Choosing Your Word

Never a friend of New Year’s resolutions, I discovered another ritual with more spiritual engine power and more potential than a spur of the moment list. The ritual is choosing a word of the year. You choose a word that will symbolize the year for you–set the intention or create a verbal amulet.

Light poem from Shapeways.

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 embody action. 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 in their own way. You have to know a lot about yourself to choose a state of being verb.

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 2012. 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 others 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.

Custom made light poems at Shapeway.

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 use the key to unlock a closed door. Think of the word when you push open the door and move beyond what you couldn’t see into what you can experience.

Begin now to choose a word. It should be a good, chewy word that will last a whole year. This year I used the phrase “step up,” and it was a powerful tool with sometimes surprising results. It’s tempting to keep it for another year, but each year needs a new, fresh word.

What are the words you want to invite into your life for the year? You don’t have to know–this is the time to taste words and test them. Leave them in the comments, if you’d like, and tell us why.

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 creativity coach for whom words are  the heartbeat in her life.

60 thoughts on “Choosing Your Word

  1. Hopped over here from Staci’s blog. This is very inspring since last year, I stopped waiting around for things. Not sure what my word was then, but maybe this year’s word is Leap or Jump. I will be making a few leaps of faith and jumping off into the deep end so we will see. Of course it could change before the end of the year too.

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  3. First, I love love love the challenge of picking a word for 2012. Second, I have your book, use it for inspiration when I lead group therapy, and had no idea when I followed the link to this blog that I was visiting the blog of the Raw Journaling author. THANK YOU for inspiring my work as a therapist!

    • Thank YOU for using my book in your group therapy. It absolutely fills me with delight to know it’s being put to the use I wrote it for. Therapy is hard work, often unthanked. I made some of my best progress through life with the help of a smart therapist, so I’m grateful to the inventive, helpful, wise people who help us find the way!

  4. I have been thinking a lot about the word for the year, and what groups would benefit from it. I want to see what will become of the group when everyone uses the word within our group to see if it improves our group. It will be sort of a neat study to see the affect of the word use on individuals in the group. I am looking forward to positive effects.

  5. Being that I love words, this idea resonated with me. Words have power, so rather like choosing a stone, I sifted through all of the different sizes, shapes, colors, until I found what felt right to me. I chose two. They go hand in hand with each other: Salt & Light, as we are called to be- salt for flavor and as a preservative, and light to overcome darkness (as described in the Beatitudes). I will try to embody this in my attitudes and interactions with others—for example being positive, kind, encouraging… using my creativity to add to my enviroment. It will be interesting to see how I can use them and how I can be used by them.

  6. My word for 2011 was “change”. The operative word has opened new vistas for me on many planes – ended a negative relationship, retired, moved back to Montana, let go of many things (physical and non-physical) that had been hauled around with me for years, and biggest for me was changing my thinking about myself and my creativity. All of the change has provided the opportunity to be still with myself and my thoughts. Each action I choose now is clearly being done with deliberation and attention; this decision to take time with the changes has opened new possibilities and provided a year of enlightenment and found a new calm center within me. In 2012 I will take with me “kindness” for it is the watchword for how I live on the earth each day, how I care for my body and mind, the manner in which I look at and care for my creative self, and how approach all others who I find walking around and across and through my little pathway on mother earth.

      • Thank you Quinn…writing more, really allowing words to find their place on paper or in the computer has been a very important piece of my year of change. This thirty day writing with you is changing me in ways I had never expected; I am passionate about writing and placing my spirit in movement to the page.

        • I had no idea this would turn into this comfortable writing community. I’m trying out different times and finding that seeing people here makes me feel encouraged and in touch with a bigger truth than just my own. I’m loving it–thanks so much for joining us!

  7. Share was the first word that came to my mind after reading this. Share my time, my things, my talents, my knowledge, etc. Share with family, friends, the world.

  8. Quinn, I can’t even tell you how this has affected me since reading your post. Not only did I have to figure out my word for this year (boomerang by the way), think about all the endless possibilities for next year, but then I had to blog about it so everyone can be inspired by your words. Thank you so much for the ignition of thought!

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  10. Thank you for the thoughtful post. I have chosen my words–Here. Now. Because my fretful mind stews in the past and the future, over which I have no control. I wrote more about it and did an artful watercolor piece to stick to my fridge if you want to see.
    Thanks again! It will be a mindful part of my new year.

    • Oh, Staci, that was a great blog post. It was so packed with knowledge you gave yourself. The two gems I”m copying into my “smart ideas” journal are “Don’t go from anticipation to anticipation. Go from satisfaction to satisfaction,” and the brilliant, “And I have been fretting about it, chewing the conversations up and savoring them, hoping for a different flavor than “Yuck.” What a fabulous insight!

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  12. This year’s word was “laugh” and I sure did plenty of that, some of it at myself 🙂 The year before was “dream”, totally empowering. I’ve been thinking alot about next year and am considering “explore”…for me it has elements of fun and play, but also a more serious side of looking inside and exploring that as well…

  13. Last year, I went with “SImplify, Simplify, Simplify.” Later in the year, I saw humor in it because if I was truly simplifying, I wouldn’t say it three times! I’ve been kicking a lot of words and phrases around for next year like Focus, Let Go, Enjoy Peace, Think Less, Trust God. I could go on and on. There’s no telling what I’ll settle on.

  14. I just finished an 8 week Karma~Mind~Body class in which we were encouraged to each week set our intention. Because I’m feeling like I’m at a crossroads in my life, the feeling of anxiety about “what’s next?” was overwhelming. The idea of ‘letting go’ was very powerful for me thus my intention was ‘surrender’.

    During those 8 weeks one particular word has impacted me like no other. It’s only one word but it speaks volumes. It will be the way I begin each day and end each day of my new year. It will be my expression to honor the Divine in me and in each of you and I will surrender to the Divine results. “Namaste” is my chosen word that I will begin tomorrow on my 71st birthday.

  15. I´ve been doing this for some years and it´s the first time I got my word this early. I guess I should say it found me, beacuse it was a logical step from the moment I was living. Have you ever watched the “Coke & Mentos geyser” experiment? That was me mid November. 😀
    I learnt back in 2008 that I must NOT use whatever word everybody else is using because it does not work that way. It just didn´t happen and it was frustrating.
    I also revist the word at the end of the year to see the word it mutated into. Eg: 2010´s “listen” made me pay attention to possibilities and as I took action on those now I call it the year of “change”. 🙂

  16. Quinn – I just love your descriptive posts…especially, “Think of the word when you push open the door and move beyond what you couldn’t see into what you can experience” and “It should be a good, chewy word”. Perfect!

    Thanks for the reminder. All of my plans, thoughts and goals got completely lost for 2011 so I’m starting 2012 with, “Begin again”, reminding myself that sometimes life gets in the way. We have to give ourselves permission to take the time we need, for ourselves and our family, and when the difficult times pass, we can “begin again”.

  17. Quinn,
    How fun!
    I’m thinking my word will be efficacious. Of course the word will be in my journal, and I will spend some time thinking of another way to keep the word near.
    Great idea.

    • Ohhhh, there are a ton of ways to keep the word near. Write it in random places in your journal and everytime you come across it, journal on how the meaning has changed. Write it on a piece of paper and carry it with you–if you are like me, it will wind up going through the laundry! And that won’t be efficacious at all!

  18. I was thinking about the word “kaizen,” meaning “constant improvement,” but after giving it some thought, maybe that’s WAY too inclusive. It’s like taking 20 New Year’s resolution and rolling them into one and maybe the pressure will be overwhelming. It feels like a “be better in all things” command and whew! who needs that much of a load all at once? Deb’s suggestion of PLAY seems more of a positive, upbeat exhortation, a reminder to be in the moment, not take things so seriously, open yourself to new things, relax . . . I’m feeling better already! Thanks! –Carol Leigh

  19. A tempting thought that turned into an instant resolution. My word will be “heal” and that is what I intend to do, think, strive for and achieve in 2012.

  20. A friend of mine has done this the last several years, so last year for one of our group activities we all chose a word for the year. My word was FOCUS as I tend to jump into too many things at once. I’m not sure what this year’s word will be yet, but I am thinking like Caatje above, but I was thinking PLAY rather than FUN.

  21. Thanks for the reminder! Will start to think about a word THIS year ;-)) last time I did it when the year had already started – maybe that was the reason why the word was just “too big, too much”. Right now, I’m VERY tempted to pick “light” for 2012 – but who knows, maybe another word comes up till January

  22. I’m on a list of artists who share thoughts etc., and each year a majority of us individually choose a word that will influence us the next year. I think it has been helpful in that it isn’t complicated, it can influence our individual lives as well as our art.

    • Agree. Resolutions are packed with failure because they are high goals set with little preparation and no support while requiring a lot of change or work. A single word can inspire and support.

  23. I’ve actually been thinking about this for a while now. I like the idea of a word or a theme if you will for a whole year, instead of a long list of resolutions and plans or goals. I’ve tried the words Joy, Love and Peace on for size, because they are all things I aspire to, but somehow they seem too big, too profound, too complicated. And I already have the tendency to complicate things way too much anyway. So…what I’m really looking for is to take things a little less seriously, a lighthearted word, something that’s not so deep and hugely meaningful. With this I mean that I am such a soulsearcher always, that I forget to just go with things, have a good time, enjoy the ride. So I’ve pretty much decided that my word should be “FUN”. I just want to have fun with things, with myself, with my art, with others. Lighthearted laughter, pleasure for pleasure’s sake. I think it might be good for me to stop carrying the load of the world on my shoulders and seek meaning in everything I do. Just let go and have some good old FUN. 😉

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