Why You Should Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution and Pick a Word of the Year Instead

Picking a word for the year can be much more powerful than making resolutions. Here are a few reasons why and a free guide to help you pick your own word of the year.

Your “word of the year” provides an intentional framework for all your actions throughout the year by giving you a single word on which to focus that embodies the vision you have for your life. It’s your one word that provides a theme for your year; a map to guide all the actions you take. Here are some ideas on choosing the word that’s right for you this year and a printable workbook with a list of words to help you choose the word that’s right for you. (Updated for 2020!)

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I stopped making resolutions and started picking a “word of the year” a few years ago. Last year’s word was hygge and I’m pleased to say that I totally rocked that by having the most hyggelig year on record.

I’m kidding but choosing hygge as my word of the year was actually a meaningful experience for me. I started the year as a woman who vaguely felt like she needed to focus a bit more on self-care and ended the year a confirmed lover of baths and jigsaw puzzles and living in a cozy, beautiful house filled with candles and other items that gave me pleasure.

The whole year was full of little moments I wouldn’t have explored if I had not chosen the word “hygge” as my word of 2017 and I’m so happy that I did.

I’m not knocking resolutions if that’s something you like to do, but I personally believe picking a word for the year is much more powerful than making resolutions. Here are a few reasons why.

Your “Word of the Year” is a Nickname for the Person You Want to Become

I’ll go into more detail about how to create your word of the year later in this post, but basically, I use it as a nickname, if you will, for the person I want to be at the end of the year. My word for 2017, hygge, was an easy way to call up a vision of myself at the end of 2017: a calmer and more joyful Katy.

Your “Word of the Year” Provides a Framework for the Actions You Take During the Year

What if you started the year by resolving to cut out fast food? If you’re like most of us, you’ll be pulling into a McDonald’s drive-thru before the month of January is out. Your resolution is simply an action you want to take and that can easily become a chore.

But what if your word of the year is “health”?  Now, you’ve got a vision of yourself at the end of the year: a healthier, stronger, fitter version of you. With that vision in place, it’s so much easier to avoid the fast-food drive-thru because eating fast food is not something a healthy person does.

When you choose your actions based on the vision you have of yourself, it’s so much easier to create habits that support that vision than simply following a resolution.

Resolutions are Limiting while a “Word of the Year” is all-Encompassing

I pretty much tripled the number of candles I own and how often I light them during my year of hygge. So, if I had simply made a resolution to light more candles in 2017, I could accurately report that I had kept it. Yay me!

But simply resolving to light more candles turns candle-lighting into a task I need to complete. I can do that mindlessly and move on to the next item on my to-do list. But lighting candles in support of a more hygge lifestyle means that I light my candles more mindfully. When I light a candle, I’m putting myself into a calm and cozy mindset; I’m signaling that it’s time to relax and slow down. My attitude when I light my candles in the evening makes all the difference.

How to Pick Your Own Word of the Year

Here are some suggestions for creating your own word of the year.

1. Carve out some quiet time for reflection

You’ll probably want a journal to record your impressions. Or check out the free printable at the end of this post to help you create your own word of the year.

2. Think about the person you would like to be at the end of the year and take five minutes to jot down some words describing that person

Don’t censor yourself; just write anything that comes to your mind. For example, I might write something like, “Calm. Centered. Financially abundant. Successful. Generous. Healthy.” I find if I go with a more traditional paragraph, I tend to write things like “At the end of 2018, I will have lost 20 pounds and run a marathon” and then I’ve got resolutions, not a word for the year.

3. Look back at your list. Do any of the words you wrote down resonate with you?

If not, use those words as a jumping off point to brainstorm more descriptive words. Keep going until you find a word that you like – one that excites you, even. You can more easily remember a word that excites you, even if it’s, say, something hokey like “hygge.” I dove headfirst into the hygge trend last year, had a lot of fun, and ended the year a happier, more balanced person. What a win! 

By the way, I always pick only one word of the year because I can remember one word but if you feel more comfortable with multiple words or a phrase, that’s totally great. Whatever works for you.

4. Don’t feel you have to come up with your word right away.

You might want to think about it for a few days until you find the word that’s right for you. I’m offering a free printable at the bottom of this post to help you come up with your word of the year and it includes a list of words you might consider. If nothing feels quite right to you, try reading over a list of words and circling the ones that speak to you.

5. Once you find your word, put it someplace where you can see it.

I’m including my word of the year in the front of my 2018 planner where I can look at it every day.

I’ve created a free guide to help you pick the word of the year that’s right for you. It includes a worksheet for brainstorming and tons of words to inspire you to pick just the right word for you. 

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A word of the year helps you to give a focus to your actions throughout the year. Here's how to come up with your own word of the year for 2020 and a printable worksheet with questions to help you clarify your goals and a list of words as a starting point for brainstorming.

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