Goal Setting

How to Choose Your Word of the Year (and Stick With It!)

Your friends are all choosing a word of the year to be their rallying cry for the next 12 months. So, should you do it? And if so, how??
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New Year, new me? I've gone back and forth about New Year's Resolutions. I can't decide if they're too much pressure or not enough inspiration. But I am loving this Word of the Year trend! It sounds a little quirky at first, but stick with me: I think this is going to change everything! #wordoftheyear #wordoftheyearideas #intentionalliving

In between large sparkly balls dropping in downtowns everywhere and the rush to order crisp new planners in the hopes of procuring a productivity miracle, certain words start popping up all over social media on or around January 1st.

You’ve probably seen them! Words like intentional, focus, and the ever-popular simplify are on everyone’s minds and Instagram accounts. I even shared mine!

This worldwide internet phenomenon is called “Word of the Year.”

Your friends are all choosing a one word resolution to be their rallying cry for the next 12 months, and some even choose yearly goals aligned with the word so they can stay true to it in a practical way.

So, should you choose a word too? And if so, how??

I Wasn’t a Fan of the Trend … at First

I resisted “Word of the Year” for so long … for two reasons:

1. I couldn’t imagine putting myself under that much pressure. Choosing a ONE word resolution? For the entire year? Impossible. What if I chose the wrong word? That would be devastating. (I know you fellow perfectionists feel the same way.) 😉

2. Would choosing one word really make that much of a difference? In years past, I had flippantly picked words like “focus” and “intention” without any thought as to what goals would guide me toward fulfilling that word over the next 12 months.

But in 2018, I took the whole thing more seriously.

I was exhausted by social media. Tired of being glued to my phone. Disgusted at my addiction to app notifications and worrying about what emails needed my attention right away.

Right then and there, I decided to approach 2018 a little differently. (And then 2019. And then 2020!)

But for this particular year, I wanted to stop feeling the tug of my phone and be present wherever I was.

So that was my word. PRESENT.

bullet journal spread with word of the year: present

But instead of just choosing a word and doing nothing about it like before, I put boundaries in place that would guide me back to this word all year long.

Things like:

  • Saying no to screen time after 9pm
  • Not opening my phone until after my morning routine
  • Leaving my phone at home during walks
  • Focusing on one task (and one browser tab!) at a time
  • Time-blocking my projects so I would be more efficient and less distracted

Any time I felt myself drifting away, I’d acknowledge my slip-up, dust myself off, and start again.

Then the Calendar Flipped to 2019

After being motivated by my 2018 success, I decided to try the whole “word of the year” thing for a second time, and I chose GROW to influence this next season of my life.

woman holding bullet journal spread with word of the year: grow

Just like before, I saw this word come to life in multiple areas!

  • My online blogging business revenue grew by 30% over the course of the year.
  • I grew in my knowledge of how to study Scripture for myself (thanks in part to my friend and role model Phylicia Masonheimer!)
  • I tumbled down the rabbit hole of the Enneagram personality framework which provided so much clarity about why I do the things I do. This personal growth journey helped me recognize my weaknesses so I could take steps to conquer them.
  • Joseph and I also invested some money into stocks, and our investment grew by 20%. I know that’s not something you can predict, but because growing our retirement was one of my goals that year, it’s worth mentioning!

Now, that I’ve chosen a “Word of the Year” consecutively for two years, I’ve found that my life can center around one word. It’s not as overwhelming as I thought!

Because when you choose one word to be your theme for the entire year, it helps guide all your decisions. And if you tend to start new things or get distracted easily (ahem), your word of the year can bring you back to the present and remind you of why you chose it in the first place.

Have I convinced you to try “Word of the Year” yet?

There’s no pressure here to choose your perfect word. But I do have some tips to start the ideas flowing.

How to Pick Your Word of the Year

Think over the past few months and ask yourself three simple, yet revealing questions about your life:

  1. What worked?
  2. What didn’t?
  3. What would you like to change?

Jot these down in your bullet journal or planner and give yourself enough time to brain dump everything you can think of.

You may start seeing a theme develop through your writing. Is there one word that encompasses your desires for the future? A dictionary or thesaurus can also help you discover one that feels right!

Of course, sometimes the word is already on your heart and you just need confirmation.

I felt this with my word, “Present.” This word kept popping up in books, on signs, and even in some podcasts. Those outside sources confirmed that the word I thought might work was indeed the right one for me!

The Secret to Sticking To Your Word of the Year

It’s always a good idea to ask yourself occasionally,

“Does what I’m about to do line up with my word of the year?”

If not, that task, project, or event might deserve a “no”, or at least a delay so you can focus on the specific, actionable goals that align perfectly with your guiding word.

idyllic window scene with word of the year wall art

But your word of the year will only be effective if you refer back to it consistently, which is easier to do when you see it consistently! Here are a few ways to do that:

  1. Make your word tangible by writing it down on the top of every month in your planner as you make your schedule and set your goals for that season.
  2. Turn your word into a pretty phone or desktop wallpaper.
  3. Even better, display your word where you can see it every day as an art piece!

There are plenty of Etsy shops that offer to do this with your word, and this is what I did with my word GROW. Here are a few of my favorites!

So…What is My Word for 2020?

Needless to say, I’m a big believer in Word of the Year now, so of course, I had to choose another word this year!

And that word is:

Peace.

bullet journal flatlay with word of the year: peace

I’m desperate for it.

I feel tugged in 1,546 different directions—mentally, physically, and emotionally. I’m tired of the noise and the never-ending to-do’s. Even when I do have a spare moment, I pick up my phone and fill it with screen time, bouncing around from app to app rather than intentionally using technology to serve me.

I want to trade in stress for calm. I want to embrace the quiet without having to fill it with something. Most of all, I want to be okay with not getting everything … and still be content.

I’m looking forward to how 2020 will stretch me … even though I know it will be uncomfortable at times!

So if you’re feeling a little lost right now but don’t like the pressure of setting twenty different goals for the year, I’d encourage you to choose one word.

Let this word be your rallying cry over the next twelve months. Let it be the driving force behind how you envision your life unfolding in light of this word and how it will impact your life in different areas.

By the end of the year, you’ll be the one looking back and noticing all the small, unexpected ways this word showed up in your life. And you’ll be on the edge of your seat come next January to choose a new one.

Want to know what my word of the year for 2021 is?

Share Your Word in the Comments!

I’d love to know your word of the year so we can fill the comment section with dozens of potential word choices. You never know who’s been thinking about your word and your comment could be confirmation for them!

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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23 Comments

  1. I have a personal question from your post…. I was hoping you could help me, as this is an area I really struggle with, and it has been on my mind for a year or so now.. but Now is the time to begin..
    Please any tips would be gratefully accepted. The sentence in question is below: ……….

    I grew in my knowledge of how to study Scripture for myself (thanks in part to my friend and role model Phylicia Masonheimer!)

    Thank you in advance
    Roma from Victoria Australia..

    1. Hi Roma,

      You have me at the edge of my seat wondering what your questions was going to be! 🙂

      If it is along the lines of figuring out how to study the scriptures more, I really recommend Phylicia’s resources that you can find here: https://phyliciamasonheimer.com/

  2. So, I think this is my 3rd year also. And last year I did put my word (Focus) on my monthly page/spread in my bujo, writing deeper meaning with it each month.
    This year my word is BELIEVE and it got a whole page for January 2020, with lots of “Be” statements. But what you wrote here and in your email showed me I need to have guides (boundaries you called them) to help define ways to accomplish growing my faith. I’ll be pondering these next few weeks for writing my February BELIEVE page. (long comment) 🙂

  3. I have been on the Word of the Year wagon for a few years but this year was really struggling. Nothing seemed to fit. Then it hit me…Heal or Healing! I have been struggling with health issues, mainly a slipped disc pinching a nerve, so this year I need to concentrate on my health! Self-care would have been a good word too.

    1. Healing – I love it! There is so much that can go into that as well, physical, emotional, and even relational healing.

  4. My word of the year will be: Choose. I always try to plan my week with things that are important for me. But it always end with a lot of things I have to do for other people, to make their life work. And in the meantime my work piles up.I eat food that I don’t like, because my family likes other food. And so on. This year I will focus on making decisions that makes me feel good. And if I feel good, I will have the energy to take care of the people who are important for me.

  5. My first year to settle on a word. Prepare. I have been a Girl Guide – Canadian here – for most of my life and this naturally makes me think of the organization motto “Be Prepared”. It has been a difficult couple of years and from some of it I have learned I often end up in trouble because I did not think things through or did not prepare well enough so for this year I am going to try to be better prepared for what I can. Always knowing there will be situations coming up that I could not prepare for. I will have more energy for the unexpected if I am not using it to sort out what I could have “seen coming”.

  6. I’m thinking of my word being Accomplish…to me it means doing something or finishing something towards a goal. It’s motivating and releases me from doing to much. So if I accomplish anything it’s a good thing. It’s one thing off my list and one less stress in my life.

    1. Accomplishments can be like a snowball rolling down a hill. The more you accomplish, the more motivation you have to accomplish even more!

  7. Kathy Skinner, I have back issues too. Bulging disk. I was told my orthopedist that I may need to have back surgery. That didn’t sound like fun to me! So, I began a program called Hinge Health that I found out about through my work insurance. Here is a link to the website. https://www.hingehealth.com/for-individuals
    You might want to check with your insurance to see if it’s covered. It has really helped my back. Worth checking it out.

  8. My word is persevere. I’ve never had a ‘word’ before so this should be interesting. I’ve got a lot of home renovations to get done this year, sorting out contractors etc having moved home at the end of October I still haven’t fully unpacked. I know I’ll find more that needs to be done as I progress thru the projects. So persevere seems appropriate, keep on rolling along getting everything done bit by bit.

  9. This is the first year that I have chosen a word for the year. My word is Persistence. I’m so bad about starting things, getting excited, only to let the big idea go by the waist side. This year I will be more persistent to accomplish my goals, to fulfill my dreams. I have been working on starting a blog for almost a year now. This year, sooner rather than later, I’m going to launch that blog, and I’m going to do everything I can to make it a success. Persistence…that is my word for 2022.

  10. My word for the year 2022 is WAIT. Look forward to seeing all the ways God will use this each day . Blessings to you.

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