Choosing a Word of the Year

Word of the Year How to Choose a Word of the Year

Choosing a word of the year is better than setting New Year resolutions. There, I said it!

A guiding word for the year is a simplified and concise way for goal setting in lieu of complicated resolutions that get broken and forgotten after a couple of weeks into January.

You have likely seen other share their Word of the Year, but perhaps you are not sure how they choose a word of the year. 

If you have never picked a guiding word for your year or if you need a refresher in doing so, I’m sharing an updated post that I originally shared in 2020.

I have also updated a great resource of over 700 potential words to use for inspiration and brainstorming your word. 


Choose a word of the year

Let’s choose a word of the year!

For me, it is always exciting to think about the possibilities of a new year – that “fresh start” feeling. However, I’ve never been one to make yearly resolutions. Instead, I choose a word to help guide my life. I will share the 5 steps I use to do that.

Choosing a word to guide me each year is something I have been doing for 10+ years. Back in my scrapbooking days, Ali Edwards started a movement called One Little Word. From her website, she says she started choosing a word to focus on, to live with, to investigate, to write about, to craft with, and to reflect in daily life. She offers a year long creative workshop around the chosen word.

Choosing a word for the year is a process that can be different for everyone.

I know many people who use this concept each year. How a person comes up with their word is personal. 

For me, I think of my word as my mantra or intention for the year. Something I can come back to for motivation if life gets off course. It’s my compass! 

Some years, the word picks me. Other years, I have a list that I narrow down over the course of several days or weeks. I’ve gotten stuck overthinking (shocker) my word in the past and have even changed my word halfway through the first quarter. 

I have broken down my general process into 5 steps. Let this be a loose guide for you to choose your word for the new year.

5 Steps to Choose a Word of the Year

Selecting a word of the year is not rocket science, but I want to share the five steps I take to choose my word of the year:   

  1. REFLECTION. Start by reflecting on the past year and what goals were or weren’t met and how life was lived in general. 
  2. FORWARD THINK. I typically spend some time thinking forward after I’ve reflected. Think about the direction and focus you want to take your life into the new year. This is also when I journal or write down goals or intentions I hope to accomplish. 
  3. BRAIN DUMP WORDS. Make a list of words that come to mind around those goals, feelings, and intentions then set it aside for a time. I look up words in the dictionary and thesaurus; and I peruse other lists of words that might bring inspiration. (I’ve provided a long list of words to help inspire you below).
  4. EDIT LIST. Once that list has marinated, edit it. Take out the words that don’t feel right and try to narrow it down to 2-5 words. At this point, one word may jump out at you. Go with it!
  5. ONE WORD. Finally, revisit that edited list after a day or two (or more) and make a decision on your one word.

Some other tips to help finalize the word:

  • I like to write out and doodle with the words from my final list. I want my word to be aesthetically pleasing, as well as functional. 
  • Choose a word that will be flexible enough to fit with into the different aspects of life. For me, I want it to work in my professional and personal life. 
  • I make sure it will fit and then I try to stop overthinking it and just commit. 
  • Once the word is selected, I typically put it on a piece of jewelry, paint it on a canvas, add it to my journal, share it with friends, declare it on social media. Basically, I put it everywhere as a reminder of the compass that word can be for the year.  

I have compiled a list of over 700 potential words to help you get started choosing a word for the new year.  If you want to choose a word for the new year, maybe one of these will inspire you. 

I will be curious if you choose a word to guide your next year. Let me know through a comment below or via email or DM on social media what word you decide to guide your new year! I think we can all agree that it is time for a fresh start.

Let’s choose a new word of the year! 

pin for word

5 thoughts on “Choosing a Word of the Year

  1. I love this idea (and am fascinated by your blog here / mailing list).
    I am going to look at your list but as soon as I read about the idea the word that popped into my head is TODAY. I feel like I screw up when I do something inconsistent with a longer-term goal b/c I tell myself I will start tomorrow. I KNOW that when I lost 85 lbs (in 2012) what worked was saying to myself that I would do what I need to do today . . and I can cheat tomorrow if I want. (Of course, I would then say the same thing the next day.)
    So I’m going to look at your list .. but my immediate reaction is that my word is TODAY.


    1. I used the word TODAY in 2020 and it was perfect! I wanted to live more in the present moment and that was my perfect reminder. i say go for it!

  2. My word this year is going to be Willing!!
    Willing to let God use me where He needs me. Willing to make changes for the better. Willing to be there for my family and others. Willing to enjoy God’s beautiful world. Willing to get out and go places.

    Phyllis Williams

    1. That is a fantastic word! Thank you for sharing. Excited to hear about your State Park adventures.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close