How Choosing a Word of the Year Can Create Lasting Life Changes.
What if One Little Word could change your life? Would you let it?
Sometimes in order to grow you need a rock bottom moment.
For me that came almost a year ago. A year ago I was crying on a pile of laundry in our basement over a difficult conversation with a family member that I didn’t want to have. I knew this conversation wasn’t going to go well. I remember my husband being annoyed and mad at me for the emotions I was displaying over having this conversation. I remember my kids watching me cry.
After the conversation was over, I had said more reactive and negative things than I needed to. I also then did the same old downward spiral that my anxiety ridden self always did. I spend the next few days in my head, depressed, bouncing between apathetic and angry that this was happening to me, and replaying and analyzing every moment of what had transpired. I missed the excitement of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I just couldn’t stop thinking about the event and the conversation.
My rock bottom moment.
Then a song came on the radio: Brave by Sara Bareliles. And when the words “Or you can just start speaking up” played, I knew I had found my 2019 word of the year: BRAVE. I invited this word into my life, never looked back, and vowed to find my own voice and become the person I was meant to be (you can read more about my personal story here).
You see, I gave up on New Year’s Resolutions years ago. And I actually had a year without goals (super crazy, especially from this high achiever). Then a few years ago I learned about picking a word for the year, more specifically, I learned about Ali Edward’s One Little Word® workshop. Ali Edwards is a memory keeper, storyteller, crafter, teacher, and product designer that I have been taking classes with for years. Most of my storytelling ability has been developed from her classes, and I love documenting my life and my families through the my words and the lens of my camera. Her One Little Word® workshop is year long program where you invite a word into your life and then receive monthly prompts, tutorials, and community to allow you to focus on, to investigate, and to write and craft about your word as you go about your daily life.
I’ve been doing this workshop for 3 years now and it has been life changing. And I do believe much more permanent that a new year’s resolutions. My past one little words and their lasting effects have included:
I chose this word as it was the first full year as a mom with two under two (Madi was just a few months old, Lilli was 18 months). Life was a blur with lack of sleep while nursing a new baby, managing a toddler, and working in clinical practice 3 days a week. I wanted to focus on being present and honing in my clinical vet skills.
In 2017, I basically stopped reading books from my kindle and started to read actual books again. I decided I was on my phone too much already, and I wanted my kids to see me actually reading physical books.
In 2017, I started the no cell phones between 6 pm-9 pm rule so I could be present during family time.
Although not perfect, adopting these two new habits that came from exploring my word, focus, has had more lasting effects than any resolution I have ever made.
I chose this word because I wanted to let go of wanting more and more, and instead embrace and delight in what I have. When I went back to clinical practice working only 30 hours a week, I took a major pay cut. Because I wasn’t making as much money, I knew I needed to improve my spending habits. I also know that I wanted to become debt free and was so close to paying off my student loans. I used SAVE that year as more of a mantra whenever I was tempted to spend money. I really started to analyze and invite new things into my life only after considerate thought of its value enhancement of my life.
September 2018 — Payed off my student loans — Took 7.5 years to pay off 85k of debt (super thankful for instate tuition and attending a vet school that actually was affordable). And I did it while making the least amount of money I have ever made in a year.
Then came this past year:
I went into the year wanting to work on using my voice and becoming better at having difficult conversations. I ended the year as newbie solopreneur, over halfway through a rigorous professional coaching program, and now working with many clients — helping them find their own voice, live a more intentional life, love themselves, and do daring work that will help change the world.
Here are just a few of my layouts from my #OLW2019. I used a Traveler’s notebook insert for my journaling and crafting. Journalling about your word throughout the year really helps create the lasting change and allows you to be really honest with how you are doing as you grow with your word.
It’s not news to most that New Year’s Resolutions don’t work very well. It’s easy this time of year to set big lofty goals about what we plan to accomplish in the upcoming year. Now, I’m all for setting and accomplishing big scary goals and dreams, but setting goals at the beginning of the year just to check them off at some point in time during that year, well, that doesn’t create sustainable personal development growth.
HERE ARE MY TOP THREE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER CHOOSING A WORD THIS YEAR INSTEAD OF NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS:
1. A WORD OF THE YEAR ALLOWS FOR FLEXIBILITY.
New Year’s resolutions have more of a pass or fail. A checked box. This flexibility makes up for when times get tough or you fall off track for a bit. It’s too much pressure to get it right at the start of the year when you have no idea how the year will unfold and what other opportunities will present itself. My no cell phone rule idea didn’t spark until March 2017. My idea of reading more physical books didn’t spark until that summer. It wasn’t until February of this past year that I had the idea of becoming a life coach. This time last year I had no idea I would leave my job to go become a entrepreneur. I never had to feel like a failure or a quitter by giving up a New Year’s resolutions and taking a different direction. Instead I invited a Word of Year to accompany me all year, not just at the start.
2. A WORD OF THE YEAR HELPS BRING FOCUS AND CLARITY TO WHAT WE WANT TO CREATE IN OUR LIVES.
Just as it’s time to stop asking little children what they want to be when they grow up, it’s time to stop asking yourselves what you want to do and accomplish for the year and instead ask yourself — How do you want to live? In a societal time of always doing, doing doing, we forget to just BE.
Inviting a Word of the Year into your life allows for reflection of the past year or season in your life and provides the ability to cultivate something new or to continue to enhance or grow in an area you’ve been focusing on.
If you have been working really hard lately and starting to feel the effects of burnout, maybe you need to invite more play, rest, and creativity back into your life. If you’re like me starting a new adventure that requires you to go all in, maybe you need to become more disciplined, grow, or become more focused. Or if you’ve been struggling with something for awhile like I was last year, maybe you need to become more brave or courageous and believe you are enough.
So instead of thinking about what you want to accomplish this year, use a Word of the Year to think about how you want to feel. To grow. The difference you want to make in your life and those around you.
Then allow that word to help determine the small baby goals needed to achieve your big, scary dream or goal. Or just to have more fun. For some having more fun is a big, scary dream.
3. A WORD OF THE YEAR HELPS CREATE A DAILY GUIDE ALLOWING YOU TO BECOME A BETTER VERSION OF YOURSELF.
Choosing a Word of the Year allows you the daily practice of becoming more mindful and gives you a reason to practice meditation. Spending quiet time thinking about your word and what it may bring in your life is a kinder way to develop. You then learn what matters most to you.
As Bill Gates once said, most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year or two and underestimate what they can accomplish in the next ten. It’s a process, not a destination. Instead of using a New Year’s Resolution and setting a deadline, a Word of the Year allows you develop the habits needed to grow into who you need to become to live the life you want to live and to accomplish your big dreams.
And for many, these words have become a part of who they are. They are now woven into their being and will follow them throughout the years.
SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK? INTERESTED NOW IN CHOOSING A WORD FOR 2020?
IF SO, HERE ARE FIVE TIPS TO HELP YOU CHOOSE YOUR WORD OF THE YEAR:
Spend some time alone, outdoors, or at your favorite coffee shop and reflect on how the past year or season has gone. Ask yourself various questions such as: What could you use more in your life? Less of? How do you want to feel? Do you need more simplicity in your life or do you need to expand and grow this year? More external focused or more internal focused? More time for creativity? What is calling you? What is attracting you? Is there something you are lacking and need to build on?
Start thinking about how a perfect day would feel to you. Focus on the feeling part first then ask yourself what you are doing. Try to let your mind be as detailed and vivid as possible. Ask yourself how in or out of alignment is your life from your visualized perfect day? What words come to mind? Write them down.
3. CREATE A LIST AND GIVE IT A COUPLE DAYS TO SEE WHICH ONE POPS UP TO THE TOP.
Get out a notebook and start writing down words that are speaking to you. If you have a bunch of words coming to mind, start grouping words that are similar and narrow it down to three categories. Then give it a couple days to ruminate and check back in with your list.
4. SEND A MESSAGE OUT TO THE UNIVERSE. OR PRAY.
Whether you are religious or not, I’ll try not to be too Woo Woo here, but I do believe prayers are answered and if you ask you shall receive. Meditate and open yourself up to the Universe or God. Ask for a word to come to you that you need to receive for 2020. Then start looking for the signs of the word to come to you. BRAVE was nowhere on my mind in December 2018. I had a whole bunch of other words ruminating in my head. However after that rock bottom moment and the prayers that followed that I couldn’t keep living like that, I was open to hearing that song on the radio differently than I had ever been before. I’ve heard that song so many times. But that day. That moment. That song spoke directly to me, and I knew I had my word.
Are you starting to see your word places? What are the signs pointing to? Try to utilize your intuition and trust your gut. Be open to what the Universe has in mind for you.
Then commit to a year exploring that word. Commitment means going in all the way. It means being open to all this word is here to show you. Even is the changes you need to make are hard. Remember if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
It’s okay to have secondary words as well. See what comes up, but stay focused on bring your word to life this year.
Choosing a Word of the Year, can become a powerful, life changing experience if you’re open and ready to do the work that goes into it. I invite you to bring a word into your life this year. Let it speak to you. Meditate with it. Follow it to where it may lead. Grow and learn from it.
Here we come. I’m so excited for this year. A new decade. All the new possibilities. 2020 definitely has me thinking of laser focus and vision. What do you envision for your life this year?
Comment below with the word you have chosen for 2020, or better yet, let’s do Ali Edward’s One Little Word® workshop together this year to have a little more creative fun with your word.
MY WORD FOR 2020: MAGIC.
May I find Magic. May I make and create Magic. May I celebrate the Magic all around me.