In recent times, you have probably come across diverse advice from trendsetters and publications about how to approach 2024 differently. You might have been exposed to recommendations for wellness challenges, organizing endeavors, and assembling vision boards. It’s important not to forget the importance of initiating usage of your new organizer, outlining 10 objectives, preparing a week’s worth of meals, and refining your morning regimen. Are you making a mental note? Post the holiday season, it is an excellent period to concentrate on self-improvement. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with making commitments, have you ever realized that striving to enhance yourself can occasionally lead to feeling less satisfied?
There exists an alternate approach to welcoming the new year, one that doesn’t involve elaborate checklists, habit tracking applications, bullet journals, or the frustration of unresolved commitments. Instead of concentrating on corrective practices, opt for a single word to epitomize your year. Your chosen word will function as a catalyst for encouraging thoughts and behaviors in 2024.
An Alternative to Traditional New Year’s Resolutions
For a lengthy duration, I was fixated on formulating resolutions, relishing in the anticipation of self-improvement. Each time I veered away from my flawless plan for the new year, I inevitably descended into self-criticism. Then, several years ago, I chanced upon an article regarding selecting a one-word theme for the new year. Encouraged by one of my treasured authors, I embraced this approach. Letting go of expectations led to a guilt-free start to January and an inspired 12 months. Furthermore, by reframing my aspirations for the year, I gained a potent compass that steered my personal development.
Subsequently, a variety of resources and a movement have emerged around one-word themes. Below is the approach I employ to choose a one-word theme for the new year—what I’ve discovered to be most effective after years of practice. Give it a go and witness the positive impact on your year.
Steps to Determining Your One Word for the Year
Step 1: Ditch Traditions
Absolutely. Set aside your vision board, habit tracking application, dietary regulations, and list of commitments. Initiate with a clean canvas. Substitute the pang of FOMO you might experience for not commencing Whole30 with JOMO that arises from embracing a stress-free, lighthearted commencement to the year. Although a single-word theme isn’t incompatible with commitments — in fact, if you’re truly motivated you could pursue both — I do not recommend it. Here’s why: daily, your mind is inundated with numerous directives from yourself, your social circle, and the media regarding what you should or shouldn’t do. What would transpire if you rejected those directives and commenced flowing through life unburdened by obligations? What would it resemble for you to harness the power of selecting one driving focus? You would become, in a single word, unstoppable.
Step 2: Brainstorming Session
Set aside 30 minutes for a brainstorming session. Do this during downtime, or even involve your children in contributing during playtime. Take out a blank sheet of paper and commence by drawing a small circle in the middle. Fill in the circle with your first name. Begin brainstorming. What tone or attitude would you like to establish for yourself this year? How do you wish to feel? Outside of your circle, jot down every word or phrase that comes to mind. This is a brainstorming session, so don’t hold back — unconventional ideas are acceptable, there will be time to evaluate later. If you’re struggling to come up with words, try drawing inspiration from your favorite literature or online writing.
Step 3: Step Away from Your List
Stash your list in a secure place and take a break. Engage in an activity to clear your mind: spend time with your children, meditate or pray, exercise, or take a stroll around the neighborhood.
Step 4: Evaluation
Allocate an additional 30 minutes when you can be uninterrupted. Return to your list and encircle the words or phrases that resonate with you the most. Then, take out a fresh sheet of paper or open the notes application on your phone and jot down your top five candidates for the word of the year. Ponder over each word and how it might impact your actions in 2024. If you enjoy journaling, bring out your journal and let your thoughts flow. Reflect on what you understand and don’t understand about this word. Explore its implicit meanings. Look it up in the dictionary. Consider its synonyms (e.g., grace or gracious). Trial it in a sentence pertinent to you.
Step 5: Determination and Display
It’s time! Choose your word of the year for 2024 and write it down on a Post-it, your planner, or even share it on social media. You might even consider obtaining personalized jewelry featuring your word if you are enthusiastic about it. You could post the word on your mirror or refrigerator. One practice that I like to adopt is inscribing my one-word theme in the margin of each month in my physical planner as a gentle reminder.
A Note about Your Chosen Word
Make a conscious effort to revisit your word throughout the year. Don’t hesitate to reassess and contemplate its layers. If you engage in journaling or blogging, ponder dedicating a few pages to the ways your word may have influenced your thoughts and actions in 2024 every season until the year-end. If you drift away from your one-word theme, don’t be too hard on yourself. There’s no official method for this. Unlike a resolution, your word is simply a guiding point to return to whenever you need direction. I’m not a psychologist, but over the years of experimenting with this, I’ve observed that my one-word theme effortlessly integrates into my mind and subconsciously influences me.
Lately, while perusing an email from a cherished friend in which she depicted me as courageous, tears started to well up in the corners of my eyes. “Why am I becoming emotional?” I pondered. Hastily, I re-read the email, searching for answers. On my third read-through of my friend’s message, it finally dawned on me — I was shedding tears because she had pinpointed my theme for the year. No aspect of our conversation revolved around this, it had come up organically. Care to guess what my word was? A substitute for courage: brave.
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