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Word of the Year

It’s December 31st and you’re feeling a little toasty after that 2nd glass of champagne. You think to yourself, this is it. The end of the year. What have I done, accomplished, improved in myself over the year? (Intense introspection while drinking can’t just be a me thing right?)

Time to set some resolutions. Next year is going to be my year. I’m going to finally do those things I said I would and come Monday I’m going to be a whole new and improved person. Look out world.

Then you go back to the everyday grind of life after your holiday high. And your resolutions fall by the wayside. Believe me, I get it.

You see, I have this tradition

Every mid- to late- December I sit down with my journal and review my year as well as read over my year in summaries for the last 5 years. I’m a nerd, I know. As I was going through this ritual I realized that for the last 3 years I have written either the same resolutions or a slight variation of them. Lose weight, pay off debt, excel in my primary activity, strengthen my relationships. And for at least the last 3 years my resolutions were forgotten within the first blush of January until my next end of the year review.

Have you had a similar relationship with resolutions?

Thought so.

I am changing the cycle

This neverending cycle of optimism followed by disheartenment followed by abandonment can’t continue. It’s terribly unproductive and needs to be improved.

I am a research nut and decided that my one and only “resolution” would be to look into alternatives to resolutions that people actually benefit from regularly. One alternative that I had heard before but never really considered for myself is setting a “Word of the Year” for yourself.

What exactly does that mean?

This phrase has been kicking around the internet among the self-help and better living blogs for a couple of years now.

The basic premise is that having a word of the year is an alternative to yearly resolutions. To put it simply, instead of having a bunch of resolutions, you have a theme that you choose to focus on through actions and reflection.

By focusing your energy on one simplified overarching theme that you want to improve, you have a useful tool in aligning your actions with your intentions.

Why is that better than resolutions?

Resolutions have such an inflexible finality about them. Many times resolutions are things that you hope for but have no clear plan on how to achieve, or are things that are so wildly ambitious that by the time February rolls around you have completely abandoned them for a bad deal.

Having a Word of the Year is a much more forgiving idea. It allows you to set little goals and ambitions for yourself throughout the year that align with your intentions.

It is much better to set 20 little goals for yourself that you can actually attain than one big goal that you give up.

Am I saying that losing weight, paying down debt, and strengthening your relationships are impossible goals? No, of course not. They just require a different sort of planning than resolution making.

Choosing a Word for your year

Be very honest about the things in your life that you want to change or focus on

To decide on your Word of the Year you first need to sit down with yourself and be very honest about the things in your life that you want to change or focus on.

Take 20 minutes and drink a cup of coffee or tea to think about how you want your life to look when the end of the year comes around again.

Make a list and review it

Are there any underlying themes for the things that you want to do? For example, you might have things like “have more energy throughout the day”, “fit into my favorite dress again”, and “make it to the finals for my company softball league”. These all are clearly health and fitness related so you have a health theme going.

Or maybe you have “spend more time with the kids”, “call mom more often”, and “go on dates with my husband”. These are more of a family theme.

Choose a theme that speaks to you most

I found that after writing down all my hopes for the year and areas where I want to improve, one theme either stuck out more than others or spoke to me in a more powerful way. This is your Word.

Some examples of Words:

Aligning with your word

What does it mean to align with your word? That’s just a fancy way of saying that when you plan out your day or week, you make an effort at including activities that would fall under the theme of your word.

For example: If your word was Balance, you might plan to give yourself time in the morning for meditation, a relaxation activity for every or every couple stressful ones, or read one for pleasure book for every work-related one.

All your goals for self-improvement do NOT need to fall under your Word theme. You are free to pursue those opportunities as you wish. Your Word is just guiding force to help you consciously choose to incorporate those activities that are most important to you into your daily life.

Get crafty

One thing that has been proven to help with focusing and aligning to goals and projects is creating a vision board. These things are not only fun to make but also pure gold for keeping you motivated and inspired.

There are instructions all over the web on how to make your own. I really enjoyed this one that goes into a little bit about why vision boards work as well as how to make your own.

I am also a big fan of making virtual vision boards on sites like Pinterest and PicMonkey. PicMonkey also has a really nice tutorial on how to make a couple different styles of virtual vision boards, like the one I made below, as well.

My word for the year


I have lived a very safe and generally content life up to this point. Yet, I am always left feeling a little empty, like there has to be more than safety and contentment to a well-lived life.

When I made my list of honest reflection I had things like, “travel more,” and “have exciting experiences,” and “live wildly for once.” My inner ego is just dying to finally experience uncomfortable growth. Adventure it is then.

I’m a sucker for lists and although I’m going to work on bringing adventure into many facets of my life, I created a list of things that I want to do that focus on the theme of Adventure. This list is full of boundary-pushing, comfort zone smashing, life experiences that I can’t wait to pursue. You can find this list on my Adventure List page which I will be updating throughout the year as I complete each of the items. I would love for you to follow along on my journey!

What about you?

Resolutions have never worked for me. Having a word of the year to focus on and use to bring clarity and purpose to my actions is a much more helpful alternative. What is your Word of the Year? Or are you a resolutions master? Let me know in the comments!