How to choose a word of the year

Are you someone who sets a word of the year? I remember the first word of the year I ever created. It was during my very first Blueprint Retreat back in 2014. We ended the retreat with elementary age art supplies, a sheet of paper, a great playlist on bluetooth (of course) and time to intentionally choose a word to characterize the upcoming year. We had just spent three days together walking through my annual planning process, now available online through My Blueprint Year curriculum, and the very last step was to take all that heart-felt digging, analyzing and dreaming, and set one word to be our intention for the year ahead.

My word was TRUST. And it remained my word for the next three years.

For me choosing a word of the year hasn’t ever been an exact science. In fact, I don’t even know why during that first Blueprint Retreat I included the exercise of setting a word of the year in the curriculum. I don’t remember doing this during my annual planning process as a financial advisor (where my annual planning journey really began). So, I guess it just sort of happened!

You know those moments when you think back and wonder, how did that happen? Well, that’s exactly what writing this post spurred in me! How did I start setting a word of the year and why? So to google I turned,  “Who started a ‘word of the year’ practice?”

While I didn’t find the answer to our question I did find some really amazing practices others do along this same thread. While many practice this ‘word of the year’ idea, there are so many ways to do it.

I’m going to share with you the five steps I take to choose a word of the year, but the most important takeaway is for you to know WHY to do this!

The Goal of choose a word of the year : one overarching word you want to characterize the year.

In my research I found some call this their “one word” instead of resolutions, others called it their “mantra” for the year. I liked both of those ideas. No matter how this looks for you, this word or phrase becomes a “theme” to focus and define your year.

How to choose a Word of the Year

Step 1 : Create a list of possible words.

Many years I find there are words that have already been sitting on my brain for one reason or another so I start by writing down these words. If you don’t have any words standing out go back to your goal-setting prep work and start looking at any repeated words in your journaling time.

Step 2 : Get out the dictionary and start defining your words

I try to get my list down to five or less and then I pull out the dictionary and start defining each word. I read their definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and even look up the definitions of these subwords. I dig and I write and journal and it feels like “yes! That’s what I want this year to be about.”

I often find my word of the year stems from a need or an imbalance from the previous year. For instance, if I’m coming off a particularly busy year then I might be more drawn to the word “REST”.

Step 3 : Marinate.

This is an important step. Marinate! Give it a day or five and just sit on that word. Is this a word that is just for NOW or do you want it to characterize the entire next twelve months. Think on it. What does living out this word for the next twelve months look like to you? Does it fit?

Step 4 : Tell others.

Once you’ve narrowed down your words, defined and marinated on five or less. Pick one and start telling others. You’ll find when you start speaking the word out loud it either “fits” or “doesn’t fit”. You don’t want to let others sway you but it’s so important to share you word and why you chose it. I find this helps me determine if I’ve really settled on the right word or if after speaking it out loud, it’s not quite right!

Step 5 : Commit and Display.

Pick your word and display it! I like to put mine up on the mirror in my bathroom, at my desk at the studio and framed on my nightstand. Writing your goals, and your word of the year, matters and is proven to increase your chances of achieving your goals.

Did you know, According to only 8% of people achieve their goals? I can totally relate. Goals haven’t always treated me kind. In fact, for many years I felt pretty defeated by missed goals. Yearly I would sit down and write out big goals: how much money I was going to make, how much weight I was going to lose, and how many books I was going to read. Guess what—in 5 years of working in finance, never once did I achieve all those annual goals.

The day I started achieving my goals was the day I flipped the script on goal-setting. Instead of setting “sounds good” goals that others were setting, I started thinking intentionally about what I wanted to achieve and creating “plans” instead of goals instead!

I’ve been teaching my annual planning process since 2014 and in 2018 made this curriculum available online through My Blueprint Year curriculum & planner. Learn more about this tool and if it’s a good fit for you on your journey to live your most intentional life!

Intentional living begins with purposeful planning.

To living big dreams,




Do you set a word for each year? If so, I’d love for you to share your word and how you got started with this practice!


February 18, 2019

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