How To Choose Your Word Of The Year

Well hello there, it’s Catherine Langman here, back with another episode of the Productpreneur Success Podcast. 

And as this episode is being released right at the end of December, it’s that time of year when we think about setting new year’s resolutions and make our plans for the year ahead. 

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions – I feel like setting really specific ones can often set us up for failure, especially if we choose those really common ones based on what our family and friends are choosing for themselves, like fitness or weight loss ones, and then by the end of January the gyms are empty again… 

And by choosing resolutions that aren’t really meaningful to us, we’re inviting the chance that we give up when things get difficult or a better activity or opportunity comes our way, and then we feel like a failure and that negative mindset kicks in.

Of course, if setting resolutions works for you, absolutely go for it, but I think I’ve found a better way…

The idea of choosing a word of the year was introduced to me several years ago, and it’s about deciding on a theme for your year first before you start to set any specific goals, either personally or in your business.

And I loved the idea because it felt like it would lead to setting goals that would help me grow my business and create the lifestyle that I really wanted, so being really intentional about what I was trying to create for myself, rather than being lead by things like revenue goals.

The problem with starting with a revenue goal is that you can end up taking your business in a direction that you ultimately hate. And then you end up feeling miserable.

The first couple of years that I chose a word of the year, I chose a word that was more of a ‘doing’ word. I remember one year I chose the word ‘Scale’, because that was what I was trying to accomplish in my business that year. I used that word as the theme for the year, and it helped me to focus my attention on activities that would help me scale my business, and it also helped me to make decisions that were in line with that as well. 

At the end of 2019, I chose the word ‘Thrive’ for 2020, which is more of a ‘feeling’ word I guess. 

I chose this because in 2019 I had a couple of operations plus was supporting my Dad as he went through treatment for cancer (he’s in the all clear now) and then my Mum was diagnosed with heart failure and having operations. By the end of the year, I was pretty burnt out. 

Choosing that word of the year for 2020 lead me to adopting some practices personally, wellness practices that I’ve spoken about before on the podcast like meditation, working out with a trainer, cooking healthy meals, actually eating proper lunches instead of toast with peanut butter, that sort of thing. 

And obviously having those practices in place were pretty beneficial to how I was able to remain pretty calm and resilient through COVID. 

But it also lead to me making decisions in my business as well, that ultimately resulted in my business absolutely thriving this past year as well. 

I’m not sure if I’d have enjoyed the same results without having chosen that word as my theme for the year – it’s entirely possible that I would have – but I can definitely say that I used that word of the year as my guiding light through the tough, shitty times.

And there will ALWAYS be tough shitty times where you feel like throwing in the towel and giving up because business can be HARD! 

You need to have something that’s really meaningful to you personally, that you are emotionally attached to, so that you stay motivated through those tough times. 

Step 1: Reflect

The first thing I want you to do is to reflect on this past year and ask yourself these questions. Jot down whatever pops into your head without self-editing.

  1. What could I use more of in my life?
  2. What could I use less of in my life?
  3. What do I think I want to focus on this year?
  4. What characteristics would I like to have?
  5. By the end of the day, I feel (fill in the blank).
  6. How do I want to feel?

Once you review your responses you’ll probably start to notice some common themes in your list.

And at this point, you’ll have a better sense of the direction you’d like to go, or what you feel may be lacking in your business or life.

Step 2: Visualize

Visualize what the perfect day would feel like, the emphasis here is “Feel”. Think about how you want your morning routine to feel, how you want to feel at work or throughout the day, and how you want to feel right before you go to bed.

I also recommend meditating or sitting in silence for a couple minutes and asking yourself “What word do I want to focus on in 2021?”. 

At this point I also like to think about the type of word I want to choose. Consider whether it’s a “doing word” that promotes action (verbs like Leap or Rise), or does it intensify or describe how you want to feel (adjectives like Calm or Fierce), or is it focused on something concrete (nouns like Home or Family). 

I think this exercise works best when you’re in a relaxed state. If you’re having trouble maybe try it before you go to sleep or first thing in the morning. Or sometimes I do this exercise whilst out walking through nature – somehow being out and about in a natural environment helps these ideas come to us. You’d be amazed how being relaxed can help your intuition shine through, and bring your word to the forefront.

Step 3: Create a List

Spend 10 minutes creating a list of the words that come to mind, no self-editing! Literally sit with a pen and paper or open up a Google Doc and just start writing down whatever comes into your head.

Need some help? Here are some examples:

  • Focus
  • Grow
  • Organize
  • Simplify
  • Bloom
  • Brave
  • Inspire
  • Thrive
  • Gratitude
  • Consistency
  • Balance
  • Be
  • Worth
  • Elevate
  • Today
  • Less
  • Mindful
  • Considerate
  • Calm
  • Positivity
  • Respect
  • Appreciate
  • Enlighten
  • Intentional
  • Flow
  • Family
  • Slow
  • Possibility
  • Persevere
  • Love
  • More
  • Reflect
  • Light
  • Heart
  • Now
  • Passion
  • Joy
  • Unlimited
  • Kindness
  • Play
  • Thoughtful
  • Deliberate
  • Trust
  • Conscious
  • Increase
  • Breathe
  • Commit
  • Seek
  • Pause
  • Forward
  • Change
  • Listen
  • Free
  • Build
  • Flourish
  • Move
  • Renew
  • Progress
  • Explore
  • Finish
  • Hope
  • Fearless
  • Happy
  • Spirit
  • Glorious
  • Grace
  • Truth
  • Belong
  • Strive
  • Always
  • Compassion
  • Energy
  • Sacred
  • Persist
  • Bridge
  • Determination
  • Enough
  • Improve
  • Strength
  • Encourage
  • Wake
  • Present
  • Beauty
  • Enthusiasm
  • Connect
  • Alignment
  • Priority
  • Create
  • New
  • Faith
  • Believe
  • Transform
  • Integrity
  • Gentle
  • Expansion
  • Grounded
  • Harmony
  • Action
  • Ambition
  • Purpose
  • Hero
  • Dream
  • Magic
  • Shine
  • Peace
  • Try
  • Teach
  • Compromise
  • Imagine
  • Learn
  • Wonder
  • Embrace
  • Courage
  • Humble
  • Wish
  • Work
  • Smile
  • Meditate
  • Lead
  • Celebrate
  • Relax
  • Pray
  • Sparkle
  • Represent
  • Whole
  • Journey
  • Prosper
  • Contribute
  • Discipline
  • Laugh
  • Here
  • Shift
  • Delight
  • Patience
  • Cultivate
  • Stillness
  • Serenity
  • Vision
  • Wisdom
  • Vulnerability
  • Adventure
  • Example
  • Comfort
  • Give
  • Rise
  • Perspective
  • Glow
  • Forgive
  • Observe
  • Soul

Step 4: Review & Refine

Review your list and narrow down your favorites. I’d circle or highlight 3 words.

Chances are you’ll see a theme going on between the words you wrote down. Do any of the words jump out at you, make you feel excited, nervous, scared, uncomfortable, or at ease? 

Sometimes the words that scare us most can mean we’re on the right track because change isn’t always easy. At the same time, I think finding your word can also bring peace and empowerment.

Think about the words, try them on and see what feels right. No need to over analyze this process, trust your gut instead. Gently review your list and let the words pick you.

At this point, I generally sit with the shortlisted words for a few days to a week. Kinda let them marinade for a bit. You want to make sure it reflects what you want to happen in the new year. 

Sometimes the word I thought would be the one turned into a different, perhaps 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.

Weirdly, the right word will pretty much choose you. Instinctively, without forcing a decision, it’ll just feel right. Like putting on an outfit that was tailor made for you.

Step 5: Ask Yourself this VERY important question

Now that you narrowed down your list to three words, there’s just one more question to ask:

Are you interested, or are you committed? 

If you’re merely “interested” then chances are you’ll make excuses as to why you’re not putting forth the effort to actually make changes. But if you’re “Committed” to your word, you’ll do whatever it takes to implement that word and bring more of it into your life.

If necessary, allow yourself a day or two, even a week to really think about this.

How do you use your Word of the Year?

Once you’ve gone through the process of choosing your personal word of the year, you can then set your priorities and goals with that word in mind. 

It acts as a filter, helping you determine the most important goals *right now* and the ones that will have the biggest impact on your life and business, taking you with intention towards the life or business you want to create for yourself.

A quick note on this next step of goal-setting – over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing several podcast episodes all about planning and goal setting. I’ll be teaching you some of my step-by-step processes so you can get yourself into a great position to have an absolute smash hit year this year!

So anyway, once you’ve done that, actually working toward and achieving those goals becomes much easier.

Why? Because having that word at the front of your mind means you will ALWAYS have a solid point of reference and simple one word motivation when things get tough.

Also, your word serves as a measuring stick. Have your goals shifted as you work on them? Are they still in line with your priorities as filtered by your personal word?

You’re in the driver seat of your business and your life – you get to reset and revise your goals as necessary to keep moving forward.

Tip to help you use your Word of the Year on a daily basis:

The first time I tried the Word of the Year exercise, I kinda forgot about it as the year progressed. 

So how can you remember and enjoy using your inspirational word every day, all year long?

This past year, I had my Word of the Year set up as a reminder that comes up daily on my phone. 

I’ve also heard of people doing things like:

  • Setting it as the password to login to their computer
  • Creating a gorgeous graphic featuring the word and using it as their phone or computer wallpaper
  • Decorating your journal or planner with your word
  • Printing it out and pinning it to your vision board
  • Displaying different pieces of art around your home featuring your word.

So there you have it. 

My tips for how to choose your Word of the Year and how to use it as your motivational theme for your year ahead! 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode, and I look forward to joining you again next week.