A few years ago, a new New Year goal-setting tradition began when we gathered a group of amazing women in my living room for a workshop on choosing a guiding word of the year. Inspired by Susannah Conway, a word of the year (WOTY) is different from goals and resolutions because it’s less about what you want to do and more about how you want to be. It’s about how you want to show up to your life in the year ahead.
Choosing a word to guide you feels so much more e x p a n s i v e than a resolution. As Susannah Conway says, “A word can be embraced as a mantra, a meditation, a reminder, a promise. A word can be interpreted in different ways. A word can’t be “broken” — it feels gentler somehow.” A New Year’s REVELATION! Way less pressure, right?
Choose Your Word
Carve out some time in a quiet place with a pen and paper. Invite the deepest, wisest voice inside of you to come out and answer these three key questions:
1. What feelings do you want to cultivate and attract in your life this year?
2. What do you want to pay more attention to?
3. How do you want to show up to your 2017?
When choosing your word, keep in mind:
- Your word should be powerful to you. Whether it delights you (JOY) or challenges you (COMMITMENT), makes you feel safe (HOME) or pushes you out of your comfort zone (SHINE), your word should resonate with you on a deep level.
- State it in the positive. Your word is not about what you don’t want in your life, it’s what you do want. Stating it in the positive will be an invitation to the universe to send that energy your way.
- There is no “right” type of word. You can choose any word -- a noun, verb, adjective, exclamation (BOOM!). You can choose an active or passive word, one that launches you out into the world or draws you inward. It doesn’t have to be big and grand. It can be quiet and still. It all depends on what kind of a ride you need to have this year. Your deepest, wisest self knows exactly what that is.
Step into Your Word
So, now that you’ve defined how you want to show up, it’s time to take it a step further:
If you truly embodied your definition of your word, what would that look like, and what would that mean to you?
Carole Ann → Last year my guiding word was ‘beacon.’ To me, that word was about how I wanted to show up as a leader, mother, and as a woman in her 30's who (finally) has a pretty good sense of who she is. The word challenged me to step out and shine my light with strength and vulnerability, to develop and understand my leadership style, and to stand in my truth and let go of what I can't control - like a lighthouse.
Stay Connected to Your Word
Unlike a resolution that often falls by the wayside by January 31st, a word of the year is always there for you to come back to -- it is an anchor, a mantra, an invitation to yourself. Take 15 minutes to map out some key rituals, little actions, or bigger steps to tune into your word and check in with your relationship to it throughout the year.
And, here are a few strategies for staying connected to your word throughout the year:
- Create a visual anchor. Write your word down and keep it somewhere that you will see it often - hang it next to your mirror, take a photo and make it the background on your phone, or hang it in your cubicle, or workspace. In those moments when you’re bogged down or even when you’re in a great place and looking to what’s next for you - you’ll have that reminder to stay tuned into your word.
- Small rituals. Look for small opportunities to connect with your word as you go about your day. It might be as simple as reminding yourself to take a few deep breaths before launching into a meeting or establishing a morning ritual of making yourself a cup of tea and sitting quietly before the rest of your household wakes up. No matter how small, each step is a step in the right direction. It’s the small consistent steps we take over long periods of time that create lasting change.
- Share your word. Tell someone you love, post it on your blog, or find another way of setting the intention beyond the secret space of your heart. Telling others will hold you accountable to honoring your word throughout the year.
Patsy → The year before last, my word was ‘nourish’. These are some of the things I did to live my word out loud:
- I prepared and enjoyed healthful meals
- I scheduled downtime for rest and relaxation (One pajama day per month. Yup, that’s right, I gave myself permission to stay in my pajamas all day long. To read, watch movies, take naps, and journal)
- I lit a candle and took a bubble bath almost every evening
- I learned to say no, more often than I said yes (which was really hard for this people-pleaser) … but it gave me the space I was craving to rest and recharge
- I spent a few minutes (almost) every day reading and reflecting
Whatever word you choose, prepare to be surprised and to learn new things about yourself. Carole Ann discovered through paying attention to her word that even though she wants to serve as a beacon for others, she must save some of that light to fuel and nourish herself. Patsy realized that nourishing herself was imperative to living and breathing her highest potential.
A guiding word is just that -- a guide -- and it will reveal things that you need to pay attention to, take you to places you hadn’t imagined, and lead you toward deeper self-knowledge and self-compassion.
Carole Ann is a life purpose coach, arts & culture administrator, quilter, and blogger based in Providence, Rhode Island. She works with women to uncover, articulate, and activate their life purpose so that they can craft an intentional life that embraces what matters to them most. When she is not coaching, she can be found blogging at www.caroleannpenney.com, or designing modern quilts in her studio.
Patsy Culp is the founder of And Celebrate, an event design company dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs deepen their client connections through extraordinary event experiences. She has her family to thank for instilling the importance of celebration and belonging into her psyche. Growing up, there was always an excuse to celebrate — the first day of school; the last day of school; the dogs’ birthday; two weeks spent huddled together during the ice storm of ‘98. Patsy carried this penchant for celebration into her teens and beyond. Today, she has made it her life’s work to bring people together, foster a sense of community, and forge stronger connections through each event she helps plan. Born and raised in a small town in Maine, she is now a proud Rhode Island transplant. She and her husband reside on the East Side of Providence and love celebrating everything Little Rhody has to offer.
Photo by Brittanny Taylor