It is almost impossible to Google or YouTube anything goal related these days without seeing several links referring to choosing a word of the year. A fan of the practice, I have utilized several targeted words in my personal and professional lives for years. But the more it becomes a trend, the more people are choosing a word like it’s a magic spell. There’s no real thought behind it. There certainly is no action. And just like any other resolution, it goes by the wayside before the New Year really gets settled in. So you have a word of the year, now what?

Let’s talk about how to put your word to work. 

STEP 1: DEFINE IT

This might seem arbitrary. Who chooses a word they don’t know the meaning too? But, trust me. It’s a necessary step of the process. Research the word. Learn the official definition(s), its etymology and its different parts of speech. Now use a thesaurus and discover synonyms. This step is to ensure that the word you have chosen is the RIGHT one. Intent is not good enough here. The word needs to fully and accurately represent you. Maybe you’ll end up with a different word after this step and that is okay.

Now that you are educated on your word, define it for yourself. 

Here’s an example:

Our word is joy. Dictionary.com tells us that as a noun it means “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” As a verb, the meaning is to “rejoice.” And synonyms for joy include delight, exhilaration and radiance. Now in our own words, “Joy is to acknowledge, find, give and revel in the best that life has to offer.”

STEP 2: MAKE A LIST

What does your word represent to you? How does it actualize itself in your world? Spend some time populating this list, so that you will know how to recognize and cultivate your word. How will you know that you successfully lived your word if you don’t know how it can, will and might show up in your life?

In our life, joy looks like…

*finding more time to do the part of our job that we love

*scheduling a full day with our best friend once a month

*spending 30 minutes alone everyday

*rejoicing in the small stuff our partner does like washing the dishes

*an unexpected victory

There will be times when living, experiencing, choosing to be your word will be easy. There will be plenty of times when doing so will be hard. And when life gets hard, we have to choose to find our word in our lives. We have to choose to respond differently. We have to choose to focus on something new. Practicing where to find your word or how to be your word in every day life, when times are good, will help it show up in you when times are not so good.

STEP 3: MAKE IT A VERB & WEEKLY CHALLENGES

So, how exactly might one cultivate a word? Make it a verb! Your word will do you no good if it’s not actionable. We made a list of how our word could show up in our lives, but now we need to challenge ourselves to be it. A great way to hold you accountable is to create weekly challenges.

In this example, every week we would ask our self “how will I exude joy?” One week it may be committing to smiling at five strangers and paying them a compliment. Joy may be cooking a new meal another week or writing notes of gratitude to oneself or other loved ones the next week.

Often times, the words we choose already exist in our lives and inside of us. We simply are not in the habit of seeing or appreciating them. Making your word a verb cultivates gratitude and creates a habit. That habit then becomes genuine embodiment. 

STEP 4: “VISION” BOARD

True change happens when we know and understand our why. Expressing your vision is a great way to work through the process of why you are committing to your word. Whether that’s through a collection of images, creating an auditory file or writing a letter, it’s important to paint the picture of what you and your life looks like embodying your word.

This is the reminder of your why. This is the desired end game. This is the thing you will look at, read or listen too when you lose your way. It’s the ace in your back pocket.

STEP 5: CHOOSE A THEME SONG OR QUOTE

We like new stuff: new ideas, new experiences, new energy, new goals. There’s typically excitement when new, positive things happen in our lives. We especially love the idea of being a better, fresher, more expansive version of ourselves. That is why there is so much liveliness and goal setting come a new year. But as we settle into our routines and life happens, we all get to a point where we need a little motivation. 

Cue your song and/or quote.

Choosing a quote or a song to accompany your word of the year is a great pick-me-up to have stored in the back of your mind. It’s that thing you can call on when you KNOW you should be making a different choice; when you know you should be seeing things with a different lens. It is the thing that may get you out of bed some mornings. It is the friend we all need.

Life happens. Routines fail. Motivation lacks. We forget our “why.” This is your on-the-spot, go-to kick in the pants. Therefore, it is critical that your song and quote speaks to a deeper part of you. 

(And don’t forget to memorize it!)

Being committed to bettering you is amazing. Choosing a word of the day, week, month or year is a great practice. Living your word is the key to change. So you have a word of the year, now what?

Make that sucker WORK for you!

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