One Word

At the start of 2016 NCAA Football season, the Clemson Tigers were a highly ranked team attempting to come back from a devastating loss to Alabama in the national championship game just seven months earlier. The short story is that they DID go on to win the national championship. And the longer story is that they won because of ONE WORD.

That year, Clemson’s head coach Dabo Swinney was fortunate to have Jon Gordon as an adjunct on his coaching staff. Gordon is an expert in personal and organizational performance and author of ONE WORD …That will change your life forever.

The reason this is important is that Gordon had been working with the Tigers for a few years by 2016…helping the team to create a language and action plans around how to realize success both for themselves AND for the team. The ONE WORD concept was just one of the resources Gordon brought to the Tigers football team.

The ONE WORD concept basically works like this: at the start of the year, think about what you want to create or accomplish – then pick ONE WORD that will inspire you to be your best. From that point, let that ONE WORD be your anchor for the whole year. Your rallying cry. The thing you think about and strive towards over all else. The reminder that helps you to show up as the best version of yourself.

Last year, my One Word was FOCUS. I wanted to get better at removing distractions when it was time to do important work…and to FOCUS deeply so that I produced better product, and better outcomes. This year my ONE WORD is IMPACT. I want to be intentional about the IMPACT I would like to make with the people around me. My family, my clients, and others in my community. I believe that this word will inspire my behavior in positive ways.

In 2016, Coach Swinney chose LOVE as his ONE WORD. For the whole year, he used that word to inspire him to be the best coach and leader he could be. He wanted the Clemson players to know that the most important thing – more than trophies or anything else – was to know that they are loved, and that they have the capacity to love others – their families, friends, teammates, …and even their competitors. In a way it also became a team ONE WORD as well.

Each of the players on the team also chose their own ONE WORD, with star quarterback Deshaun Watson picking LEGENDARY. Fittingly, in the final moments of the national championship game – a rematch against Alabama –  Watson led his team to a touchdown with one second left on the clock, securing their first national title in 35 years. Pretty amazing. But even more so when you realize this: right before Watson led his team out onto the field for that epic last drive of the game, he turned to his teammates and said: “Let’s go be LEGENDARY, boys!”

So, yes… in a way, it’s true. Clemson won a national championship because of ONE WORD.

What is your ONE WORD for 2021?

What are you trying to accomplish this year? In your life, your relationships, or on your Single Plane Swing journey?

You don’t need a 50-page plan to accomplish big things…to make a difference in your life, or in the lives of others. Sometimes it comes down to a relentless focus on ONE WORD… something to anchor your attention and inspire you to do your best.

You may not win a national championship using ONE WORD, but I can assure you that you will be a better you at the end of this year by adding some intentionality and inspiration to your game.

Have an amazing year!!


Paul Monahan

Paul Monahan

Paul Monahan is an International Coach Federation (ICF) - credentialed coach working in the arena of human potential. Paul’s clients are leaders, executives, athletes and musicians who are serious about transforming how they perform in critical moments. His experiences in leadership and development over a highly-successful 25-year corporate career have created powerful context and understanding for the leaders and executives he coaches. Additionally, his passions and experiences in sports and music have uniquely positioned Paul to profoundly impact his clients in those areas as well.

7 thoughts to “One Word”

    1. Thanks Arlin! Love it.
      If you send me an email with your address, I will send you a special gift. (See my email address at the bottom of the article)

  1. Patience.
    I am always in a hurry to get to the ball, to hit the ball, to see the result. A golf swing is a process that has a series of elements that must be conducted in sequence and neither rushed nor omitted. Being patient implies an ability to provide attention and execution to each and every aspect of that endeavour.
    This year, I will “take my time” and allow myself the luxury of enjoying the process, to its fullest extent.
    Thanks, Paul.

  2. Wow, great article!!
    My one word – THANKFUL.
    I am THANKFUL for….. being my life (cancer survivor), my wife, my children, my brothers, my mom and dad, my grandparents, my friends…… you get the idea….. I will use this one word everyday. It will become part of my verbiage. Hopefully if I say it, I’ll truly become it….

  3. Looks like my comment from last week didn’t make it… The one word was PATIENCE. Be patient with my learning process. Be patient when I step up to the ball and not be in a hurry to hit it. Be patient with my results so that I don’t put so much pressure on my score. Golf is a game of timing and placement and if you or your club is not in the right place at the right time, the feeling of greatness is hard to achieve.

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