This guide outlines how to identify a personal word of the year which can then be used to anchor realistic intentions for the new year.
The end of a year often leaves us feeling pensive about what we’ve achieved during the past 365 days, our lifestyle and changes we’d like to make looking forward. This self reflection frequently manifests itself as the creation of New Year’s resolutions, or statements which promise a sprint towards a major goal or life change. These tend to become lofty, life-changing ambitions which are neither specific nor measurable. Both qualities we’re told are pretty crucial to creating a SMART goal.
Some 88% of us don’t stick to our new plans, because New Year’s resolutions set us up for failure. A symptom of our always-on, instant gratification culture is that we’re constantly in a hurry and expect change to come quickly and effortlessly. Unfortunately, lasting change in lifestyle and mindset takes time. Instead of unrealistic New Year’s resolutions, here at Slow Living LDN we prefer to take a slower, more holistic approach at the start of a new year. A great way to do this is to choose a guiding word of the year instead.
Defining your personal guiding word is a positive way to anchor your intentions for a new year. The word you pick aims to underpin your actions and unifies your goals in a more holistic way than singular New Year’s resolutions. Rather than achieve a vague accomplishment, such as to eat more healthily or travel more often, a guiding word focuses on how you want to feel instead. A guiding word is therefore more holistic. It acknowledges that how you feel isn’t only impacted by your success rate of one or a handful of unrealistic targets.
Against the backdrop of the end of another turbulent and difficult year for many, choosing a guiding word can also help you focus on what’s within your control and help you seek out the positives.
How to Choose a Word of the Year
We’ve laid out the benefits of taking a slower, more holistic approach to the start of a new year instead of running head-first into the rusty concept of New Year’s resolutions, but how do you go about choosing your word of the year? We’ve shared our five steps, below.
1. Reflect on the Past Year
To start, find a notebook or journal. Next, find a calm, quiet ambience where you won’t be interrupted. Like many things, this exercise should be unhurried for you to gain the most from it. We like to light a candle and take our time.
When you’re ready, reflect on the year that’s just passed by answering the following questions and noting what comes to mind first:
- What made you feel stressed this year?
- What habits do you want to change?
- What accomplishments did you achieve this year?
- What prevents you from living a slower life?
- How much sleep do you need to thrive?
- What are the first five highlights that come to mind from this past year?
- How much time did you dedicate to hobbies this year?
- What are the first three words that come to mind when you think about this year?
2. Think about your values, intentions and goals for 2022
There’s a difference between values, intentions and goals. Your values are what is important to you, what you believe in. Your intentions or what you want to achieve are influenced by your values and your goals are external proof of, or steps towards, an achievement. For example, you may believe in a harmonious work:life integration. Your intention could then be to enjoy more time for self-care. Your goal might be to get up an hour earlier to create more time for doing the things you enjoy before you start work.
Now looking forward, think about your values and intentions in each of the following areas for 2022. You don’t need to set any rigid goals, rather start comparing where you are against where you want to be in these areas.
Reflect on your:
- Physical Health
- Wellness and Mental Health
- Lifestyle and Hobbies
- Life Milestones
At this stage, look back through your notes. There may already be some clues to the direction for your word of the year. Start listing words that come to mind when reflecting on what you’ve written. Use a thesaurus to expand on the terms you come up with.
4. Make a Vision Board
A vision board is different to a mood board in that it’s a visual display of what inspires you, rather than a practical planning tool for an interiors scheme or project.
Think about the areas in step two you might want to focus on in the next year and flick through magazines to find images with which you connect around these areas. You may find a theme or colour starts to appear in the pictures you select.
If you’re a Pinterest or Instagram user, exploring your recent searches and saves (when you weren’t necessarily thinking about goal setting) may reveal what’s been inspiring you of late.
If you don’t fancy making a vision board on paper (although the physical act of cutting and snipping can be a great slow, digital detox activity), collate digital images using a tool like Canva.
Is a certain colour really prominent in your vision board? Head to our psychology of colour guide to explore what it might symbolise. It’s geared towards interior design but also explains the meanings of colours and why we’re drawn to certain shades over others. This may give you a few ideas for your guiding word of the year.
5. Live your Word
It may be a word of the year, but there’s no pressure to settle on one by January 1st. Create a shortlist of words and select the one that resonates the most. Try it out and tweak if it doesn’t fit.
Once you’ve selected your word, try to ‘live’ it for full impact by:
- Visibly displaying your guiding word and vision board so you can be reminded of it each day
- Finding quotes around your word or topic to re-read for inspiration
- Incorporating your guiding word into questions when making decisions or considering old habits. For example, if your word was ‘thrive’, you might ask yourself ‘is spending three hours on social media each day helping me thrive?’
- Set a reminder on your phone for a couple of months’ time to check in with your word of the year and if it still resonates with you