Never a friend of New Year’s resolutions, I discovered another ritual that’s more powerful and has more potential 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.
The word should be limber and supple, without any stiffness of punishment, or hashmarks to measure yourself with and find yourself coming up short.
Verbs are good, 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 2013. 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. Last year I drew a word at a letting go of the year ritual and drew “suffering.” At first I was disappointed, but the definition of suffering is wanting and expecting too much and I learned a lot by avoiding suffering or grasping. Not every lesson was fun, but it was a good word for the year.
What are the words you want to invite into your life for the year? Leave them in the comments, and tell us why.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who loves the “word of the year” idea.