For the past five years, I’ve adopted choosing a word or theme of the year to guide my personal and professional development. The reason why I highly praise this practice is because it’s a great way to stay grounded and focused while moving through the motion for 365 days straight. As I’ve become older and have increased my responsibilities (oh, adulting) as a business owner and community leader, I find that a chosen word helps remind me what I need to focus on when things get tough.
Since I love this practice so much, I want to share the exact steps I take so that you can find your own theme or word this year:
STEP 1: REFLECT
Schedule some time alone with a writing device (digital or traditional, whatever works for you!) and dissect what’s been going on in your life. Write down all of your high and low moments. Observe what’s missing that you’d like to see manifested in your life. If you’re having brain fog, use these questions to inspire your writing:
- What could I use more or less of in my life?
- How do you want to feel at the end of the day every day?
- Think back from the future. A year from now, what would you like to be proud of?
- Is there a certain theme to the goals you’ve set for yourself this year that could serve as a foundation?
- Get critical about the toughest moments of your life. Is there any situation that you wish you would’ve approached differently? What word comes to mind when you think about a different you that would support this shift of direction?
- List the people inspiring you right now. Are there any descriptors to their personality or lifestyle that you’d like to add on to your character?
STEP 2: VISUALIZE
Take a moment to see you at and as your highest self. What does that individual look like? What are they feeling? What are the habits that they have to support their ideal lifestyle? What’s special about your highest self?
Once you visualize who that person is, jot down the characteristics of your highest self. Once you have an idea written out, try also, to describe who you are currently. Identify areas of your life that can be transformed in order for you to evolve into your highest self.
Ultimately, this step is supposed to answer the following question: Think like and act as if you’re the CEO of your own life. What would that CEO be doing differently to step in as a leader of the life they live?
Step 3: IDENTIFY
Now that you’ve accumulated a lot of thoughts around where you’re currently at in your life and where you want to be, start picking out words that stand out to you and create a list. Don’t get shy or be scarce here. List it all out!
Step 4: REFINE
Now that you have a list, it’s time to review your top 5-10 words (depending on how many you were able to list). Use these guiding questions to help define what’s going to feel right for you:
- How do you feel when you think of this word?
- If you were to share this word with someone else, do you see yourself feeling proud to describe what it means to you?
- Will this word broadly apply to your life? The more areas of your life that this word will be useful, the more power and weight it’ll hold on you.
- Can you confirm that you’re actually ready for this word and that this year is the right year for it to guide you? If not, you can always tuck it away if you feel it can serve you better at a later time in life!
STEP 5: DECIDE
By this point you should have an idea of a top 3 or top 2 words that you’d like to choose. If you’re still unsure, consider discussing it with a trusted friend or colleague and practice explaining how this word will keep you accountable throughout your year. Something will stick the more you talk about it!
One of the best ways to determine which word will work best for you is to ask yourself this: are you simply interested in the word or are you fully committed? When you feel as if you can commit to a word, you’re set to take action.
STEP 6: SUPPORT
You may have already created a list of separate goals or perhaps you haven’t started yet. If you’re the former, challenge yourself to see how your word can apply to your current list of goals! If you’re the latter, I highly suggest coming up with a few guiding questions as well as cluster words to support your main theme. These questions should come from your reflection and visualization steps. Check out my previous words to see how I developed my guiding questions (scale, represent, fearless, nostalgic, and homecoming).
As for the cluster words, you may want to check back on your list from step 4 to see if there are words that are similar to each other that support your main word. Here are some examples:
- REFRESH / cluster words: heal, rest, rejuvenate
- INVEST / cluster words: finances, development, abundance
- EXPLORE / cluster words: spontaneity, risk-taking, adventure
Once you complete this exercise, drop a comment below, email or DM me with the word or theme of the year you select!
*All photos were shot in Washington, D.C. during a 2016 trip