Choosing a Word of the Year for 2019 and Beyond

Word of the Year
Choosing a Word of the Year to guide your decisions can be transformational.

You may have noticed a trend in the planner and journaling communities in recent years of choosing a Word of the Year. But what is a Word of the Year? Is it something to adorn your planner dashboards with or is it something much more profound?

The Old Standard

The old standard going into a new year has been to make a New Year’s Resolution. The Cambridge Dictionary defines a New Year’s Resolution as “a promise that you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year.” Sounds good, right? We all want to start doing good things and stop our bad habits. However, the problem with this approach to incorporating or changing behaviors is that the first time you miss that gym workout or eat that donut you resolved not to touch, you can suddenly feel like a failure because for not living up to your resolution.

The New Approach

A Word of the Year approach to incorporating or changing behaviors is quite different. You begin by brainstorming a list of words that are transformational or have deep meaning for you.

Some examples are:

  • simplify
  • engage
  • breathe
  • be present
  • cherish
  • grace

After you have your list of words, think about the areas of your life that you would like to see change or cultivate new meaning. Make a list of these areas as well.

Some examples of these are:

  • parenting
  • housework
  • art
  • writing
  • work and work performance
  • starting a new business
  • school and what you hope to learn there
  • dating and/or finding a long-term partner
  • diet

You’ll notice that these are generally the same areas you would normally address in a New Year’s Resolution. Here is where the real difference between a Resolution and a Word of the Year comes into play.

Take your list words and put it next to your list of areas you want to transform in the next year. Reread each list a few times. You want your Word of the Year to be impactful for your life and what you want to see transform within it.

Impact Your Life and See Real Transformation

For example, my Word of the Year for 2018 has been simplify. I went from having one child to two, experienced a decline in my personal health that limited my mobility, and started a small business out of my home office. I knew that the only way to live what I considered to be a successful year would be if I were to simplify my life in every area possible.

Over the past year, I would begin my day by checking my list of upcoming tasks and thinking of ways I could simplify them. This helped me tremendously to maintain my limited energy reserves. It also helped me be a better mom to my girls. I’ve made everything in my roles as a mom and homekeeper-in-chief easier. Some examples of how I achieved this include:

  • doing one smaller load of laundry each day instead of two or three big ones in a hurry on the weekend that will leave me feeling wiped
  • batch cooking meals and freezing portions for everyone to have the next time I don’t have the energy to make dinner
  • vacuuming in five minute intervals each day rather than for 30 minutes all at once on the weekend because I have 5 minutes worth of energy but not 30
  • simplifying my production methods in my business to be the most time-efficient and, thus, the most energy-efficient for me

The way you apply your Word of the Year to your life and your outcomes will undoubtedly vary from my 2018 approach. Perhaps you will choose the word achieve. It’s easy to see how you may apply that in your career or academic pursuits, but it can easily apply to other areas as well. If you’ve been wanting to increase the amount you read, you can apply achieve to your thinking each time you reach for the TV remote. If you hope to increase muscle mass, each time you pick up your weights or choose a protein food, achieve will be front and center in your mind and will propel you on to greater achievements.

Use Your Word of the Year as a Guide

Maybe you’re concerned that making a choice not aligned with your Word of the Year will have the same negative impact as a broken resolution. I urge you to change your perspective. The Word of the Year is a guide to help you keep your values at the forefront of your mind throughout the year. If you’ve chosen achieve and hope to apply that to the area of weight loss, for instance, and you eat a donut that someone brought into the office, you haven’t failed to achieve weight loss for the year. You’ve simply indulged on a donut. Achieve will still be there at lunch and dinner times to help you make a better decision. Achieve also doesn’t tell you that you must lose 30 pounds by swimsuit season. Achieve says any weight lost is an achievement and to be celebrated.

2019 will be the third year that I’ve chosen a Word of the Year for myself. This year my Word is grow. The areas of my life that I want to see transformation in are:

  • motherhood
  • marriage
  • business and finance
  • meditation practice

I want nothing more than to continue to grow emotionally in my relationships with my children and husband. I’m also eager to see my business continue to grow. And my meditation practice has been a transformational force in my life that I hope to grow within in 2019.

Applying Your Word of the Year to All Areas of Your Life

Grow doesn’t stop there though. I want my knowledge in several subjects to continue to grow. I also want my dedication to decluttering things to grow. Most importantly, I want my physical strength to improve and grow. You get the picture. My Word applies to all areas of my life where I want to see positive change and transformation. It is my steady companion through the year, always guiding me toward the best decisions for my best life.

And you know what else? Grow will absolutely adorn my planner dashboard! But, as you now know, it goes far beyond just an adornment. It also serves as a daily intention and it’s good to see your intentions written out. So, please adorn your planner dashboard with your Word of the Year! And, while you’re at it, stick it to refrigerator and your desk too. With your Word of the Year at the forefront of your mind, you’ll be amazed at the positive outcomes in your life.

What is Your Word of the Year?

Please feel free to share your Word of the Year! I would love to hear how you envision it changing your life. Have you used a Word of the Year in the past? What were your experiences with it?


Reading this at a point other than the new calendar year? Please don’t hesitate to implement this transformational practice into your life. You can begin using a Word of the Year any day of the year and see great results!

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