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Pick a New Year’s Word Not A Goal

Updated: This is part of a yearly series on selecting a Word of the Year and was originally published in January 2015, thus the old date references. The post was updated in January 2020 including links to all the posts in this series which can be found at the bottom.

Every year, I end up asking the same two questions.”How can it possibly be the first day of a new year?” and “Where did last year go?”

This is the time of year when we are bombarded with blog posts about productivity and goal setting. So here’s my contribution, my take on setting new year’s resolutions and goals, but with a slightly different approach.

If you are anything like me, I struggle not only with goal setting but also with goal keeping. For years I avoided making any goals since I knew that I was more than likely to forget them by the end of January.

Reason #1: Lack of Focus Means of Lack of Clarity

For a long time, I have thought there was something wrong with me or that I just wasn’t self-disciplined enough to follow-through. With the new year upon us, this issue has been on my mind a lot. I have big ideas for 2015, and that will require some big goals and consistent action steps to bring these ideas to life.

Pick a

Not long ago, while listening to a webinar, I was struck by what the speaker was saying about the ability to focus. He said that struggling with focus is a strong sign of a lack of clarity. Oh my, that was a BIG aha for me. While I know I need to work on my self-discipline, a lack of clarity is also a significant contributing factor in me not setting and reaching goals.

I talk a lot about knowing your “why”, but sometimes it takes someone else saying the same thing to realize you need to take your own advice! This idea of lack of clarity has turned my thinking around and given me hope and an action plan.

If I am not clear on what I want to accomplish and why I am going to struggle with both setting and keeping goals. Doubts will creep in as I begin to wonder if it is the right goal to set, let alone all the work that will be required to make it happen.

Reason #2: Create a Foundation for Goals

Have you heard of the one-word or theme idea instead of new year resolutions? The idea is to take time to carefully and prayerfully consider the coming year and what you would like to accomplish and pick a word or a theme for the year.

In the book, “One Word That Will Change Your Life,” the authors point out that “Words are powerful. They have the power to inspire, encourage, appreciate, heal, and turn the impossible into the possible.”

Reason #3: Simple and Meaningful Means You’ll Follow Through

Your word does not need to be anything fancy. Connection, Church, Family, Relationships, Adventures, Healthy, Simplify, etc. The word you choose will be personal and meaningful to you.

The first time through the process, my word ended up being Simplify. That idea made me think differently about things in general. My schedule, what I said yes to, my business, my belongings, my hobbies, etc.

Last year I did not go through the process, and I can see a bit of wandering around and not accomplishing as much as I had hoped. Not all of that is tied to not selecting my One Word, but I can definitely see how not choosing affected some of my decisions.

Reason #4: Just One Word? A Word of the Year is A Springboard

Author and Entrepreneur Chris Brogan takes this idea one step further and selects 3 words to help create a foundation for his focus and goals for the year. You can read more about the words he has chosen over the years and why here.

Maybe choosing just one word sounds incredibly hard, I hear you! So don’t. Choose 3 :).

Once you have your word or words selected… take the idea one step further…

Pick a

Reason #5: A Word of the Year is Easier to Document & Journal (or Artify Your 2021)

This article was posted on Facebook right around Christmas time, and I LOVE the idea. In it, author Elizabeth Gilbert suggests the idea of creating a collage for the new year. She says in the article, “It’s more about how I want to FEEL, than about what I want to ACHIEVE.”

Giving yourself visual reminders of your selected words in a beautiful, creative way is just one way to help keep these words front and center. Without these visual cues and consistent review, your words, goals, and dreams will be forgotten. They will be lost in the craziness of everyday life. You will lose momentum and focus.

If a collage isn’t your thing, type up the words, and put them on a bulletin board, draw them in your journal, make a bookmark for your Bible, create a Pinterest board. Just keep them somewhere where you can see them, be reminded of them, and remember to pray about them.


My Words.

For 2015 I’m going a bit wild and selecting 4 words. Over the past couple of months, these 4 have come up time and again.

  • Simplicity: I always seem to go back to this word. Between business, family, and attempting to have a personal life, it all feels so complicated and unmanageable at times. I will continue to look at simplifying my business, my belongings, commitments, and activities.
  • Creativity: This is a big one for me. My creative side must be itched! It is a stress reliever, sharpens and refreshes my stressed-out brain, and helps me become a better problem solver. Creating time to create is a must.
  • Rest: 2014 has been a year of push, 2015 has to make time for more intentional, deliberate rest. Real rest and rejuvenation. If I don’t, my physical and mental health will continue to take the hit.
  • Outdoors: Adventures, explorations, treasure hunting, walking the dog, and exercising, this is what the outdoors means to me. It is refreshing, exciting, and healthy to explore the hiking trails, the long walks on the beach, or sitting on the front porch. 

Your Turn!

Check out the book, and decide if it’s time for you to choose a word of the year.

If you had to choose right now,
what is the first word that pops into your head?

Want to dive more into picking and using a Word of the Year?
I’ve got a couple of podcasts episodes for you that might help.
You can listen in or read the transcripts to each episode at the links below.

Episode 31: Word of the Year or New Year’s Resolutions? Which one do you need?
Episode 32: I’ve Picked My Word of the Year… Now What?

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