Many people begin the new year by making resolutions — coming up with a list of goals and plans to accomplish. But many people also struggle to keep those resolutions for a full twelve months. Trying to pick specific goals, let alone stick with them, can be daunting. But there’s another way to approach the new year that helps you focus on what you want to accomplish (without the looming pressure of a resolution checklist).
Choose a word.
Choose one word that sums up what you want the coming year to be, or a concept you want to focus on in your life.
As a quick disclaimer, I’m not opposed to resolutions. I believe, when approached correctly, they can be beneficial. But I know that many people find them more stressful than helpful. For those people especially, I highly recommend replacing a resolution list with a word for the year. (Personally, I tend to both choose a word and make a few small resolutions. Do what works best for you.)
Having a word for the year is a way to help you focus and be intentional, to find motivation in the directions you want to go, and to give insight and a point of reference when you reflect on what’s happening in your life and how you can use it to grow.
The benefit of a word is that it provides a specific focal point that can help anchor you, but it is vague enough to not have the strictness and pressure of resolutions, or the guilt attached with not being able to keep up with them. There’s no way to fail your word — it’s simply there when you need it.
I was introduced to the concept of choosing a word for the year by my older sister Nicole, who began choosing “one little word” each year in 2013. She encouraged my mom and I to try it as well.
2021 will be my sixth year choosing a word. My words have been “follow,” “kadima” (which is Hebrew for “forward”), “embrace,” “prioritize,” and “rise.” Some of my mom and sister’s words have included “grow,” “wait,” “trust,” “love,” and “focus.”
Sometimes I choose my word by thinking about what I believe will occur in the coming year and what I will need through those experiences. Sometimes it’s a concept I want to work on in my own life. It’s always personal, applicable on multiple levels, and something that feels right after thought and prayer.
One thing I have learned over the past five years is that the words I pick tend to take on a life of their own. I usually have a specific concept of what a word will mean, but by the end of the year I see how it applied in ways I never imagined. The word “embrace,” for example, is one I chose looking forward to exciting opportunities that were in front of me. Many of those opportunities fell through, and I had to learn to embrace disappointments, changes, and learning to say “no.” My word for the year took on different meanings than I expected, but I learned from them.
Other times, my word fits the year even better than I could have planned. I chose “rise” for 2020 because 2019 was probably the hardest year of my life on a personal and emotional level, and I was trying to get back on my feet. “Rise” kept coming up in little ways (quite honestly the main way was in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which I went to see for the fourth time on New Year’s Day), and it slowly settled into my mind as the only possible word for the year. What I didn’t know was that this year would be one of the hardest that everyone collectively has ever been through, and that we would all need to learn to rise, time and time again. With each setback, each time 2020 seemed to knock me — and all of us — down, I remembered that I had determined to rise.
I’ve decided (in the course of writing this column) that my word for 2021 is “clarity” — desiring clarity in my own mind and heart, in decisions I’ll need to make, in being authentically myself before others, and desiring more clarity for the world after so much uncertainty.
So, here with a brand new year in front of us, I encourage everyone — choose your own word for 2021.
Your word can be whatever you want, and there’s no rush in figuring it out right away. (Remember, words for the year don’t have the strictness of resolutions.) Choose your word after thinking, praying, meditating. What does God want you to do or learn this year? What do you want to work on for yourself or for those around you? What word sums up what you hope to accomplish, or a reminder you think you’ll need?
Once you have your word, make it your own in whatever way fits your style and is most helpful for you. Scrapbook it. Use it as a mantra. Journal about it.
Throughout the year, use your word to ground yourself, to give you perspective, to encourage you. Watch it take on new meanings you didn’t expect that will make it that much more powerful.
And at the end of 2021, let’s all see where our words took us.
Hannah Romero is the digital media manager at the Rocket-Miner. She can be contacted at email@example.com.