How to Choose a Word of the Year that Makes an Impact

It’s that time of year again—time to choose a word of the year!

December is one of my favorite months. I love the Christmas season, and I also love thinking about the approaching new year!

There’s something about fresh starts and goal setting that makes me feel a bit giddy. (Yes, I fully recognize how nerdy that sounds.)

Taking the month of December to start planning and dreaming about what the new year holds really helps me to feel prepared and excited!

If you’re anything like me, you want focus and direction in your life. You want to make your days and years count.

It was because of this desire that I began choosing a “word of the year” a few years back. In all honesty, it has completely changed how I order my days and plan my goals!

Choosing a “word of the year” is becoming an increasingly popular trend. Personally, I think it’s a great one and I hope it sticks around a while. Most people need more intentionality in their lives, not less. I know that’s true for me!

Done right, picking a word to characterize your year is one way you can bring more intentionality into your life. Done wrong, well— it really doesn’t benefit you much. (Ask me how I know…)

How to Choose a Word of the Year that Makes an Impact

How to Choose a Word of the Year

The first time I decided to choose my word of the year, I didn’t put much thought into it. Consequently, it didn’t influence my life much.

The next year, I took a more intentional approach, and my word ended up making a hugely positive impact on my life!

Here are 5 ideas that can help you choose a word of the year.

1. Take Your Time

I like to start thinking about which word I’m going to choose about a month before the new year. That way, I don’t feel rushed or pressured to “just hurry up and pick one”!

Allowing ample time helps you to evaluate where you are in life and lets you ruminate on multiple words before making a decision.

2. Journal

Sit down with a journal or in front of your computer and simply begin writing about where you are in life. Ask yourself all kinds of questions.

What kind of year have you had? Where have you struggled? Where have you succeeded? What were the highlights of your year? What are your hopes and dreams for the upcoming year? Which things do you hope to see more of? Which things do you hope to see less of?

And don’t stop there— keep writing! If you haven’t journaled in a while, you might be surprised by how much you’ve bottled up inside. That certainly happens to me!

This process really helps me to open up my heart. It opens my eyes to where I am at the moment, and what I need and want going forward.

How to Choose a Word of the Year that Makes an Impact

3. Keep a List

Any time you think of a good word, add it to your list. Even if a word sounds silly at first, jot it down. You might feel differently about it in a week.

Later, if you realize a word isn’t right for you after all, just cross it off and keep on going.

4. Pray About It

Praying about my word of the year really helps to solidify the decision in my heart and mind.

I ask the Lord to lay the right word on my heart, and I don’t move forward with one until I have complete peace about it. God is always faithful!

5. Ask for Feedback

Sometimes, when it comes to topics like these, it can feel odd to ask for someone else’s opinion. But I have found that talking about the top few words with my husband really helps me to think through each one on a deeper level.

I value his feedback, and he always has such good insight to offer. We all have blindspots, and it can be helpful to listen to the wisdom of a spouse or a close friend who knows us well.

How to Choose a Word of the Year that Makes an Impact

How One Word Can Change Your Year

Last year, my word was intentionality.

I wanted to focus on being intentional in 2017 because I started off the year with a 3-week-old newborn.

The phone addiction I had gotten under control the year before was starting to creep back in with all the breastfeeding and resting I was doing day and night. I knew that I wanted to be present for my son’s first year, and I wanted to live every day on purpose. I could never get those moments back!

Choosing a single word to define my entire year felt daunting at first— and also a little silly. I wondered if it would make a difference.

But as the year went by, I began to realize that frequently calling my word to mind was starting to positively affect my life. It kept me in check and helped me to pursue what mattered most.

I knew that I didn’t want to look back on 2017 and wish I had paid more attention, so intentionality was top of mind.

Whenever I got too distracted, intentionality pulled me back to center and pushed me to find solutions that made a lasting impact.

At the end of the year, I looked back and realized that I had indeed accomplished what I had set out to do in many areas of my life. I was encouraged and excited to pick my word for 2018!

Honestly, the effectiveness of choosing a word of the year surprised me. My expectations were surpassed, and I was thankful for the clear focus a single word had brought into my life.

Make an Impact

My Word of the Year for 2018: Cultivate

This year, my word is cultivate.

When I think about the word cultivate, I love the images that come to mind. I think of digging my hands into rich earth and planting seeds. I think of tending seedlings and watching them mature into beautiful fruit-bearing trees.

This year, I want to cultivate what matters. I want to invest my time in what will make a lasting impact.

One of my favorite definitions of cultivate (from Webster’s 1828 dictionary) is: “to cherish; to foster; to labor to promote and increase.”

When I think about cultivating a garden, it makes me want to slow down and breathe. There’s time.

How to Choose a Word of the Year that Makes an Impact

We till the ground, plant the seeds, water the seedlings, weed around the plants, exterminate the pests, water some more, and trust God to bring the harvest.

That is what I want for 2018.

(Ironically, I have no gardening plans.)

Cultivating is a slow process that takes hard work, patience, and dedication. It also takes an element of faith and trust. The Lord knows what the outcome will be long before we do.

When we’re in the early stage of planting seeds, we’re hopeful and full of excitement. When difficulties come along, we often feel frustrated and anxious, but we do our best to problem-solve and care for our little plants as best we know how.

I love the verse in Galatians 6 that reminds us to “not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” When we work hard and trust God to bring the harvest, there is so much peace.

Make an Impact

Areas of Focus

This year, I’m focusing on cultivating:

  • my relationship with my Savior,
  • my marriage
  • the heart, mind, and person of our little Jack
  • my health
  • this blog
  • my mind
  • simplicity

Each of these areas is an important part of my life that needs to be tended, and it is my prayer that they will all flourish in 2018.

I’ve set individual goals for each of them, but that’s a topic for another day. I’ll share more on planning next week, and how I learned to set goals around my word of the year.

But for now, if you choose a word of the year, I’d love to know what it is! 🙂