Every fall, I start to feel an itch—you might know the one. With the turning of seasons, crisper air, and the promise of the holidays close by, I settle into a more reflective state to ponder what’s transpired in the year so far, how I’ve been feeling, and anything else I still hope to accomplish before the clock strikes midnight.
So come October and November, I set an intention to choose a word for the year. It’s not a process to rush, which is why I like to start early. It’s not a very involved process, either. All you really have to do is say to yourself: I’m looking.
On Not Setting Goals
I used to be a goal setter. You, too? Every New Year’s Eve, I made a list of tasks I wanted to complete, which was all well and good when during my Type A days, but now that I’m a recovered Type A, I’m less inspired by checkboxes and more inspired by creating nurturing rituals to mark the transition from one year to the next.
Consider this observation from Forbes: “Many people fail to achieve their goals because they identify an outcome without also identifying the underlying motivation of that outcome. Without knowing your intentions, you make it too easy to sleep in instead of going to the gym, or let blogging fall by the wayside when more important things seem to come up (they always will).”
The word intention is what catches my eye here. Intentions aren’t tied to a specific outcome—it’s more like they’re attached to a specific purpose, which is a much more grounding way to think about how you might like to grow and change in the year ahead.
Intentions aren’t tied to a specific outcome—it’s more like they’re attached to a specific purpose, which is a much more grounding way to think about how you might like to grow and change in the year ahead.
How to Choose a Word for the Year
Now, if you’re ready to eschew the to-do list for a single word to anchor your year, a few tips:
Step 1: Set an intention
Here we go with intention again! Like I said, start with putting it out there, in your heart, that you’re looking for a word. You don’t have to research any (although I have a few ideas below!) or asking friends or family. Know that it might take a week or a month—there’s no right or wrong way to discover you word.
After a few days, write a journal entry about your year, or spend some time reflecting while you take a walk or over dinner with your partner. Just get the wheels to start turning, and when the time’s right, your word will make itself known.
To get you started, here’s a question to ask yourself: How do I want to feel?
Step 2: Gather some options
Next up is collecting some potential words. Write them in a journal, or talk them over with a friend or significant other. Check out the section below for some ideas to get you started!
The way Claire Diaz Ortiz puts it, “pick one word that word that imbues the type of year you wish to have, and a word that can serve as a guidepost for what you want in the year to come. One simple word that will help you decide between X and Y, and help you remember what’s important when you find yourself in an endless loop of Facebook/Twitter/Email checking you can’t get out of.”
Step 3: Commit to a word
Once you’ve settled on a word that feels just right, enjoy it! Your year will unfold in a number of different ways, but I’m willing to bet your word will be ever present, guiding your choices and reaffirming the path you’re walking. I love what Susannah Conway has to say here: “A word can be embraced as a mantra, a meditation, a reminder, a promise. A word can be interpreted in different ways. A word can’t be “broken”— it feels gentler somehow.”
25 Words to Anchor Your Year
I used to include this as a free download for signing up to my newsletter, but with all the GDPR rules about consent, it just seems easier to offer it here, for no reason at all other than I want to encourage you to discover a word that suits.