Every year in December I reflect on the word I want to act as my mantra or guiding principle in the new year. The idea is focused around having a central word or theme to guide your actions or what you want to embrace more of in the coming year. Rather than focus on new year's resolutions that don't stick, I prefer to focus on things that help me reach my goals in a more mindful and holistic way.
If I wanted to find more ways to become inspired, perhaps I'd choose Inspiration as my word of the year. If I was seeking more ways to knock projects out of the park this coming year, perhaps I'd choose the word Rockstar.
The practice began in 2016 for me when I chose the word "goal" as my word of the year. One of the challenges from the year before is while there was no shortage of opportunities, I was accepting each one without thought about how it was affecting my work load or bottom line. I could've chosen the word "focus" as my word but I chose "goal" to remind me to hit a particular goal I'd set. Every time an opportunity came my way in 2016, I considered my word of the year and no matter how tempting it was to say yes, often, I said no. I ended up hitting my goal that year.
Since then, I've chosen a word and this coming year it's calm. The word isn't passive or low-key as it might sound. It's meant to remind me to not get caught up in the chaos of the world and let it distract me from what's important.
Several of my friends have asked me how I determine my word of the year and while it's different for everyone, here are five things I consider before making my final decision.
1. Take moment to reflection and be self-aware.
For many, each year represents a clean slate to accomplish a new set of goals. Last month I shared 20 questions to ask yourself that might help set you up to achieve your goals in the new year. This exercise also can help you identify patterns that can lead to your word. Want to make more money in the new year? Want to introduce a new product? If most of your answers point in a certain direction, then choose a word to remind you of what's most important in the new year and stick with it.
2. Visualize your word.
Another group of friends get together during the holidays to create their Vision Boards. Armed with dozens of magazines and ephemera, they gather images, phrases, and words that they want to channel more of in the new year. Similar to the reflection exercise, more often than not a pattern emerges and your word of the year becomes more obvious.
Sometimes our word is harder to come by or isn't as obvious. In this case, brainstorm words that mean something to you or help get you to a place where your mind is less cluttered. Whenever I need to clear my head or need inspiration, I take my dog for a walk or find some green space. I might jot down greenery, dog, walk, air, breathe, connection, peace, calm...you get the picture. It's a bit of a mind mapping process and thinking through times and places that matter to you can help you discover your word of the year.
4. Narrow your options.
Once you've come up with a few words you really love and feel like they can carry you through the year, narrow them down to just five or three words and let them sit with you for a day or week. Usually when I come up with my word, I just know it's my word. Still, I stay with it for a few days to make sure it reflects what I want to happen in the new year. Sometimes the word I thought would be the one turned into a different, albeit similar, one. You should be in no hurry to come up with your word but it's important to be mindful of the process because the word is meant to help you.
5. Tell others and test your word.
For some, simply announcing the word to others helps them own it themselves. Similar to how people share their goals with others to help them stay accountable, sharing your word of the year with friends and family lets them know what matters most to you in the new year and they might even help you achieve it.