrible in my world, too, so I am looking forward to better days. Hope you are resting up and giving yourself time for spiritual and energetic restoration. It’s hard to come to a place of acceptance after such a loss.

  • Victoria says:

    I love what NormanW said, “A little every day”. That is my moto I am going to strive for….or “Eating the Elephant One Bite at a Time.”

    • NormanW says:

      Thank you Victoria. At the moment I am keeping up with the challenge. I went to the plant and tree festival and came back with apples, pears, orange, Meya lemon, grapefruit, fig and quince. There a photo and description half way down my blog at .

      The elephants I have to deal with are the weeds, but they are coming out one fork at a time 😉

  • Stephanie Goad says:

    My 15 year old daughter Jaimee and I decided we would have 3 themes this year. Kindness, courage and no judging! Of course for the people and loved ones around us but mostly for us to remember this is for ourselves too. We had a tricky year also in 2015, everyone has battles they are dealing with in the crazy old world we live in. My youngest daughter is autistic and my husband is a fly in fly out worker often on the other side of the world and Jaimee has just begun grade 11. So it’s nice to have a focus that is positive. We decide we like the theme words much better than setting New Years resolutions as theme words tend stick around longer.
    Loving your podcast and have just found your blog, so awesome and you discuss all my favourite things, yay!! You are a great teacher and I’m excited to be learning so much from you. You do a fabulous job so thank you for taking the time and effort. Take care Steph

    • theresa says:

      Thank you so much Stephanie! I think your themes sound perfect. When we have a hard year, being kind and easy on ourselves is so key. At least that is what I am trying to do for myself as well. I’m so glad you found me and you are enjoying the content so much. 🙂

  • Jul says:

    This is my word for 2016. I know I am a bit late with my reply. I have just found your blog and I am loving it.

    I found out 2 years ago I have a silly rare and debilitating disease. This disease is called EDS Hypermobility. It is basically a collegen based disease. I have had my C spine fused from C5 to C7. Many surgeries later and I am also fused from L3 to S1 with a peek cage and rods.

    At the time of these spinal surgeries, we didn’t know I had EDS. It was only when I went to the geneticist in 2009 for something completely And altogether different, that we found out what had been plaguing my body since I was a young child.

    Now, here I am…this last surgery has rather kicked my tail! My vegie garden is late getting in…my spine has not healed as fast as we would like it to. But, I am looking forward to “Overcoming” my physical limitations for as long as I am able to do so. I don’t give up and I don’t like to have my body dictate to me what will happen next.

    So…I would say I am resolved to keep on keeping on. Not to let these physical ailments stop me from living life as full as I can.

    I will dig in my garden as I am able, I will pull weeds when my back says it will let me. I will resolve to ask for help sometimes. I will attempt to ask although I do not like to do so, I will do my best to keep in good spirits, still keep this silly grin on my face even when I want to plant my face in the mud!

    My poor husband didn’t sign up for this fight. We are close to retirement age and I want to keep pursuing my art and travel to a couple places before my body says it doesn’t want to. So…here is to “Overcoming” and not letting this ailment get the best of what life has to offer!!! I wish this for others as well!

    I thank you for this wonderful blog. For the hours of inspiration, for the long hard work you have put into this great blog and site. I so appreciate every word.

    I love Growing a Greener World and everyone on the program. I look forward to all the episodes, to the great spirit everyone has on the program. Don’t stop…so many people care about what you bring to share with us all.

    My husband and I think your program is needed, wanted and belongs to be shown. Thank you!

    Oh.. And I cannot wait to watch the podcasts!!! Take Care, Jul

  • Sheryl says:

    The theme this year at our house is “Fresh”. Freshly grown and Freshly harvested. Freshly frozen or Freshly canned.

    Fyi – Loving the Canning Academy!!! My teenage daughters’ birthday present to me was for all of us to do the Canning Academy together as a family and then plan how best to “Freshly” use products to make the best of our garden and lives. They are excited about gardening in Colorado and can’t wait to try everything the Canning Academy has talked about so far. Give yourself a pat on the back! =)

  • joanna waddoups says:

    This years theme is the year we start! I just bought a house in May and planning for my first garden ever (only lived in apartments which i learned too late that I could do something in). So this year we are planting the berries and the orange trees (did I mention we live in Houston,Texas?) and starting to settle our roots

  • Jerri Renée says:

    I’d love to see a recap on how everyone’s theme chnaged their life in 2016.

    And, it’s time to start thinking of a theme for 2017.
    I’m thinking: Courage. We all know that life begins at the end of our comfort zone. It’s just having that courage to cross that line. Without courage we turn our back on opportunity to experience, grow, contribute and share.

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