I don’t buy into New Year’s resolutions. Every first week of the year I see people online proclaim clichés about change, hit the gym with gusto, and list all their grand plans for the next 12 months. A few days to weeks later, it’s back to the old ways.
But I believe in the power of intention. I first learned about the concept of “your word” from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat Pray Love. No, she wasn’t talking about the Bible. She explained how a specific country, town, or person may be defined by just one word, or how a person’s entire year can be summarized by one word.
It reminded me of ikigai, a Japanese term that means “reason to get up in the morning or reason to enjoy life.” According to the Japanese culture, everyone has an ikigai, and it’s up to you to deeply search life for it.
I heard another version when I started working for BDJ Box. Founder Darlyn Ty shared that every January 1st, she chooses her “word of the year,” a word that sums up her mindset and goals for the next 12 months. Original credit goes to performer-turned-entrepreneur Christine Kane, who first wrote about “word of the year” in her blog.
She revolted against New Year’s resolutions and decided to simplify, focus, and be gentler about the approach. “Pick a word of the year,” she told her readers. “Just one word. That’s all. Then, hold that word in your mind throughout the year, and let your word guide you to take action.”
A classic example is losing weight. Instead of proclaiming, “I want to lose 20 lbs. this year!” choose a word that will help you attain long-term weight loss, among other personal goals. How about the word, “courage?” Write it in bold letters in your journal or planner. Say it aloud to yourself and allow that word to be part of your actions. For every decision you make for the next 12 months, from finally enrolling in your first yoga class to quitting that dead-end job, have courage in mind.
You will find that your chosen word surpasses a grandiose resolution, and it may even bring a string of other words along with it, such as passion and money. “The process will be organic and perfectly designed just for you,” Kane said.
Years after Kane first wrote about it, “word of the year” spread to online forums and publications. Some designers who are a fan of the concept have even created custom-made lettered jewelry for people who want to wear their word around their neck.
Kane now has a Word-Of-The-Year Discovery Tool, which you can download for free here. It’s reflective questionnaire with guidelines to help you figure out what your genuine word is, without hastily choosing one that simply sounds cool.
In 2012, my word was explore. In 2013, it was survive. In 2014, heal. In 2015, hope.
My 2016 word is thrive.
I am surrounded by an abundance of blessings, such as a multi-faceted career, earthly possessions, a humble circle of trusted loved ones, and a web of opportunities. I want to improve what I already have, and allow it to bring forth other words that are on my backup list—zeal, achieve, and innovate.
Now, dear readers, I urge you find your word. Embrace it. Claim it.
Feel free to share your word of the year below. I’d love to read your story behind it.