If you ever needed evidence that choosing a word of the year works as an alternative path to setting resolutions, the outcome for me in 2022 is all the proof you will need to understand the power that can be found in this practice. Before I go further, if you aren’t familiar with choosing a word of the year, it involves selecting one word that encapsulates your focus for the upcoming 12 months ahead. Contrary to resolutions, which are usually set in order to achieve things, a word of the year provides a framework for the actions you take during the year by bringing more awareness to your intentions and who you strive to be. Words of the year put attention on personal change while resolutions focus on achievement. A word of the year is like the gasoline which gives your resolutions fuel because, if you think about it, in order to achieve any resolution, personal change is usually required. This is what makes the practice of selecting a word of the year so powerful; it is shorthand for the person you want to become.
Since starting this practice in 2020, I have chosen the words bold, ease and expansion. When I started this practice, I had no idea just how powerful choosing a word was. However, if you are considering this practice, you should know that life doesn’t just roll out the red carpet for you when you declare your word. First-timers of this practice often get frustrated or think this practice doesn’t work because what goes overlooked is that in order to embody your word, life usually presents you with what seems like the opposite. A more powerful way to look at this would be to say these moments are opportunities and exactly what you need to truly live your word. A powerful scene from the movie Evan Almighty, with Morgan Freeman playing God (duh), explains this better than I ever could. Life doesn’t just zap you with whatever your word is, but it does give you plenty of opportunities to embody it.
A RECAP OF LIVING MY WORD OF THE YEAR IN 2022: EXPANSION
Having just put 2022, along with my word of that year, expansion, to bed, I can definitely say, while my life and work expanded even greater than I could have possibly envisioned when I publicly set my word in January 2022 through a homily I gave to my Unitarian Universalist congregation, I can also say that 2022 was also one of the toughest years of my life that required a lot of faith, grit, and hard work.
Despite being a veteran of this practice and knowing that living words of the year involve personal change, the universe has a funny way of challenging you in ways you are never prepared for. Shortly after setting my word, I felt like I jumped onto a moving train going at full speed. My business quickly began to falter, not because it was failing but because I was not prepared to handle the growth and expansion that was happening. I couldn’t manage my own success or how quickly things were changing. “Oh, God!” I would exclaim, “what am I going to tell people? That I failed from too much success?!” After working so hard to get to my 20th year in business, I couldn’t believe this was where the narrative was heading.
I guess I was naive enough to think that expansion in my life and career also wouldn’t involve me expanding myself through my thoughts and actions. From the perspective of where I sit now, I can laugh about it, but at the time I just wasn’t prepared. To my credit, I don’t know how anyone prepares for a business that expands by over 100% in the first quarter, but it goes back to what I said earlier, your word of the year is shorthand for the person you want to become. I needed to change…everything, and this expansion was scary, grueling, exhausting, thrilling, and absolutely rewarding.
I JUMPED AND BUILT MY WINGS ON THE WAY DOWN
Change is scary. Anyone who has been through change (otherwise known as being human) knows this. Life is dull when we make safe choices, repeat the same decisions, and remain at the status quo. There is a flatline flavor if we just keep doing the same things over and over again. But it’s safe and comfortable. It was frightening to loosen my grip from the edge of the shallow end and swim out to the deep unknown. As I took steps to meet the challenges of growth, I faced fears, changed the dynamics of some of my relationships, built stronger boundaries, took risks, jumped off cliffs while building my wings on the way down, and met the demands of an expanding my business by actually hiring two people and altering 100% of how my business operates— and this was just in the first six months and all while my business was growing at a breakneck pace. The business I have today looks nothing like the one I had a year ago.
A WORD OF THE YEAR MAY PUT THINGS IN MOTION, BUT IT’S UP TO YOU TO RISE TO THE WHAT YOUR WORD OF THE YEAR PUTS IN MOTION
Declaring a word of the year may put things in motion, but, ultimately, it’s up to you to rise to the challenges that arise as a result of what the year presents in every action, thought, and interaction. You could say my business expanded because I declared expansion as my word of the year, yet, it could also be said that I expanded by embodying my word through the actions I took as a result of this change. Had I not, would my business have expanded on its own? Probably not —no definitely not. I absolutely would have failed if I didn’t change; if I didn’t expand.
As I closed out the year this past weekend, I closed a chapter on a year with a business that grew by 160% and found myself actually wistful for the first half of 2022 when I was jumping without a net, taking risks, and putting out fires with what felt like a water pistol. It’s easy to see it all this way now that I have perspective and distance. At many moments it was painfully challenging, but it was also thrilling to live through a time that was also so alive and rapid. I closed out 2022 feeling immensely proud of who I had the opportunity to become. I am nothing but grateful for what 2022 gave me in opportunities to realize and become the person who truly expanded. Would I want to live it all over again? Not if you slid a million dollars across the table and put it in front of me. However, would I do it again? A million times, yes. Every second of it was worth it.
MY WORD OF THE YEAR FOR 2023
So now it is time to declare my word for 2023 and as I was circling what it would be, I kept coming back to one word: Rich. When I choose a word of the year, it needs to feel like I am putting on the most comfortable gloves I have ever worn. It just needs to feel right and perfect. While rich often implies a shallow pursuit of money, this is not the complete meaning around it or what my word of the year means to me. Certainly, I like money. All money is is freedom. So, yes, my word Rich for 2023 does include a desire for greater wealth, prosperity, and abundance. But my selection of the word includes being rich in all things. A rich life is like a feast where you lick your fingers and wipe your chin when you’re done; where you laugh harder, engage more fully, love more intensely, feel more deeply, and experience things with all your senses. Richness is depth, vibrancy, and a sense of living a life with meaning, pleasure, joy, love, and comfort. It means you have more, are more, allow more, give more, and live a big, luscious, full-bodied life. As one of my favorite quotes from the musical Mame goes, “life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Therefore, living a rich life takes an effort to not just go after, but to also realize how rich any moment can be if you give yourself permission to experience it.
Where 2022 was about expansion, going outwards, and spreading my reach, 2023 will be about going deeper and adding more substance, color and vibrancy to all that I have created; a year where I can not only harvest and take pleasure in the fruits of my labor from the past year but also replant on the fertile ground that now is before me. Carpe diem! 2023 is going to be a glorious year.
What about you? Do you do this practice? What will your word for the year be? I’d love to hear it and perhaps you can record your thoughts as you live this year with our newly released Word of the Year journal.