I wrote the article below 11(!) years ago when it was still a relatively new discovery for me. You’ll feel my enthusiasm around this practice of choosing a single word to embody the just right energy for moving into the future you desire. The whole process is fun and inspiring, and results in a surprisingly deep and loving dive into your heart and soul. Highly recommend…!
Here’s How. It’s simple (but deep)…
What word would you like to be your guiding principle for the coming year? Think about the past year. Where have you felt stuck? What do you want more of? What parts of yourself would you like to grow into and expand? What would you like to leave behind? There is no right way to do this and no way to get it wrong.
Make a list; tweak the list; look up synonyms and notice how the different words resonate; talk about it with your friends; try out a word & sit with it for a few days; change it if you want to! You’re the boss!
A few personal notes about my Word of the Year thinking today…
Several years ago in 2021 my word was PROLIFIC. I wanted to create more and to release (the previous year’s word) those creations into the world with less deliberation. Between January and June 2021, I wrote 14 songs after years of being stuck and unable to write even one song. I made some really interesting changes to my business without thinking about it too much or procrastinating and I’m very pleased with the results. I found that my sense of CAN-DO (which would be a pretty darn good word of the year, BTW) had grown substantially. The word of the year is both a touchstone and an engine.
Here are some of my WORDS from past years…
FLOW (used this one twice?)
GENEROUS again (loved it so much I did it THREE TIMES I think)
The words below are from my Word of the Year contemplations the following year (2022):
PROLIFIC was so terrific I’m tempted to keep up the momentum and use it again, but I also I wonder if instead of writing new songs and creating more new things from scratch, I’m more attracted to the idea of revisiting and improving what I’ve already created. What words embody this…? NURTURE? CELEBRATE? DEVELOP? DELVE? (Time to get out the thesaurus.)
Or I could go in a completely different direction — a thought kindled in a conversation with a friend…
RECEIVE. Which to me means to be more present, to slow down, notice, and appreciate the gifts of every moment.
So much to think about! What an amazing thing, to be alive on this earth at this time!
This year my word is FREE.
I’ve been doing some art work and am enjoying a much-longed-for sense of freedom, and I want more of that! I want to be more and more free of constraints I put on myself, addictions, judgements and anxieties I’ve burdened myself with, and the aches and pains that slow me down. FREE is something I can get excited about right now!
Well, thanks for visiting the inside of my head! I hope you try the Word of the Year and enjoy its magic!
Word of the Year (originally published 2013)…
Driving the 5 hours back today, this New Years Day, from New York City to my home in New Hampshire with my kids, I spent most of the trip obsessively working out a problem in my head.
I have been using the online freebees of a wonderful business coach over the last few years named Christine Kane. She’s a coach so she gives lots of advice and has lots of ideas, and one of my favorites is a New Year’s ritual of choosing a word for the year. Rather than making resolutions for the new year – which I generally do with a doomed feeling of “Yeah? Really? We’ll see how this goes…” she encourages that we choose a word to be our word of the year. January 2011 I chose the word “DEDICATE”.
This was perfect for me; I perceive myself sometimes as a person who is easily overwhelmed and confused and feel stymied by indecision. Sometimes things seem to get all mixed up for me right in front of my eyes – I can lose something while sitting in a chair without ever getting up. When I have a free hour I might be frustrated to find that it’s disappeared before I’ve made up my mind how to use it – the sound of my priorities battling in my head can exhaust me.
So the word dedicate made a great mantra for me. Dedicate means to focus – to do whatever I’m doing fully. The word helps me feel free to let go of what’s not pertinent to the task at hand – I don’t have to keep the whole world in my head at all times – I can dedicate myself to just doing what I’m doing right now.
Dedicate is a serious word implying a kind of reverence. It was helpful to think of myself as dedicated to doing the dishes as I was working at the sink, applying myself with an appreciative attitude towards the dishes, the water, my hands and the opportunity to take care of my home. Much better than the impatience I usually felt.
A dedicated hard drive or dedicated media – meaning “to separate”. One thing at a time.
Dedicated means to care, to be devoted. A dedicated teacher; a dedicated leader. What a great word!
So on this January 1st as I was driving I tossed the idea out to my kids. My son said no dice – not interested in having this conversation. My daughter agreed with him, saying, “I’m not at the self-help book stage of life yet.” But then, a few minutes later, she said “Spring”. “Spring, that’s my word. I want to spring ahead, I want to spring off now and land in a year in a new place. Then I can spring again!” And spring has the happy vibe of Springtime – another great word!
I have some big ambitions for this year and I know that I will have to be very brave and persistent. I need energy, chutzpah, determination. I thought of words like produce, productive, determine, actuate, manifest, harvest, fruition, master, appreciate. Appreciate is nice because it means to “love what is” but one can also say, “to appreciate in value” which is a nice way of saying that I want to make more money this year.
Last year’s word was FLOW. Lovely word. Let it in, let it go. No psychic constipation. No holding on. No blocking it out. No need to say no. Instead there was a feeling of “I can handle it. I go with the flow”. It’s the word of an improviser, of someone who is truly part of the world, of someone who understands that their body is part of nature, that their skin breathes, that they share their molecules with the stars. On the most practical level I found that the word “flow” helped me deposit checks faster, send out invoices right after the job was done, feel commerce as a form of energy, declutter my home, and to get more joy out of work and life in general. In my music I experienced more give and take, more listening, and more beauty. I love FLOW.
Dedicate and flow were words that helped me through. I still use them – they’re my buddies.
But, this year I’m looking for a word to help me finish unfinished projects, to do the stuff I’ve been stalling on because it’s scary, to blow through where I’m afraid and lack confidence. I need a powerful word. I want a word that will help me focus on the small tasks while keeping the big picture in mind. I want a word that will help me to tear down the blocks to my creativity so that I will blossom artistically in ways that surprise and amaze me. That’s a lot to ask of one word.
Persevere, full throttle, complete. I like complete because it’s very much an area that I could stand to improve, and because I like the idea of feeling complete now – without doing anything at all. I simultaneously am complete, and would like to be better at completing tasks and projects. But there’s something so final and almost fatal about the word complete. Not sure it’s for me. Sounds like I’m getting ready to die.
Complete brought me to replete, which I think is an interesting word. I had to look it up after I got home. It conjures up feasts and contentment for me, and the definition I found is, “Filled or well-supplied with something”. Nice but not quite right.
This year is my chance to make things that are mostly ideas and fantasies become reality – to consummate.
Here’s one definition of CONSUMMATE: “Make (a marriage or relationship) complete by having sexual intercourse.” That’s nice too. But doesn’t it also mean to do what you’ve been fantasizing about? Another definition of Consummate is: “To bring to completion or fruition; conclude: consummate a business transaction. To realize or achieve; fulfill: a dream that was finally consummated with the publication of her first book.”
And as an adjective it means “showing a high degree of skill and flair; complete or perfect.” The ultimate – the awesomest. Good word!
I’d thought of the word “consummate” towards the beginning of the trip and then couldn’t remember it – I was bummed out for hours. I was pretty sure that whatever it was I’d never remember it again, but it turns out it’s a synonym for “fruition” which I looked up in the thesaurus when I got home and consummation was right there, along with achievement, maturation, accomplishment, actualization, attainment, completion, enjoyment, fulfillment, gratification, materialization, maturity, perfection, pleasure, realization, ripeness, satisfaction, and success. All wonderful words. Fullfill is almost perfect but I don’t like how my mouth feels when I say it – my tongue doesn’t seem graceful when I say “fullfill”.
Consummate is almost perfect – but clearly a little hard to remember. I continued to ponder.
So the trip is over. I’m in the driveway. I open the driver’s side door and I say out loud, “Fabulous”.
I don’t know why. But, “fabulous” seems to say it all, doesn’t it? When I’m in the right mood I already think I’m quite fabulous. When I’m up against my fears and I want to stop, I can remember how fabulous it feels when I’m in the groove, loving and sharing what I do so well. Fabulous is how I feel when I’m teaching and connecting with my students. When my projects are complete, they will no longer be just great ideas but fabulous realities.
It’s 11:25 pm on January 1st. I’d like to make up my mind today so I’ll have my word set up and ready to go as I face the challenges of the new year.
Dedicated Flow of Consummate Completed Fabulousness.
Have a fabulous year everyone!