What’s Your Personal Word of the Year?

A gentler alternative to New Year Resolutions: choosing a word of the year.
Personal Word of the Year Ideas

I was watching the mockumentary Death to 2020 a few days ago – it’s absolutely hilarious, by the way – and among other things, there is a clip of the Beirut explosion that is also featured. I looked at that for a second and was like – wait, that was ALSO in 2020??? I mean, last year was just wild, to put it mildly!

Anyway, now that we’ve finally seen the end of 2020, I for sure am glad to have made it into the new year. I keep reminding myself that though 2020 was a tough year, it could have been so much worse, and despite the madness, I continue to be immensely grateful for all that I have.

I’ve spent the last few days doing a bit of reflection and journaling – you know, just unpacking the insanity that was 2020 and trying to get in the right headspace for 2021. In fact, I created my own self-reflection workbook this past year and have been working my way through that – click below to receive your own copy.

One of my annual new year rituals is to choose a personal word of the year for myself which I use a guiding force, a theme, for the next 12 months. The word I chose for myself for 2021 is BOLD. I’ll get into that in a bit, but I thought I’ll share more about this practice with you all because I think it’s a simple yet powerful tool to design a better life for yourself.

WHAT IS A PERSONAL WORD OF THE YEAR?

I think of a personal word of the year as a lighthouse for a given year. Just like a lighthouse works as a navigation tool for boats and ships, that’s how a word of the year can be as well – a guiding light to provide you a sense of direction as you go about your life for the next 12 months (or whatever time frame you choose it for).

HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR WORD

I’ve been choosing a personal word of the year for myself for nearly the last five years now, maybe even longer. It’s something I picked up from Ali Edwards’ One Little Word exercise from my memory keeping days.

Some years, the word has jumped out at me without much digging. Other years, I have chosen my word intentionally based on what I want to focus on that year. In any case, a little bit of reflection and journaling can definitely help in choosing a word that resonates with you. I’ve put down a few helpful prompts to make the process easier for you.

1| REFLECT ON THE LAST YEAR

Think back over the last 12 months and ask yourself some deep questions:

  • What were your struggles?
  • What went well?
  • What did you wish you’d done differently?
  • What do you want more of?
  • What do you want less of?
  • How do you feel right now?

Record your answers in a journal or a sheet of paper – they should give you a sense of direction about what is important to you and/or what you feel is potentially missing from your life.

2| LOOK AHEAD

Now, cast your mind to end of the next 12 months.

  • Where do you see yourself at the end of year?
  • What do you want to have accomplished over the next 12 months?
  • What do you want to focus on this year?
  • How do you want to feel at the end of the year?

Again, your responses should solidify your sense of direction about your life and highlight what you want more of in your life over the next 12 months.

SIGN UP HERE TO RECEIVE A COPY OF THE 2021 SELF-REFLECTION & SELF-EXPLORATION WORKBOOK:

3| SHORTLIST WORDS

Having completed this reflection and visualization exercise, some words might already have started jumping out to you. Start jotting down these words and come up with a shortlist.

4| CHOOSE A WORD THAT TRULY SPEAKS TO YOU

From your own shortlist, pick a word that truly motivates and excites you. It’s not a science, so lean in to your intuition and see what word triggers the most positive reaction. There are no right or wrong answers, so choose a word that makes the most sense to you.

If you’re really struggling with choosing a word, there’s a list of over 200 words towards the end of the post that you can refer to.

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR WORD OF THE YEAR

1| KNOW YOUR WHY

First and foremost, get crystal clear on your “why”. Ask yourself what are you hoping to achieve with this word as your guiding light. At the end of the day, choosing a personal word of the year is about intention setting, and the clearer you are about your real objectives, the easier it will be to follow through.

2| MAKE IT VISIBLE

From my personal experience, I’d say that this can make a huge difference. I’ve had years when I’ve written about my word in a journal at the start of the year, and then never actively done anything with it, which is obviously something that you don’t want to happen.

Instead, making your word super visible can act as a constant positive reminder for you to align yourself to that energy. Going back to the lighthouse analogy – a lighthouse won’t really be of that much help to boats if it didn’t throw out that powerful beam of light to make itself known, right?

A few ideas to make your word visible:

  • Make a physical or digital vision board
  • Create a phone/laptop wallpaper with your word
  • Include your word in your passwords
  • Include your word in an affirmation (or two) and read that affirmation to yourself every day
  • Have your word inscribed on a small token that you use/see regularly. Like a key chain, or in the form of an inscribed stone (like Liz Lamoreux’s Soul Mantra products) that you can keep by your bedside.

3| SET YOURSELF SOME ACTIONABLE GOALS + HABITS

Merely choosing a personal word of the year isn’t going to be enough to uplevel your life in the ways you want to. You need to use the word to come up with a list of action items.

If “joy” was your chosen word, one of your actionable habits could look like “do something everyday that brings me joy”. As a precursor to that, you should make a list of things that bring you joy.

Of course, the actionables could wary depending on the kind of word you choose. Also, every word need not necessarily translate into specific actionable goals (say, kindness), and that’s okay too. Your word of the year could simply be a feeling/attitude you want more of in your life, and that would be great too!

4| REGULARLY CHECK-IN WITH YOUR WORD

You could do this in a few ways. Maybe every night before bed, you could mentally ask yourself if you truly lived by your word today. Or, you could do a weekly/monthly review of your word and the related actionable habits to see whether you’re actually using the word in your life as you intended.

This journal or this online class could be a great way to create a year-long project out of living with your word of the year.

A FEW HELPFUL REMINDERS

If this is the first time you’re choosing a personal word of the year and if the process of choosing a word seems overwhelming, these helpful reminders might make it easier for you.

You don’t have to choose just one word.

Don’t get hung up about the word having to be “one word”. Choose three words, or even a phrase or a quote, if that’s what makes sense to you. Whatever you choose, the important thing is that it needs to act as a guiding light for you through the year.

You don’t have to be married to your word for the whole year.

If your word stops resonating with you at any point during the year, or if you’ve just overgrown it, feel free to do a hard reset and re-select your word. Yes, you’re totally allowed to change your word if you need to!

You don’t have to choose a single word for the whole year.

On a similar note, you don’t have to have a single word for the whole year. If it works better for you, you could have an overarching word for the year, and then select a word for every quarter/month that ties in with the broader theme.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH A PERSONAL WORD OF THE YEAR

I’ve chosen words like Do, Finish, Action for my One Little Word over the years.

Last year, my word of the year was “Light”. Going into 2020, I’d been dealing with some heavy feelings and negative thoughts, and I really wanted to actively seek the light, and bring in more light into my life.

Now, it might come as a surprise to no one that 2020 didn’t quite go as per plan. However, from where I stand today, I do feel a certain kind of lightness in my life. Believe me when I say, it’s not how I envisaged it, but I’ve come to accept that the Universe works in mysterious ways.

Coming to 2021 – the word I’ve chosen for myself is BOLD. For far too long now, I’ve just felt impossibly stuck in life, unfortunately aided by my own unproductive habits and choices. I kept repeating the same behavior day-after-day, month-after-month, and yet expected my life to miraculously change trajectory.

After the year that I’ve had (we’ve all had, to be honest!), something just had to give. I was tired of the same old cycle repeating yet again. I have big dreams for 2021 and I know for a fact that my mindset will play a huge role in whether I am even remotely successful these big dreams come true. So I had to choose a word that would push me, that would force me to stop playing small.

And thus, BOLD. I need more than a little bit of boldness to shake up my life and I am here for it. :)

250 PERSONAL WORD OF THE YEAR IDEAS

Personal word of the year ideas

Lastly, if you’re really struggling to come up with a word for yourself, I’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of 250 word ideas that you can use as your personal word of the year.

  1. Abundant
  2. Abundance
  3. Accept
  4. Achieve
  5. Act
  6. Action
  7. Adventure
  8. Align
  9. Alignment
  10. Allow
  11. Amaze
  12. Amazement
  13. Ambition
  14. Amplify
  15. Aspire
  16. Awake
  17. Awakened
  18. Badass
  19. Balance
  20. Ballsy
  21. Be
  22. Beauty
  23. Become
  24. Begin
  25. Believe
  26. Belong
  27. Best
  28. Better
  29. Bliss
  30. Bloom
  31. Bold
  32. Boundless
  33. Boss
  34. Brave
  35. Build
  36. Calm
  37. Care
  38. Centered
  39. Change
  40. Cheer
  41. Cheerful
  42. Chill
  43. Challenge
  44. Choose
  45. Clear
  46. Clarity
  47. Clean
  48. Cleanse
  49. Comfort
  50. Commit
  51. Community
  52. Compassion
  53. Complete
  54. Connect
  55. Consider
  56. Considerate
  57. Consistent
  58. Conscious
  59. Content
  60. Contentment
  61. Cool
  62. Courage
  63. Cozy
  64. Create
  65. Creative
  66. Dare
  67. Dedicate
  68. Dedication
  69. Delight
  70. Depth
  71. Direct
  72. Direction
  73. Discipline
  74. Dream
  75. Do
  76. Easy
  77. Effort
  78. Effortless
  79. Elevate
  80. Embrace
  81. Empower
  82. Encourage
  83. Energy
  84. Enjoy
  85. Enough
  86. Enthusiasm
  87. Essentialism
  88. Evolve
  89. Experience
  90. Expand
  91. Explore
  92. Faith
  93. Faithful
  94. Family
  95. Fearless
  96. Finish
  97. Fitness
  98. Flourish
  99. Flow
  100. Free
  101. Freedom
  102. Fresh
  103. Focus
  104. Force
  105. Forge
  106. Forgive
  107. Gain
  108. Generous
  109. Gentle
  110. Give
  111. Go
  112. Grace
  113. Graceful
  114. Gratitude
  115. Grateful
  116. Grow
  117. Growth
  118. Guard
  119. Happy
  120. Heal
  121. Health
  122. Heart
  123. High
  124. Higher
  125. Home
  126. Honest
  127. Honesty
  128. Honor
  129. Hustle
  130. Imagine
  131. Improve
  132. Influence
  133. Inspire
  134. Intentional
  135. Invest
  136. Journey
  137. Joy
  138. Keep
  139. Kindle
  140. Kind
  141. Laugh
  142. Lead
  143. Leader
  144. Leap
  145. Learn
  146. Less
  147. Light
  148. Limitless
  149. Listen
  150. Live
  151. Love
  152. Magic
  153. Make
  154. Maintain
  155. Manifest
  156. Maximum
  157. Maximize
  158. Mend
  159. Mindful
  160. Minimal
  161. Minimize
  162. More
  163. Move
  164. Mystical
  165. Nest
  166. New
  167. Now
  168. Nourish
  169. Nurture
  170. Open
  171. Organize
  172. Partner
  173. Patience
  174. Passion
  175. Persist
  176. Persistent
  177. Perspective
  178. Plan
  179. Play
  180. Playful
  181. Positive
  182. Possibilities
  183. Powerful
  184. Practice
  185. Pray
  186. Prepare
  187. Present
  188. Prioritize
  189. Progress
  190. Pure
  191. Purpose
  192. Raise
  193. Reason
  194. Record
  195. Reduce
  196. Reflect
  197. Refresh
  198. Renew
  199. Repair
  200. Reset
  201. Resilient
  202. Resilience
  203. Rest
  204. Rise
  205. Roots
  206. Savor
  207. Secure
  208. Self-love
  209. Serve
  210. Shake
  211. Share
  212. Shift
  213. Shine
  214. Simple
  215. Simplify
  216. Space
  217. Soar
  218. Solidify
  219. Soul
  220. Soulful
  221. Steady
  222. Still
  223. Stillness
  224. Strong
  225. Strength
  226. Success
  227. Succeed
  228. Thankful
  229. Thoughtful
  230. Thrive
  231. Transcend
  232. Transparent
  233. Trust
  234. Unapologetic
  235. Understand
  236. Unlimited
  237. Untamed
  238. Value(s)
  239. Vitality
  240. Wander
  241. Wealth
  242. Wellness
  243. Whole
  244. Wholehearted
  245. Wild
  246. Wisdom
  247. Wonder
  248. Worthy
  249. Wow
  250. Yes

I hope this helps you to come up with a word for your 2021! Let me know in the comments below what you choose.

PS: You can receive this list of words + the 2021 Self-Reflection & Self-Exploration Workbook by signing up here!

Hi! I am Shirsha, and welcome to Sage & Bloom. I am a textbook introvert, and a hopeless dreamer! 🌻 Lover of books, rainy days, chilled white wine, fresh flowers, and personality tests! ✨

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1 Comments

  1. 1.17.21

    Oh I love your word. I know the feeling of being stuck and repeating habits daily even though you know it’s not bringing you closer to your goal or the life you wish to live. I wish you all the best and many bold moments. I am going with GRACE this year. paired with last years as I feel like I didn’t squeeze all life out of it yet.