Word of the Year: Start Thinking.

Never a friend of New Year’s resolutions, I discovered another ritual that’s more powerful and more possible than New Year’s resolutions. A word of the year. You choose a word that will symbolize the year for you–set the intention or create a verbal amulet.

You can turn your word into a light poem or household accessory. http://tinyurl.com/nye37l

The word should be limber and supple, without any stiffness of punishment, or hashmarks to measure yourself with and find yourself coming up short.

I prefer verbs–because they are action words. And taking action is a favorite step of mine to get unstuck or move ahead.  Of course, there are also the state of being verbs: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been. Small verbs, but powerful.

Other people prefer nouns–things or ideas: creativity, intuition, freedom. Nouns can be things you hold in your hands–paper, pen, seeds, feathers. Or they can be things you hold in your heart: wishes, wisdom, peace.

Now is a good time, at the end of the year, to think of a word you can hold and use for all of 2011. Choose a word that will last, that will build you up and support you. You can choose a word that is both a verb and a noun. The one I chose for 2010 was light. I could light a candle or a fire. I could help them discover the light hidden within them. I could make someone else’s load light. It was a good word for the year.

Your word can be any part of speech, and you can use it in as many ways as you want–present tense, active voice, transitive with an object or not. Use it as many ways as you can and see how you change it and how it changes you.

If you keep a journal, you can write it down and visit it every week or month and see how that word has shown up in your life at the end of every week and how you would like it to show up the next week. You can write it on a piece of paper and put it in your pocket and rediscover it every day. Write it on a key you use every day and remember it when you unlock the door.

Begin now to choose a word. It should be a good, chewy word that will last a whole year. I’ve narrowed my choice down to two. I wanted to continue with light, but that seemed a bit too easy. So I began the search. I dreamed up two words that I’m now choosing between.

What are the words you want to invite into your life for the year? Leave them in the comments, and tell us why.

FTC -required disclosure: I found the light poem link online. I’m not advertising it, I’ve never used the service, no money or good exchanged hands for my mentioning the product.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and raw art journaler who loves words. She throws them out so other people can get sprinkled with them, too. Maybe find inspiration or joy.

34 thoughts on “Word of the Year: Start Thinking.

  1. Pingback: One Word « Becca's Byline

  2. Choosing a word as a guide for a year is new to me.
    I have taken my sweet time, sitting still and letting it come to me and this is the one that keeps gently returning and wanting something, like a cat rubbing against my legs: niche.
    Niche….as in alcove, nest, nook, cubbie, hideyhole and, yes, even specialized market position.
    I see that sometimes I am the niche and sometimes I am being contained in it, already a lovely guide to play with. Niche’s root word, nest, is an especially powerful image.
    Thanks Quinn.

  3. boundarylessness
    If one can consumed too many episodes of “Celebrity Rehab” or “Intervention,” the word may incite immediate concern. However, if the context of business, technology, and personal and professional growth, it signifies great promise and opportunity. To be bounded is to be unable to adapt and eventually lost to obsolescence. To be boundaryless is to be open, flexible, and available to change when change is required.

  4. Hi Quinn,
    I love your prompts to get us thinking about a focus word.
    For 2010 I chose Stretching.
    For 2011 I am going to be greedy and choose two words (mainly because I can’t make it into one word without losing it’s meaning to me). The two words: No Excuses.
    Why did I choose this? Because last year I got behind on a few projects (some self-imposed, some a group effort). Even with my best efforts I missed a couple deadlines and found myself reduced to a whiner with lots of handy excuses popping into my head. Well, you have to know I detest whiners, and I was starting to detest myself. So I decided this year I will move forward with No Excuses. And I’ve already seen a benefit at work from focusing on this phrase.
    Vicky F

    • Great phrase, Vicky. And “No Excuses” cuts both ways. When people want to shove work onto your plate that doesn’t belong there, saying “No” without feeling guilty is an excellent exercise. Otherwise, others start directing your life, and that’s just not what you want.

  5. Hmm.. sincerely for me it is more easy to learn Chinese or Arabic than to understand and work with mathematics.
    I guess we all have our own qualities on this planet.

  6. Hi Quinn. Ocean lead me to your post, and my curiosity is peeked. 🙂 I am a true lover of words, so this post appeals to me in a big way. I love this creative idea to chose a word to light my path for the year ahead. Last year, I had a couple of words that I used during a stressful year. One was “breathe.” I used it as a mantra. The other was “grounded.” Sometimes I felt like I was a floating head and would forget my body and soul. Therefore, I sought to be grounded. I left my stressful situation and was guided by the word “joy.” I was in search of it and craved it in my daily life. I am still guided by the word “joy”, but this year, I would like to add the word “contentment.” Contentment comes from appreciating all that we have. It leads us to feelings of gratitude. To me, those are divine words of guidance.

    Thanks for a wonderful idea.

    ~ LaRonda

    • Hi, LaRonda. Ocean is a sweet and wise soul, and you are so welcome here. Contentment sounds like a bigger word than “joy” and deeper, so it makes good sense to have it be your word this year. Please come back and tell us how it’s working throughout the year.

  7. Pingback: Word for 2011 « Hidden Art

  8. Love this idea, Quinn… enough that I posted a link to your blog on my fb page so I could share it my friends. You may make yourself a few new fans!

    I’m still pondering my word for 2011. It may have to be more of a phrase – something along the lines of “reliving the past” or “returning to my roots.”

    Actually, now that I think about it… perhaps my word will be “roots.” It’s a word that conjurs up a lot of meanings for me. I’ve returned to my roots in a number of ways – coming back to my hometown area, reigniting relationships with family members, and also going back to some of the basics that have given me strength and helped to ground me over the years – basics in body, mind, and spirit.

    You’ve got to grow strong roots if you are to stand tall and reach for the skies.



  9. My word for 2011 is COMPLEMENT . . . as in “does X complement or compete with the life I am choosing to live?” This will be my first year to have a word. I took Quinn’s advice and bought a journal just for my word. I bought the one that spoke to me at TJ Maxx yesterday . . . it complemented my word. 🙂

  10. My word of the year last year was DARE!!! (the three exclamation marks denote the famed, triple dog dare!). I used this word in so many ways this past year and my life is all the better for it. I accomplished far grander goals by going with the whole ‘word of the year’ concept than I ever did with resolutions.

    My 2011 word of the year is ‘enough’. Last year was about being brave, this year about being grateful. Great post!

  11. This is so refreshing because I just finished a 3-yr project where I chose a word every New Year for each letter of the alphabet. My resolution journal is sort of the story of my life here in Germany.
    But now that it’s done, I’m kind of lost. I’m torn between two words for 2011: “worthy” and “connect.” Worthy seems pretty powerful and something to get at the root of all kinds of self defeating bad stuff. Connect seems equally important to me though because I’m thinking I can’t get anywhere creatively all alone.
    Maybe since I had a major over-abundance of words over the last few years, narrowing it down to 2 is ok…??

    • Two seems fine to me, because worthy and connect are, indeed, linked. Connecting may make you feel more or less worthy, depending on the connection. It could be fascinating. Please check back and tell us how these words relate throughout the year.

  12. My word is perseverance for that is what I need most in the near future. And balance is what I need equally as much!

    I wish I could be with you in Arizona right now.. if only for a day.

    • I like perseverance. It’s a hard word to work with–sort of a task master. But an excellent one to use, for sure!
      If you were with me in AZ today, it would be a lot of work–in the studio and cleaning up!

    • I forgot to add the why part:
      Balance was for 2010, because my whole life seemed out of balance-life, work, relationships were all a kilter. Balance reminded me, week after week, to smooth out the ups and downs of my day to day living.
      And for 2011, possibilities. Oh, I DO love that word. It opens up a whole world of, well, possibilities. New roads to walk? New places to travel? A new place to live? New directions for my art? Yes, a word with lots of chewiness.

  13. Mine for 2010 was Hope. It seemed to be all around me. For 2011 I have chosen Focus. Something I really need to learn to do.
    Thanks, Quinn, for giving me a way to put it out there. That’s the secret, I believe.

  14. Mine is planning, because I’ve been living my life unplanned for a long time now. And while I enjoy that and don’t want to overplan, I do want to do more planning for the things I enjoy.

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