It’s that time of year when you start thinking about the new year and what you want to be different. But what if I told you there’s a powerful alternative to traditional resolutions?  Something that can infuse your days with more meaning and intention.

Have you ever thought of choosing a word for the year?

When I think of traditional resolutions, self-improvement always seems to top the list.

It’s common to set goals around getting healthier, learning more, or creating a better life for yourself.

Getting healthier used to be my annual resolution.

By the end of the holiday season, with too much food and not enough exercise, I’d be ready to make my health a priority. I’d come up with a great plan for getting to the gym multiple times a week and making healthy meals at home.

Setting these resolutions was easy. Achieving them is where I always fell short.

I’d start with gusto.

And then somewhere along the way, I’d lose my commitment. I’d start to slack off. And soon, I wasn’t pursuing my goal at all.

Instead of exercising to get healthier, it felt like resolutions were an exercise in futility.

Then I came across the concept of choosing a word for the year.

Not a list of words or even a sentence but One. Single. Word.

It’s a concept taught by author, Susannah Conway. Each December, she offers a free course on her website to help you choose your word for the year.

Choosing one word for the entire year sounds hard. There are so many words to choose from.

How can you narrow it down?

What if you pick the wrong one?

I remember the word I chose the first year I tried this.


I knew I was ready to change up my professional work but had no idea what I wanted to do. “Explore” gave me permission to chase lots of options without the pressure of having to find my ideal career path within a specific timeframe.

Some of the avenues I explored included home renovations, financial management, psychology, and organizational design. I read books. I researched online. I talked to others. The more I was willing to explore, the more I discovered these weren’t the right fit for me.

“Explore” permitted me to keep chasing something without feeling the pressure to find “the right thing.” It allowed me to learn without attaching to a specific outcome.

Then I explored coaching.

The more I learned, the more I liked the concepts around it. The more coaches I met, the more I felt the pull to be able to do what they did. By the end of the year, I had enrolled in a certified coaching program.

After my journey with “Explore,” I decided to permanently replace setting New Year’s Resolutions with choosing a word for the year. Some of my other words have included Growth, Trust, Joy, Freedom, and Abundance.

I usually write my word on a few notes and keep them in various places in my home and office. Just seeing the word helps me consider the ways that word is showing up.

For example, “Joy” was my word for the year the pandemic hit. It felt lonely and isolated at times. Yet, I looked for joy all around me – in my garden and during walks with my dog. I learned the joy of connecting with others over Zoom.

Do I think choosing “Joy” as my word for the year made my life more joyful? Not entirely, but I think it reminded me to recognize and appreciate the “Joy” that was already in my life. I was just too preoccupied to see it.

Each December, I reflect on all the ways my word has appeared throughout the year, and I often start to sense a new word rising.

I get curious about a word and wonder what might happen if I choose it. Sometimes I bounce around between a few words but eventually one keeps coming into my thoughts. And I know it’s the word I want to follow for the next year.

I’ve found that choosing a single word for the year is less about setting goals and more about having an intention. It asks that I give up attaching to specific outcomes. It requires patience and awareness. It allows for flexibility and discovery.

It creates space for the unexpected to emerge.

Choosing one word for an entire year might seem like a small thing. It might seem too vague and uncertain. But, perhaps, that’s the magic of it.

What might happen if you chose a word for the year? What one word do you feel rising in you that might lead you to believe there are no little things?

Looking for some quick inspiration to get started in choosing your word for the year? Click below: