Setting Yearly Intentions and a Process for Choosing a Word of the Year

With New Years inching closer, it seems as if we’re neck-deep in conversations around goal setting, 

And we’ll be honest; we’re here for it. 

Now, we will throw out one crucial caveat, and that’s the belief that topics like goal-setting and self-evaluation shouldn’t be confined to the dates within December. 

We believe that setting goals and conducting a progress audit should be done consistently (we prefer quarterly). However, some aspects of planning and reflection do work best for this time of year when the pace of life has slowed down, we have the time to reflect, and we have specific intentions that we’d like to stick for the next calendar year. 

For both of us, one of those annual elements is selecting a Word of the Year. 

Funny enough, and something we didn’t know before putting this post together is that we both used to balk at the idea of choosing a Word of the Year.

Maybe you can relate, yet you also find yourself intrigued because if so many others are choosing a Word of the Year, perhaps the practice has merit. 

Let’s dive into our processes, and you can see for yourself whether you want to give it a try this year: 

Finding a Process for Choosing Your Word of the Year

Here is Chrissy's story and approach to finding her Word of the Year:

When it comes to choosing a word of the year, I used to be one of those people who would roll their eyes and avoid the conversation. 

I didn’t think anything would come out of determining a word to define a year, especially in light of my love of goal setting. 

But a few years ago, one December day, when I was going through a pretty significant life transition, I decided to give it a try and lo and behold, I found the process to be life-changing. 

I don’t know if I can put my finger on exactly why having a word of the year has become so important to me, except that I find it very grounding. It’s almost become a lens through which I can evaluate decisions and determine what really matters to me.

To determine my word of the year, I do two things. I first start writing down words and phrases in a notebook in a big list that resonate with me. 

I think to myself, “In December of next year, how would I want to describe this year looking back?,” and brainstorm all those words. Sometimes, if none of those words are super appealing, I’ll also head to thesauraus.com and find some similar phrases and ideas. 

At the same time that I’m brainstorming words, I'll start to Google Image search ideas and concepts on how I want my year to look. I’ll save all those images to a Pinterest board or to a folder on my desktop. 

Once I’ve a got a decent list of words and a folder full of images that make my heart sing, I’ll put those things together--which of these words fit the images? 

Which of the words gives me a similar feeling? Which of these, together, is a meaningful combination? 

Usually, I’ll start crossing things off that don’t apply and circling a few that begin to stand out. Then, I’ll keep narrowing it down until I’ve selected one. 

After I’ve chosen my word of the year, I head to Canva and use one of their collage templates to create a computer background for myself for the next year. 

I’ll use the images I selected, along with a quote or two that uses the word that I picked, and maybe even the word itself in a cool font. 

Then, throughout the year, it is an awesome reminder every time I see my desktop to see those images and be reminded of my Word of the Year. 

Here’s how Danielle approaches finding her Word of the Year: 

Similarly to Chrissy, I once was an eye-roller at the concept of choosing a Word of the Year. 

As a writer, the thought of choosing a single word to encapsulate the journey, feelings, and purpose of my entire year ahead felt constraining, and honestly like a chore I had no desire doing. 

It wasn’t until the year that I was having my first baby (2018) that I really took a deep dive into a planning process that led to landing on a Word of the Year. 

 (Not knowing what you’re getting yourself into does a funny way of making you do things you typically wouldn’t to provide some slight feeling of control. )

As I set out on my planning quest, I invested in The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. 

I loved that it had a heart-centered approach to finding intention in your life, while still weaving in the “planning” aspect that felt necessary for my business. 

Essentially, it provided a nice mix of the “head” and “heart” planning I was wanting to do while thinking about welcoming a baby into my life mid-year. 

During the Desire Map process, there’s an element called “Core Desired Feelings,” which is just like it sounds. It’s finding the way you want to feel and aligning all of your goals and action steps under those feelings. 

As I did the Core Desired Feelings work, I found the value in finding a feelings-based intention that would underpin all the things I was planning for and working toward, and thus, I chose a Word of the Year without even meaning to do so. 

While I don’t follow the Desire Map process to a T (I’ve never been one to follow rules…reason #893 I’m self-employed), every year I do return to the bank of ideas on Danielle LaPorte’s “Core Desired Feelings Library” Pinterest board, and I start by making a note of any word that pops out at me. 

Typically, once those words get jotted down, my own come out there into the mix as well. 

Then, I take those words and start writing my "why" behind wanting to feel that feeling. 

This step makes it very clear to see which words are resonating most deeply, and from there, I’ll write other similar words or feelings that branch off from there. 

By the end of this step, I’m typically down to 3-5 word “trees,” and from this point I can decipher which word best fits with my goals for my life, family, work, etc. in the year to come, and unfortunately (or fortunately, since I believe this is the point of the entire exercise), the last step is all a heart-based process. 

I can try to be as logical as I can about choosing a Word of the Year, but it always boils down to a word that I would never have thought to assign to my year, instead its the one my heart led me to. 

And as someone who doesn’t love following the “rules,” I like that it’s not a step of the process I can concretely define because the rules aren’t mine to make up or follow, but rather something to discover and unearth. 

Once I've landed on my Word of the Year, I do a process similar to Chrissy, where I create a vision board of sorts with my word at the center, which I keep printed out and hanging on the space above my desk. (Although I love having it as your laptop background, thanks for that idea, Chrissy!)

As you can see, there's no one way to find your Word of the Year, rather it's about finding a process that works for you, your goals, your life- and business-style, but from two former skeptics, we think it's worth giving a shot. 

After all, it's always a good idea to be mindful and intentional on how you want to feel as you work to accomplish your goals. As the saying goes, it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. 

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