How to choose your word of the year

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How do you go about choosing one word for a whole year? What if you choose wrong? And is it really possible to choose just one word?

The answer is yes, and I am going to give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to choose your own word to guide your year. I’m going to share with you the most important lesson I’ve learned over the past decade of doing this, I am going to share what my words have been each year and what they invited in, and I’m going to provide some suggestions on how to choose the word that’s right for you.

Why should you choose a word for your year?

The idea of resolutions has never really sat right with me. I’m all for writing down measurable goals and working toward things, but to me resolutions feel blech. I’m just not interested.

Instead, setting a word as a simple checkpoint allows me to consider things fully — does a thing I’m considering serve this word? If no, reconsider. If yes, let’s go.

For me, it’s both easier and bigger. Setting an intention through this word is far more about who I want to be, rather than what I want to doIt shifts my value from what I can produce to what kind of human I aim to be.

The other part of this won’t be surprising to anyone who knows me. I am a writer and I believe that words hold magic. In the same way each religion and spirituality has symbols, words themselves are symbols. We assign their meaning. So when we hold one in front of ourselves as a beacon, it pulls in that magic. It focuses it. And it allows our own magic to focus on it too. It makes clear to the world what we want more of and our energy goes toward that.

First, the lesson.

I used to think that setting a word meant accepting that you were going to get all the difficult lessons that came with it. I thought you could only truly learn lessons by being knocked down and being forced to fight back to prove how much you want it. It’s why I very purposely didn’t choose a word in 2018 and 2019. I was exhausted. I had been learning hard lessons for years. I was breaking and I needed to rest.

Before I set my 2020 words, I had the realization — what if this was easy? What if my hard headed self could actually be taught lessons with ease, and with grace. What if the universe was protecting me? I invite you to choose your word with the same commitment to inviting in flow, rather than expecting it to be hard.

Next, my words.

Over the years, the words I’ve chosen have shifted, as I learned more about how I wanted to call things in.

In 2010, my word was healthcare. It’s not the kind of word I would choose now, but I was new to the game, ya know. I was also a person with type 1 diabetes with no health insurance, because it was before the Affordable Care Act. Life was pretty scary, but I did get health insurance that year. In 2011, my word was money. In 2012, Relationships — friends, family, and growing in my romantic relationship at the time. 2013 was Wellness. 2014, realignment.

2015 was growth. It was the year a major relationship ended, but it was also the year I became myself. In 2016, my word was Purpose. It was the year I accepted a job with a major diabetes non-profit, moved to New York City, and wrote my first book. That was a bit of an overachiever year. In 2017, my word was voice. It was the year my book came out in print, but it was also the year I’ve written more through more channels and platforms than I ever had before or since.

In 2018 and 2019, I didn’t choose words. I had attached to the idea that choosing words would invite in hard lessons, and my spirit was exhausted. I now know that the lessons don’t have to be hard, but I’m still glad I gave myself rest. In retrospect, that’s exactly what my words could have been.

In 2020, I chose two words for the first time. Write and Connect. My cup felt full enough to do so, and they’re what felt right.

In 2021, it became two words with one meaning — Divine Feminine. It’s been mind-boggling how much I’ve grown into the woman I always wanted to be but was never quite sure I’d be able to become. Grounded. Assured. Connected. Intuitive. The words led me in ways I underestimated could happen.

I always look forward to growing more into the person I am meant to be through these words and through their intention.

Now, you’re up. Here’s what I suggest to choose your word for the year.

Most of this comes down to observing and reflecting. There’s no need to force it. The right word will come to you. Whether you’re more driven by emotion and intuition, like me, or more driven by logic and reason like a few of you I’ve heard from, the word that makes sense will come.

I usually start this ruminating process in late September or October, but I rarely choose my word for sure until December. In the end we set our own calendars; choosing now is better than never.

Notice what comes up and what keeps coming up. Take walks. Work out. Meditate. Spend time outside. Write down thoughts.

Write about what themes have been popping up in your life lately — is there anything in particular you’ve been avoiding, not giving enough attention to? Is there a common thread among your personal relationships or professional work that may be worth working on? How do you want to show up in the world? What do you want to improve about your relationship with yourself? Who are you growing into being?

Be more concerned with what feels good, rather than what feels like you should choose it. Be more concerned with what brings you joy and levity, rather than what feels dutiful.

More precise words work better, I think. When less fits under the umbrella, you can put more energy toward it. When you do those gut checks of, “does this thing serve my intention” damn near everything serves the intention of ‘happy’. Less serves the intention of ‘serenity.

Once you have your word, put it all over the place. Write it down and stick it in your wallet. Write it on whiteboards in your office or on a note stuck to your fridge. Make it front and center on your vision board. Put it in your IG or Twitter bio. It’s up to you how private or how public you make your word — I haven’t found it to matter much either way. But make sure your mind and spirit is being constantly reminded of it.

The details are not your responsibility; they’ll show up as they need to. But the intention lies wholly on your shoulders. As you go about the new year, use your word as your gut check, as your accountability partner. Be open to saying no to the things that don’t serve it. Be open to saying hell yes to the things that come your way from it, even when they scare you.

Once you figure out your word, I want to hear it. About 5 years ago, people started sending me their words, and it’s one of my favorite things of my year. That so many of you associate choosing your word with me. I hope you continue doing it. It makes my heart happy.