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How to choose your word of the year

advice | business | copywriting | writing

I find it hard to admit, but I’d never even heard of the concept of a “word of the year” until 2018. Yes, me, the person who loves words! That’s weird, right? But when I was introduced to it and made my choice for 2019, it was like a whole new world opening up to me. And, of course, I’ve done it ever since. But I realise that this idea might be a new thing for you. It might be something you haven’t done before or considered for your own life and business. So, here’s how to choose your word of the year. Are you ready?

So, what’s a word of the year, and why do you need one?

Simply put, a word of the year is a focus point. It’s a mindset and a small area for you to fix your mind on when everything gets too much or too overwhelming throughout the year. And the idea is it should bring you back to where you need to focus again. 

I know the idea of a single word being able to do that might seem a little crazy. But think of it like this… it’s the equivalent of closing your eyes for a moment and just focusing on your breathing. It allows you to shut out the noise and complications and problems and craziness of what’s happening out there. And it brings you back to a single point of focus that reminds you what it is you want from your year, in whatever capacity that might be – home, personal, work and business life.

To give you an example – the word I chose for 2019 was ‘tabula rasa’ (yes, I realise that’s two words, but more on that in a minute), which means ‘blank slate’. It was my first year in Canada, and I saw it as a blank slate, a chance to start again and do anything I wanted or that made my heart sing. Whenever I found I was struggling to see what I should be doing next, I was able to go back and remember my word for the year, which reminded me of all the things I wanted to achieve in an instant.

Making your choice

Convinced? Then it’s time for you to choose your word! But you might find that making a choice isn’t as simple as picking a word that immediately springs to mind. Some of you will immediately have an idea, which is great. Go with it! But for those of you struggling, here are some quick tips to help you choose your word of the year.

First, ask yourself some questions

Figuring out what you want in the future means you have to look back at what has been to see what did and didn’t work for you. Review the year that’s just been (yes, even a horrible one like 2020!) and figure out what you enjoyed about the year, what worked well for you, what you didn’t like, what didn’t work well and so on. You’ll start to form a picture of how you want your next year to go based on the lessons you learned from this one.

Ask yourself: 

  • What do you need for your life this year?
  • What traits or qualities are important to you right now?
  • Do you see any common themes in your list of goals for the year ahead?

Create a list

Based on what you figure out from looking back and asking yourself those questions, start to jot down a list of words that might work. You might begin to see a distinct theme amongst the words you choose, or they might be wildly different. That’s okay! It’s all part of the process, and I promise it all helps.

As you look at these words, start to see if any of them particularly resonate with you. As an example, for me this year, the idea of balance really came through. And I loved the idea but wasn’t so keen on the word itself, for lots of different reasons.

So, I took the words that resonated and popped them into an online thesaurus to see what else would come up. You can do the same. You might immediately find a word that jumps out at you. Or delve deeper, look into their specific meanings in a dictionary and see if any of them speak to you. Eventually, a word will stand out much brighter than all the rest.

Now you have your word!

For me, my word this year became ‘equilibrium’. It signified the balance I was looking for, but I particularly liked its definition: “a state of intellectual or emotional balance”. And so that is what my focus will be on this year, creating equilibrium in my life – personally and professionally. 

Once you have your word, it’s time to celebrate it! Write it down. Let it settle in. Feel it. Think about it. Share it with others around you. And, as your year progresses, cast your mind back to it from time to time and let it remind you of where you’re aiming this year.

A final couple of thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, your word of the year doesn’t have to be a single word. It can be a phrase or even a quote, a song lyric or a line from a poem if that works better for you. You also don’t have to have just one word of the year! I know some people who choose one main word and two or three supporting words or three key words for the year. Do what feels right. 

Finally, find a way to celebrate your word and keep it at the forefront of your mind over the next 12 months. Write it on a big piece of paper and pin it on your noticeboard. Create a graphic and use it as your desktop wallpaper. I even have a friend who stamps her words on a new bracelet for herself each year! Whatever you choose, make sure it’s somewhere you can see it so that it reminds you of your goals and aims for the year ahead.

Why not pop into my Facebook group, Copy, Creatively, and share your newly chosen word of the year with us there? I also love to share lots of words and book prompts and word inspiration, as well as the occasional discussion about word-related things! And good luck with choosing your word!