One Powerful Word: A Simple Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

I love the simplicity of choosing a single word as a focus for the coming year.

I believe in the power of one – one word, one goal, one focus – as an extraordinary catalyst for transformation.

But honestly, it can be one word or two.  It can be a whole phrase.   It can be for a whole year, six months, or until it’s done.

There are no rules! This is your life.  You can play with this idea any way that you like.

So why not skip the exhaustive list of New Year Resolutions?  We all know they quickly fall by the wayside.  Instead inspire yourself with one powerful word!

Discovering Your Perfect Word

Is there is a single word or a phrase that captures what you would like to manifest in your self or in your life in 2011?

Your perfect word may immediately pop into your mind.  Or you might need to let the idea percolate for a while.  Then see what bubbles up.  There’s no rush.  It’s easier to see clearly once the chaos of the holidays have passed.

These questions may help you with the process of finding your perfect word:

  • Is there a quality you would like to grow in your life?
  • Is there a quality that you would like to diminish?  If so, what’s the opposite?
  • What outcome would you like to see at the end of the year?
  • What activity is primary for the coming year?
  • What change would you like to see in yourself or in you life in the coming year?
  • Can you capsulate a goal for the year in one word?
  • What do you want your year to look like?

Your word might be eminently practical.  Or it might be creative.  It might be light-hearted.  Or it might be laser-focused.  It simply needs to be the perfect word for you.

A few sumptuous words to set the wheels in motion:

  • Serendipity
  • Tranquility
  • Movement
  • Light-hearted
  • Free-Spirit
  • A-list Blogger
  • Dynamic
  • Fearless
  • Aware
  • Awake
  • Dreamlike
  • Whimsical
  • Intuition
  • Receptivity
  • Health
  • Time
  • Space
  • Productivity
  • Clarity
  • Eco-Friendly
  • Minimalist
  • Active
  • Slender
  • Nourishment
  • Frugal
  • Moderation
  • Exercise
  • Flexibility
  • Safe
  • Mechanical
  • Fun
  • Garden
  • Yoga

Interesting phrases and proverbs

  • Wabi Sabi, Embrace the Imperfection (from J. D. Meier at Sources of Insight)
  • Nying je, a Tibetan word which means love, affection, kindness, compassion, gentleness, generosity of spirit, warm-heartedness, sympathy, and endearment altogether.
  • Bien dans sa peau, which is French for feeling well in your skin, well in yourself.
  • Kaizen, a Japanese word that means continuous improvement.
  • As easy as pie.
  • Rise and shine.
  • As happy as a clam.
  • This too shall pass.

Unleash the Power of Your Word

A single word can be immensely powerful if you invest in it.  Spend time with your word!  Embrace your word.  Recall it daily. Let it swim in the unconscious waters of your mind.  Meditate on it consciously too.  Let it be the focus you lightly return to again and again.  Let it be the measure of your thoughts and actions.  Your touchstone.  Your guidepost.

There’s no need to obsess on your word.  Just have fun with it.

Here are some ways to bring your word alive:

  • Post your word in a visible place around your house.
  • Post your word on a desktop sticky.
  • Reflect on your word.  What does this word really mean to me?
  • Write a story or a poem about your word.
  • Draw a picture or paint a painting about your word.
  • Create a collage about your word.
  • Journal your process and insights as your word sparks evolution in your life.
  • Create affirmations with your word.
  • Blog about your word.

My Word for 2011

I haven’t chosen a word for 2011 yet.  These are the contenders:

  • Full Throttle Healing – A commitment to deep healing.
  • Contentment – To be content with whatever appears in myself and my world as a way to bypass unnecessary suffering.
  • Comfort and ease – A fully body and being experience of contentment.
  • Confident Faith – I need more faith!  Faith brings ease in life and confidence at death.

I see that each one of these words could almost contain the others.  I don’t know how I will decide!

Have you tried the one word approach to New Year’s Resolutions?  What word will you choose for 2011?

In Part 2: One Powerful Word 2011 – Mine and Yours, I reveal my word for 2011, offer more creative ideas, share links, and your perfect word too.

If you liked this article please share the link with others.  Thanks!  Sandra

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83 thoughts on “One Powerful Word: A Simple Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

  1. My one word is success, and although that may sound somewhat broad brushed, it really isn’t when we fully understand what success means to us. Know your goals before you get there. :-)

    I really like this post, Sandra. It quite thought provoking and I think many readers will have some fun with this. “Rise and shine” really fits me like a glove since this is something I’ve been doing all my life. Love those early morning times of peace and tranquility.

    Thanks for such a refreshing post.

    • Hi Jimi,

      “Success” seems perfect for you. You’re right – it helps tremendously to know your goals to help you get there. I love the way you’ve been “rise and shine” all your life.

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  3. Sandra,
    I have done this for the last two years, and have found that the choosing of one word has been deeply powerful in my life.

    For 2010, my word was SPLASH! ( http://www.jungleoflife.com/and-the-word-is-2010/ )

    I haven’t chosen my word for 2011 yet…although I definitely will be. I just find this whole process of one word to be so good for me.

    Sandra, know that I’m looking forward, very much, to what you choose…and then to see it manifest itself in your life over the coming year!

  4. I already know it…BOLD! I can think around it too much and try to come up with another alternative, but it just sprung forth so I am going to accept it and embrace it.

    To me, this means being brave in my life and venturing down new avenues and exploring new things on both a professional and personal front. Letting go of all the past securities and foraging ahead down new paths. Feeling the fear and doing it any way.

    I like the simplicity and focus of having one simple word. Gonna meditate on it, post it around, and affirm it. Make it part of my daily life. Thank you for the suggestion.

    • Lance,

      It was so fun to read about your word SPLASH for 2010. You seemed to really demonstrate the splash spirit on your blog so much. You’ve got me rethinking my word! It’s great to read about how the one word idea works so magnificently for you.

      I’d never head of Christine Kane before; it seems like there are quite a few people who do this and pass the idea on.

      Thanks for sharing your inspiration.

    • Debbie, That’s fantastic! I think the perfect word can immediately pop into mind like that. Like the saying goes, “first thought, best thought.”

      I wish you well as you boldly journey into the new years. You already seem like an amazingly bold person to me, but I know for myself how that can be obscured when fear has been such a big part of one’s path.

      I look forward to seeing how it goes for you. I hope you blog about it!

  5. You’ve probably done this word years ago, but as I was reading your entry, I thought, ‘mindfulness.’ I don’t typically make resolutions, but this one word encompasses so much of what matters to me (and what I need to improve in) that I think I’ll give it a try.

    • Jennifer, Mindfulness is such a terrific word because it’s so relevant in every aspect of one’s life. A word that encompasses so much that matters to you seems to be the perfect word indeed. I could definitely use more mindfulness myself. :) Let us know how it goes.

    • Hi Holly,

      Wonderful! I didn’t choose a word last year but positivity was definitely the theme. And it made a big shift for me. Have fun with your words! Let us know how it goes.

  6. Hi Sandra,

    I’ve never used one word for new year resolutions. It sounds simple! I think I will do some reflecting and come up with a word or two.

    But if I had to come up with a word now, it would be Peace. I think when I have peace, then everything will fall into place, not matter what.

    I’ll definitely be thinking about this more before 2011 rolls in.

    Take care,

    Evelyn

    • Hi Evelyn,

      Peace is a wonderful world. Some words – like peace – are keystones that do help everything fall into place. They hold so much power for us. Looking forward to seeing what you decide and how it works for you. I hope you blog about it too!

  7. Love it Sandra- was just talking about this with a friend yesterday- and we thought our word for 2011 might be team-time to build a support network for 2011
    this year mine was trust and as the year rools to a close- I know that I have greater trust in me and listening to my inner voice than i had earlier this year
    love Suzie

    • Suzie, It’s great to hear your positive experience using a word for the year. Thanks! “Team-time” is a great cue for reaching your goal of building a support network. Thanks for sharing your word.

  8. ‘Minimalist’ is my word for 2011 – I’m so excited by this concept. Thanks for the post – really helpful to boil everything down for the coming year into one word.

  9. Hi Sandra Lee,

    I like the word FEARLESS. So many people let this word stop them from being who they really are, because of what someone may think, etc. I use to be one of those people, but have come a long way. I shall spend the next year to complete my fearless journey.

    You say one of yours choice is, “Confident Faith – I need more faith! Faith brings ease in life and confidence at death.” I have made that journey and it is a very good journey to go on and one that can withstand anything life my hand you.

    What ever your choice is I wish you much success.
    Thanks for the great article and helping me start the New Year off.
    Debbie

    • Debbie, I like the injection of confidence that “FEARLESS” brings. I’m glad you have such sparkle!

      I really appreciate your insight about faith: “I have made that journey and it is a very good journey to go on and one that can withstand anything life my hand you.” It’s very inspiring. All the best to you!

  10. I was debating a few different words until one jumped out: healing. To me, it encompasses getting better on multiple levels including physical, mental, and spiritual. I’ve made progress, but I’m still not spending enough getting well from the chronic Epstein-Barr so this is an excellent resolution for me.

    • Jennifer,

      I think “healing” is a perfect word for you. I really like how it encompasses so many different levels for you. In my own experience, one of the biggest challenges for healing is being will and able to put the time in that’s needs. I’ve been reflecting a lot about that in recent weeks myself.

      We may end up with the same word and can journey together through the year! I would love that! I’ll reveal my word at the beginning at 2011.

  11. I like the power of one. Last year, renew was on my mind.

    > “As happy as a clam”
    I don’t know many clams, but if they’re happy it strikes me as contentment and peaceful calm.

    If there’s one word I’ll drive from this year, it’s passion. I find it’s a springboard for vitality and a whole mess of great by-products.

  12. The timing of this post is perfect, for me. While writing my New Year’s post I was thinking about 2011 for Betty and me. This year and last have been quite stressful do to major changes within the family, losing my Mom just 2 days ago, and other events. I am attempting to bring a ray of sunshine and focus to next year. Knowing that much of that control is out of my hands, I still feel the need to pick a direction.

    So, thank you for the one word/one idea suggestion. That I can control.

    • Bob,

      I’m very sorry for your loss. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse of your parents reading one of your posts and I really feel for you at this time of change.

      Ray of sunshine might be your perfect word or maybe you will find another. I’m glad this post spoke to you. I feel the same about one word – it’s manageable!

    • Jonathan ~ That’s a marvelous word! I love it. A great way to believe in yourself. Please do steal this for your blog. The idea has been floating around the blogosphere for years; it’s not “mine.” This is just my spin.

  13. I really enjoyed this post. You have a great attitude and it really shines through! I’m going to have to think on my perfect word though. Perhaps tonight in the bath.. long after the kids have gone to bed. :)

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  15. Oh, this is just a beautiful article. So helpful. I’d seen a post like this on The Happiness Project but gee, it didn’t have all these good ideas in it. I will have to spend a bit of time lolling around here. ;-)

    And I love this idea of one single word. But what does this do to someone like me who has trouble making decisions? Maybe my word has to be “decide”, and I’ll spend the year choosing my word for next year, LOL. (OMG, I’m already LOLling around — I didn’t even mean to do that. Too silly.)

    Thank you!

    • I’m so glad you like it, Patti. Please loll around as much as you like. :)

      I have trouble making decisions too and I’m also highly changeable. You could think of it more like playing with one word for awhile. It doesn’t have to be an entire year. Just play with it as long as it fits. If you are just playing with one word for awhile, it’s not such a “big” decision. “Decisive” might be fun for awhile though!

      Gosh, waiting a whole year seems like a long time! Thanks for sharing your process. Be well.

  16. Hi Sandra,
    I’m choosing LOVE! My mom passed last Monday and I had the honor of being by her bedside. What an amazing experience. She was 90. I’ve spent most of Nov and Dec in Michigan. My eight siblings and I all made collages with photos of the good times we shared.

    What struck me looking everyone’s collage after the service was the rich life mom lived. It was clear to me that when she wasn’t with my family she was with one of the others having fun, helping and sharing. Her life was filled with good times and love. She had 32 grandchildren and 36 great grandchildren.

    My mom and I had opposite personalities I think the legacy she left was the love she gave away. I decided I’d like to practice being more like her. Loving is how I would describe her and under that word would come patient, tolerant, generous, faithful, hopeful…

    We send our collage home and it should arrive here in the next couple of days. I’m going to do more of the exercise you have suggested when it does. Thanks for helping me choose my word. Under it, all other desires, goals etc will follow naturally. You’re the best! xo
    Now I’m going to go turn this comment into a post;)

    • Tess,

      Thanks so much for celebrating your mother’s life with us. What a blessing! You are showering us with her legacy of love right now. Thank you. She was certainly prolific when it comes to grand children and great grand children! I loved hearing about the collages you made with your siblings.

      Love is a beautiful word indeed. I look forward to hearing more about all of this in your coming blog post! In fact, I can’t wait!

  17. Hi Sandra .. it is such a wonderful post .. as everyone is saying … and I love the choice of words you’ve put out .. & I have uses for a number of them .. that I hope will do some reconciliation -not sure if that features .. but it’s certainly part of my vocabulary at this present time.

    So great post and lots of lovely words to mull over at this time of deliciousness and seasonal cheer .. thanks love it .. so helpful – Hilary

    • Hello Hilary,

      Oh, I think reconciliation is another wonderful word that can transform so much in one’s life. I’m so glad you mention it here. I’m happy you enjoyed the post. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  18. I have chosen a word of the year for the last 10 years. Like you, I do this instead of resolutions. My word is always a verb, and I use it as a focus word. As you suggest, I post it in places I’m sure to see as I go through my day.

    My word for 2010 is “attend.” Here is a link to what I wrote about my word choosing ritual I enjoy every New Year’s Eve.

    http://10stepstofindingyourhappyplace.blogspot.com/2010/02/word-of-year.html

    My January 1 post will be about my new word.

    Great practice and great suggestions about finding and using your word!

    • Galen! I loved your post so much! I loved the way you write a letter to the old year and welcome the new years. This is fantabulous. Something I may also do for the transition to the new year. Thanks so much for sharing your process. I look forward to hearing about your new word. I will also reveal my choice at the beginning of 2011.

  19. Peace and abundance for me. I like the Japanese word Kaizen, and it’s a philosophy I embrace in my life. I admire that you have so much knowledge. I really must find more time to read. Love and peace.

  20. Hi Sandra,

    I have been doing this the last few years with amazing results and my word for this year is……. FLOW. When I am in flow with the Universe I am super woman… my work gets done, I am happy, I have TIME FOR everything and it means I am attuned with my intuition and am not getting too bogged down in 3d reality. ;-) When in flow not only do I benefit but everyone around me does from my family to my healing clients. DEFINITELY FLOW! In flow I am radiating love and peace .. the way I aim to be! :-)

    Much love and tons of good wishes for your new year!, xo
    Jenny

    • Hi Jenny,

      Flow is fabulous. It’s amazing how everyone seems to hit on the perfect word for them. I’m drawn to so many of these fantastic words and flow is one of them. Thanks for letting us know you’ve had amazing results with this approach. I’m not surprised because …. You are amazing! Thanks for sharing your word.

  21. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions but this is such an interesting concept. It’s so timely too that I’m stoked for it.

    The abstract painting I’m doing in art therapy is providing me with a means of expressing deep inner feelings, being with them, learning from them, and moving on. The words connected to the role of creativity in emotional healing are express and release.

    Thanks so much for presenting us with this great idea .
    Love and peace,
    TiTi

    • I so much appreciated your recent post about art therapy. The works you’ve created online are bold, colorful, and evocative. I really enjoyed seeing them and being part of your healing process. I always learn so much from you and your blog and am so happy to have a warm connection with you.

      I’m glad this idea has captivated you! It’s certainly a simply one. I’m going to be reflected some on your words “express and release” myself. I feel we are walking parallel paths in our healing process.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

  22. Hi Sandra
    I liked this very much and have recommended it to one friend already.
    One request, maybe you could change “pea” to “peau”? Probably that is what you wrote but I find that the computer makes up its own mind to change words sometimes.
    Thanks again for this well thought-out article.
    Jenny

  23. I love this post and though the word SERENITY comes to mind, I’d say there’s a conflict between SERENITY and FULL THROTTLE AHEAD, which is another one of my goals. So the BALANCE between the two is what I aim for. Great post, as usual. Sonia.

  24. Hello Sandra,

    I intend to Kaizen, a Japanese word that means continuous improvement, to be my word for 2011. Instead of using Kaizen, I will use CANI, which means Continuous And Never-ending Improvement.I took the word CANI from Anthony Robbins’ Awaken The Giant Within.

    This is an interesting article. It tells us that we must find a purpose in our life in order to find fulfillment in it. And having a word or two that would for next year that will become our primary motivation for the actions that we take in our daily lives instead of making too many specific new year’s resolutions that are hard to remember and difficult to follow.

    The word/words will definitely make our decision-making process less complicated especially in the choices that we make in our lives. Aside from that, it helps us to realize what values we want to develop as well as the identity and personality that to want to assume and what we want others to view us as well.

    More power and blessings!

    • Hi Rich,

      Kaisen and CANI are both wonderful words. Enjoy them thoroughly!

      I think your comment speaks to why this approach can be a particularly powerful one. Instead of superficial resolutions, it can take us deeper into our purpose and core values. Thanks for adding this point. In this way, it’s a wonderful exercise even if someone decides to use practical resolutions too.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

  25. What fun reading all the different words chosen. It does sound so simple to choose one word-but what a challenge for me. The word that keeps popping up is PRESENT-not gifts (although those would be nice) but being present throughout the day. Thanks for the fun exercise Sandra.

  26. Sandra, my word for most of 2010 was “reflection” – I looked back at my childhood and Iran memories so much as I came in touch with all my childhood friends and then our families reunited so I started to build relationships with my cousins – it has been so good for my heart and soul and it hasn’t stopped me from moving forward on my goals and staying in the present to enjoy my life.
    I do need a new word for next year though! :)
    What a creative writer you are!

  27. Sandra, this is simply beautiful…I’ve been thinking about it for a couple days now. Two words immediately came to mind for the upcoming year: Health & Simplify. Tonight I finally settled on simplify. I’ll leave it at that. ;)

    • I think we were writing on each other’s blog at the same time. I love synchronicity! That was an awesome post about funerals! Simplify is nice…. Thanks for telling us.

  28. Hi Sandra! This is great, it’s not even New Year and you already got me to think about my resolution for the coming year. I love your idea of one word, so simple and so magical. After much pondering, I’ll pick “growth”. I’d like to continue to grow and expand spiritually and personally. I also would like my projects to continue to grow and flourish.
    Thanks for this beautiful exercise. Loving blessings!

    • Andrea, I love it!! After reading this, I thought, “I want to change my word!!” ;) In reality, this made me think even more about why I chose “simplify” as my word for 2011. I think what I’m really looking to do with that is purge my life of the things that are less important…to simplify my life…so I can make more room to grow, focus on what is truly important, and fully experience life. Thanks for sharing!!

  29. I have finally decided to divorce my husband of 30 years. He’s an alcoholic and a narcissist. I am very nervous – I’ve never been on my own! So I have a lot of new things happening in 2011. I think my word will be “courage” or “just breathe!” Any other suggestions?

    • Hi Renee,

      That a big change in your life. It’s understandable to be nervous. I love the two words you have chosen – “courage” and “just breathe.” It’s completely fine to work with two words or phrases if you feel that works best for you. I think you’ve found the perfect words for you. One other phrase that comes to my mind is “the best is still ahead” – just a reminder to keep moving forward. You might actually love being on your own! In 6 months or a year you might look back at this juncture as one of the most important steps you’ve taken in your life. I wish you all the best and hope all goes smoothly for you.

    • Hi Naomi, Void! That’s an interesting word. I would love to know what “void” means to you! I definitely can connect with the idea of “emptiness” (e.g. “fullness”) if that’s what you mean. Thanks for sharing your word.

  30. It’s an interesting approach. New Year resolutions may or may not work. It’s better for me to make a resolution when my mind is ready for it. Then I achieve it. I’m afraid I don’t ever achieve the lists (one or more) put together specially for Jan 1st.

    • Hi there,

      An excellent point. I agree it’s far better to make resolutions when they feel timely rather than by rote at the New Year. One’s birthday is said to be a time when the themes of our life shift astrologically. That might be a more natural time for resolutions. Thanks for adding this thought to the conversation.

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  33. I was giving a lot of thought to your list of words and then when I saw the phrase “Rise and Shine” I immediately thought of Sunshine. My father called me Sunshine when I was very young and the thought reminded me of all the love my parents gave me. The last 18 months have been very painful and I am so ready to move forward. So for 2011 it’s Rise and Shine, Sunshine. I will bring light back into my life with enthusiasm. I will also share the light with others.
    Thank you Sandra for this uplifting post

    • Welcome Carol,

      I am so sorry the last 18 months have been so painful for you. Reconnecting with the sunshine from your childhood seems like the perfect metaphor for moving forward and bringing light back into your life. I love the phrase you’ve chosen – “Rise and Shine, Sunshine.” I’m wishing you a year filled with warmth, light, and love. May it be your best year ever. Thank you so much for leaving your comment. I’m sure it will inspire others too.

  34. Dear Sandra-

    I clicked over to your blog from Tess’ fantastic blog, and I think I’ll be lolling around here for awhile, too! There is so much richness here, so much to soak up and put into practice.

    My word for 2011 is “gentle”. It will serve as a simple reminder to walk gently on the earth, to be gentle with my children, my extended family, my fellowman….and, perhaps most importantly, with myself.

    Thank you for such a meaningful post. May 2011 be everything you want it to be.

    Blessings,
    Kathirynne

    • Welcome Kathirynne,

      I would love to have you loll around here as long as you like! “Gentle” is such a beautiful word, one that resonates strongly for me as well. I sure it will serve you well in 2011. Thanks so much for your appreciation and for your comment.

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    • Hi Susan,

      I love this conversation too. It’s bring me closer to my blog friends and I enjoy that immensely.
      “Trailblaze” seems perfect for you and for your blog too. What a terrific slogan loaded with meaningful words ~ curious, bold, clear, and compelling.

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