What’s your Word?

BY SCOTT ANDERSON

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s time to gather with family and friends, and maybe a little eggnog, and reflect on all we’ve been through this year. And man, have we been through some stuff.

But the excitement of the season doesn’t stop there. This not only is a time for love and laughter, but as we look ahead to 2022, it is a time for hope and wonder as well.

This is the time of year when people resolve to reinvent themselves in the new year by losing weight, reading books or saving money. Be honest… you’ve already shopped around for a gym membership and subscribed to three YouTube channels that promise to teach you to be a better cook come Jan. 1.

Before you break out the legal pad and make that list of life-changing resolutions that you will just set aside and lose by Valentine’s Day anyway, let’s propose a simpler solution. One word.

Yep. What if you synthesized all your thoughts and dreams for the coming year into a single word? Not a motto, or a slogan. More like the foundation you will build upon for the year.

Let’s face it, resolutions almost always wind up being a long list of self-imposed sanctions and limitations. But a precisely chosen word, in its minimalism, opens the mind, and life, to possibilities. Look at it this way: which would you rather tell yourself on New Year’s Day, “Don’t eat cake,” or “Explore.”

Psychology Today identified four reasons many New Year’s resolutions fail. In a nutshell, the study found people lack clarity in setting resolutions, they get overwhelmed by the resolutions, they get discouraged and sometimes, they just aren’t ready for all that change. Resolutions become walls that we erect around ourselves, establishing limits. Build enough of them, and you begin to feel confined by them. No wonder many people get discouraged and quit.

But a single word is a launching pad. It gives you something to stand on but allows for freedom and flexibility on the journey.

Elizabeth Dhokia is a writer and the host of the podcast “The Good Life Unravelled.” She says that a word for the year is a kinder, gentler way to grow than resolutions. It provides guidance and focus and takes the focus off succeeding or failing.

If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that we need to be flexible. I don’t think anyone had ‘surviving the uncertainty of a global pandemic’ on their list of resolutions for 2020, or 2021.

How do you choose from among all the words out there one that will guide you through the coming year? The specific steps from the experts differ in the details, but it all comes down to a few basic steps:

1. Reflect: Look back on the year that has been. Where were your victories and losses? How did those things make you feel? What do you want to see and experience more in your life? What do you want to see and experience less?

2. Project: Visualize where you want to be this time next year. Turn off the TV and the cell phone for this one. Get alone and ponder how you would improve yourself and your situation. How would you like to feel differently in a year?

3. Brainstorm: Set yourself a time limit and jot down all the words that come to mind. No thinking or analyzing — just writing. Joy. Abundance. Patience. Peace. Discipline. Health. Calm. Persistence. Gratitude. Family. Give. Create your own list of meaningful words.

4. Refine: Look back on the list and begin to eliminate the words that do not resonate with you. Narrow the list down to the top three.

5. Select: Separate those final three words from the castoffs. Is there one that just keeps repeating itself over and over in your mind? Ask yourself, “Am I truly committed to this word, or am I just interested in it?” When you find the one you can go all-in on, you will have your word for the year.

There are plenty of resources on the internet to help you find the word that works for you. Just remember that the word should be freeing, not confining. If you feel trapped, you have chosen the wrong word. What do you do then? Go back to step one and choose another word, regardless of the date on the calendar.

I’ll be honest… I have not ever chosen a word for the year. Oh, I gave up on resolutions a couple of years ago. And in 2020, like a million other folks, I took the easy route and decided “Vision” would be a great word for the year. But I didn’t put any thought into it. It was 2020, how could the word not be vision, right?

Last year at this time, I had the word “Progress” thrust upon me for 2021. I didn’t object to it; I just didn’t choose it myself (if you know, you know). And because I embraced progress as my word for 2021, I am free to choose a word for 2022.

And you are too, regardless of what happed this past year. Challenge yourself. Dream big! The possibilities abound! Let the adventure begin!