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“Word Of The Year” Versus “New Year’s Resolutions”

Now that we’re a few weeks into the new year, I thought it might be fun for each of us to share how well our New Year’s Resolutions are going!

Just kidding. That sounds awful.

While well intended, New Year’s Resolutions often make us feel worse about ourselves when we’re no longer able to keep up with them. We fall into the dreaded perfectionist mindset that says, “if we can’t do it perfectly, why do it at all?” and before you know it, we’re 3 weeks into 2023 feeling like big losers.

So, this morning, instead of doing individual check ins on your resolutions, I want to talk about an alternative to setting resolutions at all. I want to talk about the practice of selecting a “word of the year”.

A word of the year is a term or phrase an individual chooses to focus on and incorporate into their life during the upcoming, or in our case, 3-week-old, New Year. The word is usually selected based on personal goals, aspirations, or challenges the person wants to address in the coming year. For example, my 2022 word of the year was “discipline”. I was transitioning from part time entrepreneur to full time entrepreneur, and knew I needed to be disciplined around where and how I spent my time. By contrast, my 2023 word of the year is “create”, because now it’s time to get all those big, creative ideas out of my head and into the world.

And in reality, both practices are more alike than they are different – one is just kinder to those of us who tend to lean towards nihilistic perfectionism. Both practices involve setting goals and intentions, however a word of the year can offer several benefits that traditional resolutions may not.

One of the biggest benefits of selecting a word of the year over setting a resolution is that it allows for more flexibility and adaptability – and if there’s anything we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s the importance of those 2 characteristics.

New Year’s resolutions often involve specific, concrete goals, such as losing 20 pounds, or saving $2,000 each month. While these goals can be motivating and provide a sense of direction, they can also be rigid and inflexible. Life is unpredictable, and unexpected events can make it difficult to achieve these specific goals. A word of the year, on the other hand, can be more open-ended and can adapt to changes in your life. For example, if your word of the year is “consistent”, and an unexpected bill shows up requiring you to temporarily suspend your automatic transfer to your savings account, you’re more likely to take this in stride than if your one goal was to save money every single month. With “consistent” as your word of the year, this blip in your plan is far from making it a lost cause. You can more easily see your path forward and resume auto transfer once things are paid.

Another benefit of selecting a word of the year is that is can be a much more holistic way of setting intentions. New Year’s resolutions often focus on very specific outcomes or behaviors, such as quitting smoking. A word of the year can be more holisitic and encompass different aspects of your life. Let’s say your word of the year is “joy”. You can simplify and enrich things at the same time by doing more of the things you know bring joy into your life, rather than simply focusing on changing one very specific behavior.

As a big fan of the word of the year trend, I could go on and on. But I won’t. To wrap this up, I encourage you to pick a word of the year today, if you haven’t already. Let this word serve as your intentional touchpoint throughout the rest of the year. Write it on a sticky note, or several sticky notes, and put them around your house, in your office, or my favorite, on your bedside table. Look at it every morning when you wake up, and each night before you go to sleep as a way to check in with yourself and the decisions you’ve made throughout the day. If things feel aligned and everything is going well, great! And if not, no sweat – because remember; there is no “perfect” when it comes to a word of the year. Perfection is so 2019, anyway. This is 2023 and we have evolved. We’re giving “grace”, we’re giving “alignment”, we’re giving “progress”. Don’t let your inner perfectionist “mean girl” try to convince you of anything else. Thank you.

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