Do You Have a Word of the Year?


As we are now about halfway through the first month of a new year, I am going to hazard a guess that many of those New Year’s resolutions we all made for January 1st, have already gone by the wayside. A new calendar year often triggers the need in people to make resolutions but no matter how good intentioned we may be, and how strong we start out, our efforts quickly decline and within weeks, and sometimes even within days, our resolutions have faltered. We aren’t alone. Research shows 80% of people’s New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February!


Let’s not get too discouraged though. There are some great alternatives out there that have proven to be much more successful than resolutions. I was recently introduced to the concept of the “Word of the Year”, and I think it could be a perfect way, for families especially, to set positive, attainable goals together. The Word of the Year is a fun way to set intentions and a theme for the New Year. Goals and resolutions can so easily change or be forgotten but the Word of the Year is a more flexible approach that has a better chance of staying with us throughout the entire year. Instead of a rigid resolution, a Word of the Year can be our constant, yet gentle, reminder to focus on creating positive change.


During the 2020-21 school year we decided to incorporate the theme “We Can Do Hard Things” into all aspects of school life. Parents in turn shared with us that they adopted the theme at home as well and the success rate was extremely high. Children were reminding us, their families, and each other, that when the going gets tough we can all do hard things! The following year we used Onward as our school Word of the Year and again we encountered great success. People inherently need a focus and a purpose on their life journey and choosing a word or a phrase just seems to work.


How to get started? Have a family meeting and choose one to five words that really speak to how we want this year of 2023 to feel. Use nouns, verbs, phrases, anything works really, just ensure that they are words that feel good to us and our families. Once we have the words, we should review them all together and take a vote. Hopefully the word or phrase that is chosen will be one that everyone knows in their heart is something that we could use more of in our lives.


Once the Word of the Year has been chosen, we need to post it where everyone can see it.  Science affirms that visualizing goals and affirmations makes the biggest impact on moving the needle forward, keeping them attainable and at the top of our minds.


One family that I know of has decided on the word Adventure as their Word of the Year. Using their chosen word, as a group they have come up with ideas of doing more things that will get them out of the house, having fun and creating lasting memories together. They are genuinely excited about this new approach to living their best lives and can’t wait to see where it takes them.


There are still more than 11 months left of this new year so it is not too late to give this method a try and hopefully turn that dismal statistic, of New Year’s resolution failure, around!



Marie Bates