It’s Time for Your Word of the Year

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.

Image from

Image from

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.

DreamsinlightsNow 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.

140_word-of-the-year-unfriend_flashBegin 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.

75 thoughts on “It’s Time for Your Word of the Year

  1. Pingback: Winter Night at Jackie Parker Park painting (and 2013 brief review) | Heart and Soul, an Artist's Journey

  2. Pingback: Word for the Year « inlovewithjournals

  3. Aloha, Quinn! I love this practice and have been doing it since I first read your blog post about it last year. (Or maybe a few years ago?) Thank you for sharing it with us!

    My friends and I share our words at the start of the New Year and it’s something we look forward to.

    This year, I wrote a blog post about it and posted it to my website and shared it out on Facebook, etc. I’ve loved hearing back from folks. I’m attaching the link so that you can see the post:

    I am so thankful to have this alternative to New Year’s Resolutions. THIS practice has had a profound impact on my world–the word resonates/echoes all year long.

    Wishing you a Happy New Year. Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

    • Jason, I somehow missed reading your excellent article on Ho-okupu. I love the word, and I love the double meaning. It will work its way into my journal quickly, because it is so wonderful. Thanks for letting me find this lovely post. I value your work so very much.

  4. This year I spent several times with my journal using words to consider for 2013 as writing prompts. My word for 2012 was “kindness”; a word that was executed in my regard for self as well as for those in my circle of life and those strangers encountered as I moved about my place in the universe in physical form as well as in my written communication with pen and paper and in cyberspace. A very good choice of word for me, a lifelong activist, during the contentious political year. A good word for my daily walk with my personal journey as a newly retired from outside work senior citizen; could I kindly look at and learn about how the days of this new experience would unfold for me? Could I accept the silence that I had arranged to have for a shift in my journey with my writing, sketching. gardening, and my studio time creating textile art. Was there a kind and loving self embracing the person unfolding from within me each minute, hour, day, week, month of this year of “kindness”? When the squirrels devoured my bird seed and toppled my sunflowers and amaranth was I able to kindly find ways of discouraging their natural habituations? The word became for me a blessing that covered my year of 2012 with a gentleness, sweetness and loving kindness that was so much more than I had imagined when I selected the word.
    So, now a new year, a year I enter with a kinder self, a more thoughtful self, one who has, I believe, unfolded to a place of being that allows for the entrance of a new word. The word for 2013 is “WILLING” …ahh, so much potential in that word. I am ready, and yes, willing to explore my life in the year with the addition of a willing spirit, a willing heart, a willing mind and a willing body.
    Thank you for encouraging your readers to choose a word each year and to truly stick with looking at how that word applies to each step of our walk through the year.

  5. My word for the year 2013 is “venture.” One can venture out alone or join in a venture with others. It is also a part of the word “adventure.”

  6. Pingback: Vibrant Pagoda » Artful blogging from Glenda Waterworth

  7. “Fly”. Over. Under.Through. High. Low. Hedge-hopping. Stratospheric. Nap-of-the-earth. Interplanetary. So many ways to apply the word but all require cutting bonds, kicking out the chocks, defying gravity, leaving the ground and and seeing everything from a different perspective.

  8. Never selected a Word for the Year before, but Quinn convinced me to do so. I toyed with the word “am” for a while because it is the opposite of the sad word “was.”

    Now I’m going with “enjoy.”

    Today I’ll be thinking of a supporting word list: benefit, etc.

    Thank you Quinn!

    Enjoy your new year eveeyone!

  9. My word for 2012 was experiment, which I did and it has been an interesting year for my art, this year I like the word explore. I may get out more and sketch, or if it is raining draw maps 🙂
    Thanks for writing your blog, and best wishes for 2013.

  10. For the past couple of years, I’ve chosen three words for the year. I’m sort of a more-is-more type person. But this year, one word has been whispering insistently that it was the word for 2013 and I could not ignore it. That word is fearless. And I aim to live fearlessly in all areas of my life, most especially my creativity and writing.

  11. “Believe” is going to be my go to word for 2013. I’ve let others tarnish this word beyond recognition. I’m too flighty, too trusting, looking for positivity where others perceive there to be none. Well, I’m taking back my hopes, dreams and such and “believing” that anything can and will happen if I try hard enough. I know that wonderful things will not just drop in my lap, nor do I expect them to. I plan to work hard and make 2013 my break out year and in order for this to happen, I need to believe. Starting up a “Believe” journal to put all my positivity in one spot so I can reflect on it daily. This is my book, not for others to pry into. They only end up leaving their negativity on and around the book. Enough is enough! This artist is breaking out and going to shoot for the stars.

  12. Hi Quinn, well the first word that enters was ‘movement’ but then directly my mind interfere and is talking to me; you can better take ‘acceptance’ because when you take movement as a word you must get starting to move…..and will you be able to do so? By movement I mean different areas of moving, fysical as well as sorting out my craft supplies and house, or trying to find a job, or get in motion to change my way of life at the moment. So ‘movement’ in the broadest sense of the word. I think I did not move for many years, but I think also that is my limited view on it, because a lot has happened to me in the last 7 years. I have a very strong judge inside me but also a strong saboteur, so maybe I must change the word ‘movement’ into ‘Begin’ or ‘Challenge’! I want to do more with my talents and mean something and make a difference.
    When I am writing this I feel I have to write more because during the way of writing you get often the answers! So ‘write’ would also be great! Well, as you can see I have a lot ideas but not a strong focus, a bit of a clear eye would be great, warm and creative greet, Miranda

  13. I´ve been choosing my word since 2007 and some have worked better than others. Specially at the beginning when the “I want what she is having” or “I should do this” were stronger reasons than my own personal plan.
    For 2013 I´m doing something slightly different, choosing one word (Energy) but several ways to apply it (percolate, cleanse, focus, work. impasse, plan and maximize are on my list so far).

  14. My word this year is harmony. And to support this word I have chosen patience, forgiveness and acceptance. I am always nervous choosing words because it often rocks my world as old stuff gets cleared out of the way. Last year my word was focus supported by clarity and joy. My creativity has been more focused and I ended the year by making my own calendar, with watercolours and pen and ink. I have never done a project like this before and am so pleased with it. It evolved from doing an art journal on and off over the past year of illuminated letters. I felt a real sense of joy when it was completed. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you and thank you for all your informative posts through the year.

    • I like the idea of “support words” and the work that comes with them. The words you chose are so *you*, and will be with you the same way the others were. As I always say to people who say, “I don’t know if I can change my life that much. . .”What else have you got to do?”

  15. I think my word for the year–this AND the next–is “acceptance”. It’s an ongoing goal/lesson/need/desire. For a long time, I was one of those people who had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to any kind of change, especially when it involved pain or difficulty. I still am every now and again. But, as the years go by, I have gotten closer to being able to, well, accept change. This year, I’m having to deal with accepting pain as a constant in my life: I’ve been diagnosed with a condition known as RSD (I won’t give you the medicalese for the condition, it doesn’t help anyone to understand it–not even doctors!). It’s a “poorly understood condition”. They don’t know what causes it, nor how to cure it. There is a treatment we’re going to try–it probably won’t get rid of all the pain, but it may bring it down to a more tolerable level. I can’t keep taking narcotics for the pain, so I’m having to learn to live with it. So, acceptance is writ large on my future. There are days when I’m handling it, and others when I have small “pity parties”. That’s where I am right now. I’m fortunate, in that my family is incredibly supportive and helpful (praise God!), we have a roof over our heads, beans on the table, and good friends–not to mention awesome bloggers to follow! So, on balance, I’m a very lucky woman. Not as hard to accept as it could be–it’s a good, meaty word.

    • A change is always hard to accept. And yours is harder than most. “Acceptance” sounds like a word carved out for you. Meanwhile, hugs to you and the struggle to come. Life can be mean sometimes.

  16. I thought I had my word selected last week: It Matters. To remind myself that what I do and think, even the little things, matters. Maybe especially the little things. I’ve noticed a tendency when I get overworked or overwhelmed to “blow things off.” I want to pay more attention to that. But then today on the radio (Rick Kogan’s The Afternoon Shift program on WBEZ Chicago) I heard a poem, The Paradoxical Commandments. Apparently it was going around a few years back, but this is the first I heard it. It resonated and now I’m thinking my word should be Anyway. Do it anyway. A conundrum (of the pleasant type).

  17. My word for 2012 was “share”, share my time, talents and resources. This year I am going with my gut and the word that symbolizes that for me is “trust”. I have to learn that I can trust my intuition with people and situations. Trust also means that I can lean on God to see me through anything (which He has!).

  18. I have decided to keep the pair of words that I chose last year: Salt & Light. It seems to me that this world needs both of those ingredients more than ever, and honestly, I think I could keep these words for the rest of my life, for what they mean and what they call me to do. Being salt and light in my daily life makes it a little better for everyone, including myself. Light to counteract the darkness, salt for flavor and as a preservative…I feel almost like I was knighted with these words for a name and a responsibility. And they are not easy…but like all good things worth having, they are worth the effort it takes to bring them into being.

  19. I think I will choose “accept,” but it seems like a difficult word.  To accept the way things are, to accept others, to accept myself, to accept help, support, compliments, responsibility, criticism, praise, love, joy…  I considered some easier words but maybe a challenge is good, especially if I can accept whatever I’m able to do with it.

  20. After reading your post, I didn’t have to think but a brief moment to come up with my new word: prepare. I’m facing the possibility of a major life change, but keep postponing it because I’m just not ready. Not ready to give up the life I’ve created where I’ve lived for the past 20 years; not ready to move from the home I’ve loved and raised my kids, much of it as a single mom. Not ready to leave my job, church, friends to possibly remarry and move to another state. I don’t accept change easily. Not ready to cut the apron strings to my 21 year old son who isn’t quite able to be on his own just yet. When I look at rooms full of art supplies and stuff with no place to put them, I realize that by starting the cleaning out and sorting process, I can “prepare” for my next stage of life. So “prepare” is the word!

    • I just had to respond to you LaTrecia…just reading your post is exciting for me! I moved 1,500 miles across the country, leaving the only state I’ve ever lived in, leaving all my family and friends, my job, and all of my social activities. I got married one year after moving and my life is totally different than what I had planned or expected but it’s SO much better. I just had to let go of any expectations of my life being similar to what it once was and now I’ve embraced peace and serenity and feel so very blessed. I made a few friends (not acquaintances but people I really WANT to be friends with) and my husband and I love to hang out together. My life is 180 degrees different than what it used to be but I’m so much happier than I’ve ever been. I had a great life where I used to live and am thankful for all those experiences but I’m on a completely different path now.

      I wish you all the best on your journey. Go with open eyes and an open heart and you will discover all sorts of wonderment!

  21. Oh! i love this idea. I hadn’t thought of it before. We (I) have never consciously chosen a word for the year but now that I think of it important words have come to me and repeated themselves throughout the year.
    One year my daughter gave me a word carved in a stone. Another year I found a huge sign that said “believe” and put it in my window where we would find fairies hanging out all the time. I have words on my refrigerator that one of us just thinks is a good word or we make a word with all the scrabble tiles there. Words are an important part of our lives here.
    But I never considered choosing one for my own for the whole year. I like the idea of a word bag. I’m going to present it to the family and see how we all feel about making it a new tradition.

  22. “Word”…that’s my word! I need to journal more, I need to share my stories and I need to remember/keep in mind the value of my spoken word and to keep my word when promises are made. That last one has always been important to me as I don’t make promises that I can’t or won’t keep…it’s just good to keep in mind how important that really is to me.

      • Fermions and bosons might be the same thing! Although now that I think of it, “thing” can be an interesting and somewhat unclear concept. But they’ve probably found the Higgs boson, and that has consequences in the everyday world, y’know! As I said when they started the search:

        They’ll search for the Higgs
        But I hope they don’t spy it;
        if they do, we’ll have mass
        so I’ll need to diet.

  23. I had “gratitude” this year and it was life-altering, and I quickly found I was already a lot more grateful than I gave myself credit for at the end of last year when I chose it!. Next year is “action” as I’m working towards a 2014 creative business goal and have a lot to do and learn before then. It’s going to be busy and fun!

  24. I’m still using my two word choice from a couple years ago: it has kept me on track and focused and safe from over-involvement in other people’s troubles: “Let Go.” It challenges me to pass along family belongings before it’s too late and someone else gets to pick where they go; to say goodbye to people I’ve enjoyed but whose lives have diverted from mine beyond the point where I can keep in touch with them, and those who have died; to play a bit outside the lines in my artwork and challenge myself to try new things; and to go with the mood of the moment instead of clinging to a to-do-list.

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