WARNING: Now You've Chosen Your Word-of-the-Year

written by Erica Quam

woy warning_pinterest.png

Last week, I wrote about a fun ritual: choosing a word-of-the-year.

This week I want to get real with you.

Setting an intention should come with a WARNING.

It’s not what most people talk about.

All you hear about is the excitement of the New Year.

If you examine things a little closer, .the first thing you might notice are the things you DON'T want to come up. 

Which may lead you to question your intention. 

You may think things like...

  • "That didn’t work...again."

  • "Maybe there’s something wrong with me."

  • “I guess I chose the wrong word.”

It takes a little more trust and faith to see your intention through.

My coach uses the analogy of a gardener. 

You've just planted a seed for the new year.

When you plant a seed, flowers don’t come shooting up out of the ground right away.

Growth takes time.

The first thing that comes up when you plant a seed is all the dirt.

So, look out! 

Pay attention to things unlike your word that come your way…especially during these first few months of the year. 


One of the coaches I work with chose the word, 'abundance' as her word-of-the-year. She wanted to put her focus on all the abundance she had in her life. She wanted to acknowledge opportunities, connections, comforts, and gratitudes.

Right after winter break, she had an athlete in her office asking for an increase to her scholarship.

When coach didn't increase the athlete's scholarship, the athlete threw an absolute fit…stormed out of the office, spouted off at her teammates, and even criticized teammates who were on a higher scholarship amount than her.

Over the course of the week, the situation continued to erode.

The athlete's parents got involved. They went to the athletic director. Parents who had once been on this coach's side - thanking her for helping their daughter have such a great college experience - were now telling her all the reasons she wasn't a good enough coach. 

This coach wanted to be liked. She wanted her athletes to believe they were being treated fairly.

So, the coach felt horrible. Yet, she had standards and knew she needed to stick to her beliefs.

The athlete had improved...just not to the level to merit a scholarship increase.

Like most people - when faced with outside opinions, judgements, and criticisms - the coach started to doubt herself and her decision.

This coach was triggered!

The hardest part was the discomfort and all the uncertainty: knowing that her athlete was complaining about her and dividing the team. This young woman formed her own mini-alliance.  The coach could just feel the dissention: the eye-rolls during team meetings….the whispers off to the side.

The more triggered the coach got by this athlete...the more uncomfortable she felt around her team.

The more she focused on the situation, the more stories she made up about all the things her team may have been saying, and the more horrible she felt.

She just wanted to quit!

We talked about this situation during one of our calls.

The thing that struck me was how she related this to her word-of-the-year.

"There's no abundance in my life right now. I’m working my butt off and all I’m getting back is a team divided by an ungrateful and entitled athlete. My word-of-the-year makes me sad...I've taken it down off of my mirror. I feel like it's a joke!"

Your intention won’t deflect challenges.

Challenges will come up and stare you right in the face…daring you to be triggered. 

The most important thing is your awareness of these triggers.  

  • How much do you want abundance anyway? 

  • Can you still see the abundance - even through a challenging situation? 

  • What are your athletes there to teach you about abundance?


For this coach, once we translated her situation from a different perspective, she felt hopeful.

She acknowledged she was proud of sticking to her expectations and not giving in.

She decided she needed to shift her attention to other athletes on the team.

I challenged her to either check in with athletes who she thought were whispering and rolling their eyes...or let it go. 

You can't get rid of everything that triggers you in life.

You can become more aware of your triggers.

With this new awareness you can save yourself time and energy by not allowing these triggers to consume you.


The awareness of triggers and communicating their effects can help everyone on your team - especially going into the most stressful times of the season.

Teach your athletes that they can't control anyone else. They can control their reaction to things.

Most of the time, people don't have power over you. You give your power away.

Talk about how you can take your power back once you start to become aware of how you get triggered and how you react to situations.

This can be as simple as asking them to keep a running list of what triggers them...for one week.

Have them keep track of the times they get irritable, angry, frustrated, sad, or uncomfortable.

They can keep this "trigger tally" on their phones, in a journal, or on a piece of paper they carry around for a week.

The next week when you come back together. Talk about it.

  • What did they notice?

  • Were there any themes that came up?

  • What else did they learn?

Next, ask them what they can do about the things that trigger them.

Write a few of their examples up on a dry erase board.

For each example ask them to think one productive action they can take vs. one unproductive action they could take.

Sure - they can always fly off the handle...or bitch and complain about things that trigger them.

Is this helpful? Is it productive? Do they feel any better afterwards?  

Most of the time, (if they're really being honest) they'll answer no. 

If they get stuck, on what they can do to handle things in a more productive way...you can start to teach them and coach them on more productive ways to manage the things that trigger them.

What's one thing that triggered you this week? How can you react in a way that's aligned with the direction you want to go to reach your goals in 2019? Share it in the comments below.