Your Word of the Year

Your Word of the Year

At the outset of this year, I was surprised to realize that I’ve never blogged about this tool before, because it has been of great value to many as they work to implement vision – whether a personal vision, team goal, or company-wide vision. Let’s start with the broad view:

A good vision is inspiring and big-picture. So it can cover quite a bit of territory.

A personal vision, for example, could touch on where you hope to end up in your career, your marriage, your service work, your education, and so on. It might address anything from the way your house looks when you come home at the end of the day to whether or not you’ll bring your dog to work.

In short, it encompasses a lot.

So it’s great to balance that “big-ness” with some, well, smallness. Yes, one method is to map out baby steps to achieving your vision. This process is essential, exciting, and typically fairly involved.

So while you’re working on that, or even before you’ve started, consider adopting the Word of the Year.

A Simply Singular Focus

My ever-inspiring wife initially introduced me to this concept many years ago, and it’s great. Simply pick 1 word (or short phrase, if necessary) to focus on this year. Write it down and/or tell someone close to you about it, and you’re off to the races.

Your word of choice should zero in on a single aspect of your vision. Something that you’d like to focus on now and in the coming months. The simplicity and immediacy of this approach is strikingly powerful.

Too often, we bog ourselves or our organizations down with a heaping pile of “let’s-get-better-at” items. So what happens? We don’t really get better at anything, because our attention is divided.

The Word of the Year, on the other hand, requires a singular focus, by definition. So it’s easy for an individual, team, or entire company to hone in on the chosen concept and run with it.

Let’s make this tangible with some examples of people’s chosen words from years passed:

  • Streamline
  • Humility
  • Organization
  • Rest
  • Discernment
  • Efficiency
  • Transparency
  • Apologize
  • Clear goals

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Because I don’t want to provide a list for you to choose from, but rather some examples to get your wheels turning and clarify the concept.

The word you choose for yourself or your people (or with your people) should be evocative and meaningful to you. Note: this could in fact make it completely meaningless to others. That doesn’t matter, as long as it ignites the person or people for which it’s defined.

Worder’s Block

For some, just reading this far into the post may have helped you realize that you already know your word for the year. But others may have no idea.

Here’s my tip: give yourself some time. Sit with this concept for a week or 2, and you’ll find yourself thinking up possibilities. As you do, just jot down those options.

Most often, the “right” word will become apparent – it will stick with you. But just in case, give yourself a deadline and make a choice by February 1st.

Word, Check. Now what?

Once you’ve chosen your word, I suggest that you post it in a prominent place – where you will see it at least weekly, hopefully more.

Some clients record their word as a reminder in their calendar, to pop up every weekend. Others have framed their words and placed them on desks or office walls. This is a great approach for a company or team word as well: post it in the break room or near a main entry.

The goal is to embed this word in the subconscious mind (which won’t be hard because of its singularity and simplicity). The power of that subconscious awareness will take you places. So if you’ve posted your word somewhere and realize you’ve stopped noticing it halfway through the year, move it to a new spot!

In addition, consider sharing your word with an accountability partner, and ask that person to check in after a couple of months. If you’re selecting a word for your team or company, share the word with a counterpart outside of the group, and schedule a follow-up with that person every quarter, when they’re to ask you how it’s going. (If you prefer, you can also partner with yourself for this, but consider the pros and cons.)

Whatever your method, just be sure to reflect on progress and articulate what you’re learning as you hold this word in mind. You’re likely to surprise even yourself with the insights you share.


The feedback I’ve received on this tool is striking. When I check back in at the end of the year, I always hear reports of significant progress and/or surprising discoveries made as a result of the word.

Interestingly, people are rarely conscious of the specific efforts they made regarding their Word of the Year. They just see results – a change in action, attitude, performance, perspective, etc.

Why? Well, I haven’t performed a scientific study, so I can only offer my working theory: I think the Word of the Year is a classic example of the powerful subconscious mind taking over and implementing specific actions and reactions to life events, helping lead you toward your goal or align you with your focus.

So do an experiment. Try the Word of the Year for a few months, and see if it’s making a difference. If your experience is like the majority of people who have given me feedback, then I think you’ll be back with a new word next year. For most, it becomes an all-time favorite living-the-vision tool, year after year.

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