What's YOUR word-of-the-year?

written by Erica Quam


I love the energy heading into a new year. 

There's something exhilarating about a fresh start, a clean slate, and a chance to begin again. I started my annual tradition of choosing a word of the year in 2006 after reading about it in the newsletter I got from Christine Kane.  She was a singer at the time.  Now she's my coach.

I've been writing about it and doing word-of-the-year workshops since 2014.

In the sport of swimming, teams are often training over the New Year's holiday. We had a lot of international athletes on our team. We had a new year's count down for the different time zones across the world and even learned how to say "Happy New Year" in different languages. 

I wanted to take time to celebrate this new beginning with the team - and tap into this powerful energy.  Since we were already training hard and the team was pretty tired, I didn't want to add another serious "goal" to their plate..like coming up with a bunch of resolutions.

I wanted to do something more fun...more powerful...more meaningful. I introduced them to my tradition of choosing a word of the year.

Do I have something against resolutions?

Setting a new year's resolution isn't wrong.  It's a good idea...to look at what you want to change in your life.  It's just for me, resolutions have never really clicked.  It's always seemed like one more thing to add to my already full to-do list.

Resolutions tend to bring out my perfectionist tendencies and leave a lot of room for me to fall short.

Most people set resolutions from a more 'surface-y' level....I've got to DO this thing so I can HAVE this other thing so I can BE more of this other thing.

Let's say you just set the resolution to workout more. By working out more (do) you hope to (have) a better level of fitness so you can (be) more confident.

This approach skips the most important part of the equation.

Who do you want to become in the process? 

Setting the resolution 'to work out everyday' rarely leads to any lasting change - because it's more about what you think you should do. The first time you skip a workout, the shame spiral begins. You get down on yourself, feel guilty, and probably end up less confident than before - unable to live up to your own expectations...again.

There are plenty of obstacles, reasons, & excuses that get in the way of resolutions. All of the 'should's' and 'have to's' set you up for failure.

How can you become?

Decide who you want to become first. Big changes happen when you start with who you want to BE. 

Shift your focus to taking small steps. Grow and expand over the course of the year. Try these three simple steps: 

  1. SET

  2. STEP


Set an intention. Take one step forward towards that intention. Acknowledge your progress along the way. Intentions can be more powerful than goals. (The great thing is...you don't have know any of the exact steps to get 'there'. 

You've gotta take action

You can't just kick back and not DO anything. You have to take action for any real change to happen in your life. But...willpower and discipline will only get you so far. So, it's not all about how driven you are. 

Choose ONE WORD to be your intention of the year

1. Allow some time and space to get quiet

Reflect on the past year. Write down a few things that you are proud of or grateful for that happened in 2018. This helps move you from your head to your heart.

2. Choose one word

Words are powerful. Words evoke images, emotion, and energy.

Don't just go for the word that sounds best or the word you think you should choose. Maybe even choose a word that questions or challenges you. Maybe there's a word that keeps coming up for you - and you're not even sure why.

3. Align yourself with your word

Write your word on a piece of paper and look at each day. Put it on your mirror, or your locker or computer, or have it in your car. Be open to the opportunities that come up when you think about your word and how you can apply it each day.

4. Acknowledge

Notice any small change or progress you make as you align with your word. Acknowledge these things at the end of the day, the week, the month, & definitely at the end of your year.

This new approach will open you up to the freedom of allowing an intention to unfold. There are plenty of possibilities that'll come up as you re-align with your intention over and over again. You might just find your word means something totally different to you by the end of 2019.

What's your word and for bonus points…why did you choose it? Share your word for 2019 in the comments below.