Embracing the “Word of the Year”


As 2013 draws to a close, many of us (myself included) start thinking about what we want to accomplish during the next year. There’s nothing magical about a new calendar year, of course – January 1 is just a day like any other. But it’s as good a time as any to review, retool, and refocus.

Like many people, I have been guilty of making New Year’s resolutions. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology indicated that 62% of Americans made resolutions at the beginning of 2012. Of those people, though, 73% failed to keep their resolutions, and 19% only had minimal success. Only 8% actually achieved their goals. Not great odds by any standard (and I admit that most of my own past resolutions have ended dismally).

I happened upon Christine Kane’s Word of the Year Discovery Tool a while back – it’s been around for quite a while, but like most 40-somethings, I’m a little slow on the uptake. Anyway, I’ve been working with the tool for a few years, and it’s an interesting alternative to the standard New Year’s resolution.

What is the Word of the Year?

Simply put, you choose one word – noun, adjective, verb (pronouns seems to have been given a miss) – that embodies what you will focus your time, energy, and thoughts on throughout the coming year. It differs from a resolution in that it does not focus on what you want to get rid of (a hallmark of New Year’s resolutions), but instead, what you want to add to your life.

Let’s use weight loss as an example, since this goal perennially tops the New Year’s resolution list. If your resolution is to “lose weight,” the focus is on negative aspects:

  • dissatisfaction with personal appearance
  • deprivation (I can’t have that greasy pizza, so I really want it now)
  • judgment/uncertainty (If I had the willpower to lose weight, I wouldn’t be the size I am today)

This leaves you trying to muscle through both the process of losing weight and the negativity through sheer willpower. And if the only weapon you have against pizza/cigarettes/booze/codependent relationships/whatever is willpower, chances are pretty good that you’re eventually going to lose.

Choosing a “word of the year,” though, can establish an anchor that makes willpower irrelevant. Using the above example, we could choose from any number of words – “health,” “energy,” “confidence,” etc. When we focus on that anchor as we go about our day, the things that don’t support the “word of the year” lose their importance.

If I want to become the embodiment of health, nightly junk food binges don’t support that goal. This moves you from a mindset of “I can’t have it” to “It’s just extra baggage.” You focus on the positive goal and everything else falls into place (and you don’t have to beat yourself up when it doesn’t – very few paths are perfectly straight).

My Word of the Year

Lets face it – I have tons of crap in my life that, as they say down south, “needs fixing.” Limiting beliefs, unproductive habits, you name it. I drink great gallons of coffee, habitually skimp on sleep, and have a personal organizational system that only a hoarder could love. But I’m not going to resolve to get organized or stop drinking coffee.

Instead, I am dedicating myself to the word “service.” The next 12 months will revolve around alleviating suffering, supporting the success of others, and being a benefit to those with whom I come in contact.

Can I truly embody service if I am unhealthy/sleep-deprived/disorganized? No. But I’m not going to worry about any of that. By embracing service as my purpose for 2014, the choices I make will naturally support that purpose.

If you’d like to explore the “word of the year” concept, you can download a workbook from Christine Kane’s website. There’s no charge for the workbook, although you will have to pony up your email address. Fortunately, Christine has yet to flood my inbox with emails (I get maybe two a month), so I don’t think you’ll have to worry about getting bombarded with marketing messages.

Anyhoo, this is probably the last post of the year, so I’d like to wish all of you a prosperous, fulfilling, and enjoyable New Year!



Categories : Motivation

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