Just one word

In my corporate days as a buyer, reviewing the season was a bi-annual event. It was the time when the merchandisers went back over the previous six months’ performance with a fine, very analytical, tooth comb. We creative types dutifully listened until we could get on with the exciting business of looking forward, developing the product and spending the money. It is a ritual I have never left behind.

Every January, I like to take some quality time out to assess what has gone before, both professionally and personally, and set aspirations for the year ahead. It creates an important roadmap for the next twelve months and helps to concentrate my energies on the things that matter to me most. But, depending on how much is on the list, it can take a lot of effort to monitor each goal and ensure things stay on track. The more complex and/or challenging they are, the more likely it is that they fall by the wayside. Last year I tried a different approach.

Word of the year

Woman jumping highAfter two years of living very differently, I found myself stuck in that Covid groove. It wasn’t unpleasant but it was way too narrow for my liking. I wanted to travel again, see friends, meet new people, develop different interests, and challenge my mind and my body. Above all else, I had an overwhelming desire to break out of the bubble. It was my number one priority and I felt it needed to be represented in just one overarching word: expansion. In every sense.

I hadn’t reckoned on how powerful it would be. I found myself referring regularly to it not just in conversation with others, but I would also reference any action I took against it. Any goals I set aligned with my one-word vision which in turn kept them targeted and more succinct. It got rid of the fluff  and cut to the chase. The simplicity of having just one word kept it uppermost on my mind throughout the year. I felt excited and motivated as I gathered a long list of wins that all fell under the heading of ‘expansion’.

The outcome has been far more successful that I could have imagined. I am in a completely different place now. Life feels much richer as a result.

Getting started

Choosing just one word might seem daunting but it’s not really. Here’s some questions that I found useful and helped to point me in the right direction:

  • How would you describe your life right now? Compared to how you would like it to be?
  • Where are the gaps and what could you to do to bridge them? Is there a common theme?
  • What is the one issue of most concern that is holding you back?
  • If you could change one thing about 2022 what would it be?
  • How would you like 2023 to feel? What do you consider your most pressing issue?

Aim to pick up any trends or patterns.

Once you have an idea of the direction that feels right, brainstorm words that capture that. Identify the ones that feel most motivating. It may be words that inspire action like ‘expansion’ or ‘adventure’. Or it might be a way of being eg ‘simplify’, ‘unapologetic’. Maybe it’s about your relationship with yourself such as ‘self-love’, or with others eg ‘compassion’. There’s no right or wrong. For once, it’s all about you! Have fun with it.

Once you have found it, make it as visible as you can. Post it notes work very well! Refer to it every day. Cross check your actions against it. Keep a note of everything you have achieved . I know someone who writes each success down as she goes along and and collects them in a ‘word of the year’ jar. I love that. What fun opening them all up at the end of the year!

Looking forward

I know of two people so far who have been inspired to choose their own word of the year 2023. Kindness is one and equanimity the other. As for me, clarity is where I am at. Could be an interesting journey. I will report back this time next year!

How about you? What will your word of the year be?





  1. Lorraine Bewes

    Thanks for this month’s blog Lindsay. As ever you have a way of reminding us of what is needed to keep oneself on a healthy cycle, which is always fresh and thought provoking. A good reminder to reference decisions and actions against our chosen words. Thank you! 🙏


    Thanks for this great tip about choosing one word Lindsay. It’s a really good idea because as you say the simplicity of having just one word helps to keep it in mind. I am going to have a little think about this but off the top of my head I would put ‘ bravery’ as my word of the year.

  3. Barbara

    Thanks Lindsay. This year my word is “perspective”.

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