The first time I heard about a word of the year it was a light bulb moment. I found out about the idea via the Happier with Gretchen Ruben podcast, hosted by New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Ruben. And I thought to myself, why am I setting all of these goals when I’d probably have more success with just one?
What is a word of the year?
A word, or phrase, of the year, is a guide for what you want to get out of the year or an area of your life that you want to focus on. It’s a great way to set an intention for the year and work towards something that can provide real changes to your life.
The idea is to choose a single word that will serve as a guidepost for your actions and decisions throughout the year, reminding you of your overarching goal or focus.
Why you should choose a word of the year
A word of the year or guiding word is so much simpler than picking five to 10 new year’s resolutions. If you are anything like me you have had the same new year’s resolution for a number of years and never made any real progress on any of them. Picking just one word (I actually picked two for my first year) meant that I had one sole thing I was working towards for the entire year.
You can use your word of the year as a guide for any decisions that you need to make. And maybe even consider setting yourself a different word for your work.
Benefits of having a word of the year:
- Just one thing to work towards
- You can be hyper-focused on the one goal
- Use it to guide your decisions throughout the year
How to choose a word of the year
For me, my word of the year usually comes to me out of nowhere. And it usually happens around August, which is a good few months before the start of the new year. Some people may need to really think about it, maybe even journal through it. And for others, like me, it just appears out of the blue.
But I think it really comes down to what you want to achieve and improve, what you think is lacking in your life or the direction you want your life to go in.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- What do you want to focus on?
- What do you want more or less of in your life?
- Do you want to be better at something?
- What part of your life do you want to improve?
- Is there something in your life that is a recurring theme?
- Do you want to grow as a person?
- Do you want to improve your relationships?
- Are you craving more adventure in your life?
- What direction is the right direction?
Past words of the year in action
I’ve tried to pick the right word a few times now. Sometimes I hit the mark and make some positive life changes. But sometimes I ended up picking the wrong word.
In 2018 I wanted to improve my relationships. Mostly the relationships with my friends, but also family unit, my parents and grandparents as well as those in my professional life. So I chose the word Relationships. In order to make an improvement in this area, I hosted two girls’ nights for my friends at the start of the year. Those first two girls’ nights paved the way for what is now known as squad night, occurring roughly every month or two.
In 2019 I wanted to improve my health. But looking back I didn’t put a plan in place to help me make positive change in that area. There were a few different ways I was hoping to improve my health. Like drinking more water and exercising intentionally.
In 2020 I wanted to enhance the environment that I lived and worked in as well as the choices I made when it came to fashion and buying new household items. So it made sense to choose the word Environment. It was quite a big task to improve the environment in my house. But doing some small things like a fresh coat of paint, deep cleaning and decluttering have made quite a difference. I’m also paying a lot more attention to where things are made, how they are made and what they are made of so that I make choices that reflect my values.
In 2023 I want to say yes to more and be more open-minded about ideas that other people bring to me. So I chose the phrase all-in. I want to go all in on having fun, saying yes when I’d prefer to say no. I’m hoping it can make a difference in daily life for the whole year
Word of the year ideas
To help you come up with your own word of the year, take some inspiration from this word list. If you find one that speaks to you but isn’t quite right, use a thesaurus to find other similar words that might be more suitable.
Remember your word of the year
Having a constant reminder of your word can help keep it in the front of your mind when it comes to making decisions. And there are so many beautiful and creative ways to have this little reminder.
A desktop or phone background or screensaver is probably the easiest because you can do this yourself. There are so many tools you can do this with. I use Canva to make all of my blog images, so it makes sense for me to use it to make phone and desktop images too. Some other great tools are Instagram, PicMonkey, Snapseed, VSCO and DesingLab Studio.
Wearing a piece of jewellery with your personal word of the year is also a popular choice. There are plenty of jewellery makers on Etsy offering necklaces, bracelets, charms and keyrings. If you want to go the DIY route, My Intent has a DIY kit so you can make your own. If those are out of your price range, an engraved pet name tag is also a great option.
You can also work your word of the year into your home decor. From framed prints, laser-cut words, cushion covers and signs.
Or put your word on something you use on a daily basis, like a mug, a t-shirt or a bathroom mirror.
Should I pick more than one word?
Words of the year. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
By selecting multiple words of the year, you can focus on different aspects of your life that are important to you. For example, you might choose one word to represent your career aspirations, another to represent your health and wellness goals, and a third to represent your personal relationships. This approach can help you stay focused on multiple areas of your life and ensure that you’re making progress in all of them.
However, it’s important to be mindful of the potential downsides of choosing multiple words of the year. Too many words can be overwhelming and difficult to remember, which can make it harder to stay focused and motivated. Additionally, if your words of the year are too broad or vague, they may not provide enough guidance or direction for achieving your goals.
If you’re considering choosing more than one word of the year, it’s important to be intentional and strategic about your selection. Make sure that each word represents a specific goal or intention, and that they work together to create a cohesive framework for your personal growth and development.
When is the best time to pick a word of the year?
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now“. And that’s honestly the answer.
You can wait until next year, January 1st. But really, any time is the right time of year.
For me, a word usually comes to me sometime after my birthday. And your birthday is a great time to set goals.
You could also pick a word to cover a quarter of the year, depending on what stage of life you are in, or even to suit the current season.
Now that you know what a word of the year is, why you should have one, how to choose one, how a word of the year has helped me and how you can be reminded of it, you are ready to make next year the best year ever.