It’s the final days of December when I focus on my “word” of the year.

My word of the year has been a powerful force for achieving my goals in past years, so it’s something I look forward to at the end of every year, as I begin to imagine new goals on the horizon.

When I talk about “my word of the year,” it’s something I do as an alternative to making resolutions or writing a list of things I want to achieve.  And while those things can be good tools, I’ve found that I’m open to more opportunities when I pick a word – one word to guide and shape my year.  I encourage you to do the same. 

This might sound odd because as an executive coach, my job is to help teams grow, often by helping them set achievable goals.  And while I’m all for this kind of big-picture strategizing, setting specific goals can sometimes be limiting.

It can sometimes cause you to have blinders on so you become so focused on specific outcomes that you miss a myriad of other opportunities to expand.

I want to give you permission to explore what might happen if you picked a word of the year to guide you in 2024. One. Single. Word.

If you’ve never done this before, it can feel a bit silly and daunting. Can one single word really make a difference? What happens if you pick the wrong word?

Perhaps by sharing my word of the year for 2023, you’ll see the power a word can have on your life.

My word of the year for 2023 was “shine.”

I picked shine because I spent much of 2021-2022 gaining advanced training as an executive coach. I was ready to bring this new knowledge into the world and see what I could do with it.

I wanted to discover more ways of using my natural talents in the world. I wanted my gifts to shine for others. To provide perspective to illuminate a way forward that they hadn’t previously seen. To bring new understanding to a situation. To provide hope for a different future.

Shine seemed like the perfect word.

When you pick a word, it’s natural to start imagining potential outcomes. That’s what I ended up doing when considering my word for the year.

  • I envisioned teaching more team-building workshops.
  • Working with leaders wanting to take their teams to the next level.
  • I imagined all the knowledge I gained pouring out of me through what I shared on social media.

Visualizing these things infused my word of the year with intention.

As 2023 unfolded, the things I imagined happened, and . . . so much more.

I had opportunities to “shine” in ways I never had before.

  • I organized my first-ever concert to benefit WarHawk PTSD Service Dogs.  It was a magical night for a great cause that exceeded everyone’s expectations.
  • I watched others shine as they offered to help with the concert via their talents, support, and time.
  • I watched the sunrise with a dear friend over the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
  • I worked with business owners who courageously embraced their natural gifts, allowing them to shine brightly as they moved themselves and their businesses forward.
  • I watched the sunset over Rocky Mountain National Park with my mom, nephew, and 11-year-old rescue dog.
  • I witnessed clients move forward after gaining a new perspective on old situations.

At the beginning of the year, I would never have imagined any of the above coming true. These aren’t goals I would have written down on a sheet of paper or marked on a calendar. Yet they all came true because of my willingness to see opportunities as possibilities to “shine.”

  • Shine gave me the courage to say Yes to new opportunities that aligned with my passions and beliefs.
  • Shine told me it was okay to say No to things that didn’t feel right for me.
  • Shine helped me strengthen my intuition and listen to that small voice urging me to follow a new path.

I’m all for creating plans and goals. I do this work with my clients. But I view plans as stepping stones rather than final destinations. They get you headed in a direction, but you often think you need permission to follow a new path when it appears.  Picking one word to guide your year makes it easier to pivot when opportunities arise. It gives you permission to set a new destination without feeling like a failure.

My world expands because I dare to say yes to more ways of living into my word.  And the same thing can be true for you.

Some years my word of the year has great impact as it did in 2023. Other years it has shown up in more subtle ways. But it always leads to a richer, more expansive way of looking at the world.

If you’ve never done this before, here are more tips on picking your word.

Author Susannah Conway also provides a free online course for picking your word on her website in late December.

And here is a short video if you want a little visual inspiration for choosing your own meaningful word.

What might happen if you picked a word to guide you in 2024?