I’d say Good Riddance to 2020, but not so fast. I don’t know anyone who isn’t glad to see 2020 end. Yet 2020 was filled with lessons for all of us if we stop and think about it. And, it looks like we are still caught in the throes of the pandemic a bit longer, so the lessons continue.
Over the years I’ve picked a word to guide me as I start each year. I’ve been picking a word of the year since around 2005. I can’t remember exactly. I do remember why I started doing this.
Around that time, I began taking yoga classes from a local teacher named Kathy Thompson. I loved the classes, and I loved my yoga teacher. I always felt better after each class. I was inspired by the readings she would share. I appreciated the idea of practice rather than trying to be perfect. I enjoyed the other women in the class.
That year Kathy walked around the room with a basket and asked us to take a folded piece of paper. Inside was our word for the year. I remember the woman next to me got the word love. That was a wonderful word to focus on. My turn came. I got the word openness. Openness. Really?! Love was such a better word. I asked if I could draw another word. Kathy told me that the word picked me and I was to keep it.
I went home, wrote the word on a card, and taped it to my computer. I could see the word every day and it became an anchor of sorts. In the end, I was glad openness, not love, was my word. I think I saw more opportunities and took them as a result.
Since that time, I’ve continued to pick a word. If you do the arithmetic, I’m are up to 17 words. Here are some of the ones I’ve chosen since then: flourish, fearless, revenue, challenge, impact, consciousness, trust, bold, engaged. Each one served me at the time.
Last year, I think I think picked the perfect word – Simplify. Who would have known how appropriate that word would have been? Once March arrived and we went into lockdown, I could see how this was going to serve me.
Was I totally successful? No. I’m still working on the downsizing I started the year with. Did I simplify otherwise? Yes. I got rid of programs/apps/email/books that weren’t serving me any longer. I switched some of the programs I was using to ones that I felt were easier. I do think my life and business are simpler today than they were a year ago.
Why words, not resolutions?
Many people start the New Year with a resolution. You know — lose weight, get organized, save more, cut expenses, read more, spend more quality family time, etc.
They are really just things you “want.” To get what you want, you have to “become.”
The reason most resolutions don’t work is that you are still “being” the same person with new, or the same, wants.
Think about those resolutions. You want to have a trim body. You want to have money to take a special trip. You want to have an organized house. It’s what you want to have.
If you want to have those things, you need to choose to “be” a different person first. If you continue as the same person taking the same actions, you won’t get what you want. It’s the focus on being that makes a difference.
That is what I like about choosing a theme, whether that’s one word, two words, or a short phrase that you might call your mantra. It is not about resolving to do something. It is about becoming – becoming the person you want to be. That person has a better chance of getting what she wants.
Back to my first word openness. My word allowed me to focus on being a person who was more open to opportunities, more open to challenges, and more open to other people. It required me to “be” or work on “becoming” a certain person.
I have been thinking about my word, or rather my intention for being, for the year. I looked back at the words from previous years — openness, abundance, challenge, joy, consciousness, impact, trust among others.
A couple of years ago, my theme was no fear. It was about leaning in and taking bigger risks. Like any word or theme, I did have to think about who I would be if I was “riskier.” And it required me to grow.
The following year I wanted to build on taking more risks. I picked the word bold. It came to me while I was a docent at a home on a Christmas home tour. I commented often about the bold decorating choices the homeowner took. The next day when I went on the tour myself, I noticed again bold choices. They might not have seemed bold to others, but it got me thinking about decorating and more so about my life. I want to live bolder and be bolder.
You could choose to use the same word again if it still serves you. You could also decide it worked for the first six months of the year and then choose another to finish out the year.
Choosing your word
Have you picked a word or theme to guide you for the year? If you have not, give it a chance.
Here are some ideas if you need help getting started.
Think about the quality or direction that you want your year to take.
How would your year be different every day if you focused on this quality every day of the year? What would you and your life look like one year from now if you focused on this quality?
Think about what you might have resolved to do and ask yourself what quality is necessary for that.
If you followed our four-part goal setting blog series, ask what quality is needed to accomplish those goals.
Consider what comes to you every day.
Be open to what is around you. Did you hear a word in a church sermon that struck you? Did you catch a story online or on the television that seemed to stir something in you? Did a book title resonate with you? Did one of your friends note that you seemed to mention the need to “x.”
Try a search online for character qualities and go from there.
Lots of people immediately come up with a word that resonates with them. Others need a bit more time. Here’s a link to an online word generator. It might give you an idea. https://www.wordoftheyear.me/
Sit with the word.
It’s about finding your word, not someone else’s. My best advice is to think of a word, mull it over, and if it keeps showing up, that is the one.
Moving forward this year with your word
Once you come up with your word or intention, what do you do with it? Here are four tips:
Create habits or practices that will let you incorporate this word/theme into your life.
This could be as simple as creating goal/affirmation cards around your theme and reading them every day. I write my word on a sticky note and attach it to my computer where I will see it every day. Since I work with artists, many of them create a small piece of art with the word.
Share it with someone else.
This is especially helpful if the person will hold you accountable. Over the years I have shared mine with some of my mastermind partners or family members, and we talked about why we chose the words we did. This year I’m in an accountability group and that will prompt me to use my word.
Look at where you’ve sabotaged yourself with respect to this word in the past.
Why is now the right time for this word? We are all our own worst enemy, and it’s important to look at where we stop ourselves. When you understand this, it will help you watch for triggers that may stop you from going forward.
Do something that lets you take action on your intention.
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to know the “how.” You are letting the word guide who you become. When you are ready, the how will show up.
If you use affirmations, be sure to include your word in at least one of them.
This will be more powerful for you and keep you focused.
As you review your progress on a regular basis, ask yourself if your word is still guiding you.
If not, how can you get back on track? Or ask if it’s time to choose a new word. It’s possible that the word has served its purpose and you need a new one.
What is my word for this year?
I ended up with two: Joy and
One of my friends always comes up with two words. One is how she wants to feel, an inner intention. The other is more practical, an outer intention. I liked that approach for 2021.
How did I come to my two words?
I’ve always been a glass-full gal and appreciate my blessings. Even so, I want to be more mindful about ways to bring joy into my life every day. I’d been leaning in this direction and read the book Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee purposefully. It confirmed my choice.
When the word emerge resonated with me, I looked up the definition. Often, we have a preconceived idea of what a word means, and we are not quite right. Merriam-Webster defines emerge four ways,
1. to become manifest; become known
2. to rise from or as if from an enveloping fluid; come out into view
3. to rise from an obscure or inferior position or condition
4. to come into being through evolution
I can see how this word will come into play in many of the goals I’ve set for the year. I want to spend more time on my own art. I want to rise from the clutter around me and settle in a new place. I want to grow more as a person.
I really thought this was a great word. And, I slept on it. For several days. When I woke up this morning, it dawned on me that emerge was a want word. You can even read want in my goals.
So, my question became who do I have to be to emerge. For me, that answer is someone who finishes. So finish is my word.
All that said, I’m not done with Simplify. I think it will have to be an undercurrent if I want to accomplish any emerging by finishing.
What word will you choose for this year? And, if you picked a word for last year, how did that make a difference in your life? Please share your word below to make that commitment and see what you can create in 2021.