2024 – My Aspirations in One Word

December 31, 2023

Every year about this time, I write a post about my goals for the year. I do it for myself, and I think that by posting it publicly, I have an even better chance of making progress toward those goals. Last year, for my 2023 “one-word goal”, I actually chose two words to focus on: creativity and self-discipline. Some of you liked it when I wrote, “I’m not creative enough to find a new term that combines them, and I’m not self-disciplined enough to choose just one.” I believe that those two words are still outstanding goals for 2024, but I want a new one. It’s challenging to renew or improve your efforts when you don’t update your mindset. 

So my word for 2024 intertwines creativity, self-discipline, and more, and is inspired by the greatest coach of all time, John Wooden. Coach Wooden wrote, “Make each day your masterpiece.” When I shared that quote with my wife Jill, she responded, “That is way too much pressure.” Take that, Coach Wooden! But I want this kind of pressure in my life. So . . . Masterpiece is my word for 2024.

Things have changed for me since I wrote my goals for 2023. At that time, I was very immersed in a full-time leadership position which was challenging in a wide variety of ways. In last year’s post I wrote, “The busier I am, the more self-discipline I need to get my priorities accomplished.”

Well, I am rethinking that statement.

Because here’s the thing – when you are extremely busy, you have multiple deadlines, and somehow, maybe because you have to, you find a way to finish what needs to be done. But being retired, I have fewer deadlines imposed by outside forces. And it may sound odd, but in this new era of my life, I need to be more self-disciplined than ever. My days do not get planned for me by the gazillions of meetings that used to dominate my calendar. (I used to say that I ran or attended meetings for a living. Funny, but really true.) In this new phase of my life, I have to be even more focused to make each day my masterpiece. 

For the last four decades, I have been on a quest to become organized enough to be great at my job and to make the most out of life. It’s a quest that continues to this day.

I would say that I lived in organizational oblivion until I was in my late twenties. That all changed when I started using a FranklinCovey planner. I loved my Planner. I was recently at a meeting with my friend Christine when she laid out her beautiful leather-bound FranklinCovey Planner on the table. I had not seen one in years, and I wasn’t sure they made them any more. I was so jealous of her at that moment. It was like seeing somebody wielding a beautiful Mont Blanc fountain pen. That FranklinCovey planner made me better. It made me focus on each day. I listened to cassette tapes of Steven Covey as he guided me on how to be a better leader, spouse, and person through the FranklinCovey Planner. I attended conferences with other devotees. It was the center of my organizational existence. But, over the last 15 years, for better or for worse, my phone and laptop eclipsed that wonderful planner. And while I was so envious and a little wistful when I saw Christine unsheathe that FranklinCovey Planner, I don’t want to go back. So, without my beloved planner, how do I make each day my masterpiece?

For me, it all starts with having a clear idea of what I need to get done. David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) has been a major influence on me here. I keep several task lists on Google Tasks: a big picture list, project lists, a list of what can get done when I have time, and a list of tasks to be done as soon as possible. I have also begun working as an educational consultant. I have several different projects that I work on, and I keep a task list for each of them. I spend dedicated time reviewing all of these lists every week, and it helps me in my weekly planning.

As far as my calendar goes, I keep just one Google Calendar. Having the same calendar on my computer and phone makes everything easier. Each week, and then each day, I block off time to get essential tasks done.

But the Franklin Planner mentality lives on. If I’m going to make each day a masterpiece, I have found that I need actual sheets of paper to write on, something on which to center my day, and something that allows me to physically check off the boxes when I finish each task. I try to be as joyful as my friend Ellen, who checks boxes off her list with delight and flair. Over the last six months, I have been developing a personalized one-page document that lists tasks I can center upon each day to make it my masterpiece. It also leaves an area for things that need to get done from my priority list. It is this piece of paper, customized for each day, that will help me to maximize my chances of living out Coach Wooden’s advice.

So what’s on my task list for every day, and who or what inspired that item? If you’re still reading, I’m sorry that you’re as geeky as I am about organization and productivity. That being said, I love you for still being here because of that geekiness, so let’s go!

My friend Ted reached out to me after my last post, and reminded me of a poem we read back in high school. It was Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. It was a perfect response to my post. If we are going to fight getting slower as we age, and if we are going to make the effort to make each day a masterpiece, we cannot let life just happen to us. We only have so many days here, and I hope we can do all we can to make each one of them as special as possible. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “You are made for perfection, but you are not yet perfect. You are a masterpiece in the making.”

As I said, it’s been a long journey of trying so many different ways of making each day a masterpiece. I am excited about my current efforts, and I know my journey is not done.

Like last year, I’d love to hear the words you’re thinking about to guide and inspire your 2024.

I wish you all a happy, productive, exciting, meaningful, and healthy new year, and may your 2024 be a true masterpiece!

To get updates on when my next post comes out, please click here.

Post #98 on www.drmdmatthews.com


Photo by Meghan Scheding – Jill and I in the last week of 2023, checking off a few boxes as we looked out towards 2024 from the top of the South Lykken Trail in Palm Springs, CA

My daily task list is a Google Doc, and if you would like to see it, you can find it here

Archbishop Tutu’s quote can be found in The Book of Joy, a beautiful book that encapsulates a series of conversations between him and his very close friend, The Dalai Lama.

And here is my list of words, updated from reader input last year, that might guide your thinking for the year.

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  1. Mikke Pierson says:

    Love this. We have our different ways, but we connect at being organized and focused on a fairly deep level. My daily schedule includes how I eat and a reminder to hydrate. It includes how I emotionally and physically want to show up in my day and in every event on my calendar. It reminds me to do my personal affirmations, even though I know i would never forget to do them.

    Thanks for sharing and happy 2024!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      I figured you would be the type of thought geek who might enjoy this post. Thanks for your refections, and thanks for making me better with your daily thoughts. I am grateful for you, Mikke!

  2. Michelle Krzmarzick says:

    Thanks for this, Mike! You have inspired me to choose Joy as my aspiration. I want to look forward to joy, rather than look back to what has NOT brought me joy, and to seek it continually. Being in the workforce still, my work life is about running meetings, but I will keep seeking joy wherever I go. Happy New Year!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      I love it, Michelle. You’ve always done a great job of bringing joy to those meetings you run so well. The Book of Joy is such a wonderful read – I encourage you to let it help you define, enhance, and bring joy to the world. Have a great 2024!

  3. Erin says:

    Love it, but it feels a bit too “productive” to me. Sometimes downtime/being slow can be very productive for the soul too.
    I’d also add in serve others – whether it be volunteering or doing a small kindness or offering to help a neighbor
    Also, connect with other humans – connection is such an essential action for our mental and emotional health
    Sending you and Jill my best for 2024!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Great to hear from you, Erin! Even back in high school, I could always count on you for honest responses. I love your question about being too productive. I get it. I’m a huge fan of downtime, but I’m not ready to make that my focus. But I do need to include it in my life. Slow, service, and connections are great words. I’ll add slow to the list. Thanks for connecting, and I wish you a wonderful 2024!

  4. Birgitta Istock says:

    Love the reminder of the one word idea to guide the new year… And thank you for the updated list to inspire a good choice.

    While I personally agree with Jill about the word “masterpiece”, my nerdy self appreciates any suggestions on how to make the most of the time we have! My transition from paper to electronic calendar is sadly stalled in the middle — which is not very efficient! 🤣

    I’m curious about your goals around your Educational Consultant work…if you want to share.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      I don’t think I’m necessarily right about the move away from paper. Jill is still fully paper in all of her organizational endeavors, and she’s killing it. And I’ll think about sharing more about the educational consulting in a later post. The bottom line is that I was ready to retire in terms of the stresses of the job. But as I told Jill, I felt that I was retiring at the top of my game. I feel like I have so much to offer, and I am looking for ways to share that. I believe that my educational consulting can be that avenue. It’s also a way to keep me current on issues that schools, teachers, and school leaders are facing. Thanks for the question, thanks for reading, and I hope you have an outstanding 2024!

  5. Susan says:

    Awe Mike, you remain one of my favorite inspirational teachers and I love reading your reflections! Happy New Year and thank you for sharing your journey! My word for 2024 is Peace!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Nice to hear from you, Susan! Thanks for the kind words! I love your word. It’s so needed.

  6. Wayne F Reel says:

    Mike, I really resonated with your line, ..for this…era of my life, I need to be more self-disciplined…

    Enjoy your posts, Mike.

    Best wishes for 2024!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Wayne – Always good to hear from you. And I’m not sure you need to change. You’ve done spectacularly well in your life just the way you are, and most of us do not want to see you change. Best wishes for your 2024 as well!

  7. Bill Sampson says:


    Happy New Year to you and Joe Bruin and your family. Coach Wooden and I left UCLA the same year (1975). That means that for me, there is only one Coach – yes he was the best.

    Although she never discussed it with me (more likely I was just not paying attention) my Mom made lists daily and proudly checked off what she had done. I should have paid more attention. I never acquired the habit despite past resolutions. I’m stuck in Outlook – at least it keeps me out of malpractice.

    Given the blizzard of gym equipment ads I’ve received I suspect that a lot of people will choose the word “fit.” Perhaps I should too although being above ground, standing erect and taking solid food puts me way ahead of too many who are not as lucky as I so I’ll try something else.

    Only after I had picked my word did I read your list. Lo and behold “Play” is there – good thing. That embodies a lot for me: after a Mohs procedure that has left my lower lip numb, so far, I still hope to be able to “play” the trumpet. The most fun I had playing as a kid was riding my bike, so I plan to “play” the Mammoth Gran Fondo – a lot goes into preparation. Viewing the eclipse in April as we will has already required a lot of planning – all done – so can “play” in a locale, Texas, which I had planned never to again visit. Climbing a couple more state highpoints might by “play” although with only 6 hard ones out of 50 left only the seriously accomplished could call those “play” – and as always in the mountains, care and planning and fitness are not optional.

    Feel free to suggest that my word should be “brevity.” May you have 366 masterpieces in 2024.


    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Suggesting that your word should be brevity would be like suggesting that Sampson cut his hair or that Superman should wear a necklace of kryptonite. I’ll take the real Bill Sampson any time. I love your focus on play. It’s something I’ve always believed in, and sometimes been criticized for. May you play hard (and safe) in 2024, and enjoy the ride. I’m hoping to be in Arkansas for the 2024 eclipse. All the best, my friend.

  8. Kyle Vos strache says:

    I am not yet at the point in life where I have the downtime, but I do feel the pressure and chaos of each day, the multiple tasks, the large and small goals and the balance between work and life. In many ways, I think what you wrote above is about deciding what is a success for any given task. Maybe I’m too oriented on those work goals, and should fine more time to make successes about living and enjoying all of the moments along the way.
    All the best to you and Jill. Wishing for a happy 2024. -Kyle

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Kyle – So good to hear from you. I have had several years in my professional life where my professional goals far outweighed my personal ones. The first year in a new job was always one of those years. And some years were just extraordinarily challenging at work. I imagine the same is true for anyone starting a business. That being said, there’s still room to not give much time to personal goals in those years, but for the little time that you do have, make it count as much as possible. Wishing you luck in your professional and personal endeavors, and yes, have a happy 2024!

  9. Mitchell Ozawa says:

    Hi Mike. Wonderful post. As usual, you have put my brain to work. The word for me is “purpose”. 2023 was a terrific year. Yet, having a better focus on my purpose in life or the goals I want to achieve for myself should provide me with more satisfaction. Happy New Year!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      I love that word. The people at Blue Zones think it is by far the most important word. May your 2024 be as good or better than your terrific 2023. Thanks for staying in touch, Mitch!

    2. Susan A Liberati says:

      Hey Mitchell! Happy New Year from your old friend Susan Adams Liberati. Your brother Mike’s SAE lil sis
      Happy New Year and so fun to see we have a mutual friend in Dr M‼️

  10. Daniel Wren says:

    I find myself looking forward to your blog posts. They are always thought provoking. And once provoked I feel compelled to comment. Please indulge my thoughts again.
    Thank you for your list of words to consider. For 2024 I have chosen “flow”. Not as in go with the flow but more in line with let it flow.
    My attempt will be to be more in tune with the flow of time, life and nature. To maintain goals for myself yet also to incorporate the natural flow of the day and the world.
    Thanks again for your writings.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, Daniel! Always good to hear from you. Flow is one of my absolute favorite words. I think it can mean a variety of things, and each of us can choose what works best for us. For me, I love the concept of flow as defined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi – “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” I wrote about it a few years ago, and I think about it regularly. Thanks for your thoughts and for your encouragement. I do appreciate it!

      1. Daniel Wren says:

        Thanks for your response. I read your prior post and watched the Ted talk. Very interesting and inspiring. Thanks for the suggestions.


  11. Mike,
    Thank you for inspiring me to engage, think about one word and share. I’ve read most of your post since I discovered your blog in May/June, but this is the first time I’m leaving a reply. You write like you speak. A gift of a compelling and compassionate writer is the ability to transport the reader to another dimension. For me, I was transported to the round table of your PYL office with the sunlight shimmering through the large windows. A gifted writer also makes the reader feel empowered and motivated to take action. So here goes…

    The word I’d like to focus on in 2024 is equanimity, “meaning a state of mental balance and even-mindedness. It’s about accepting the impermanent nature of things and realizing that all experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant, will pass.” I learned this word from S.N. Goenka who taught a Vipassana meditation course I took about 5 years ago. I try to practice this daily and consistently, but it’s not easy in our increasingly complex world. As the world turns in 2024, thank you for reminding me to refocus and double down on practicing equanimity.

    Wishing you and Jill joy and peace in 2024. Thank you for sharing. Thank you…


    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Gisele – So good to hear from you. Thank you for the beautifully described memories of us working together last year. It was truly a gift. And thank you for teaching me a new word. Although I had heard it before, I appreciate you defining it, and describing how you learned it. I’m adding it to the list, and I believe it is a word that all of us should consider, simply because we all experience suffering in our lives, and we have to find ways to accept it, while continuing to work for good and beauty in the universe. Thank you again, and have a wonderful 2024!

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