Alyssa Johnson

The Word of the Year

I’m not into New Year resolutions. I do think it’s important to constantly review how things are going and make course corrections though. In order to know when to make corrections, I have to be aware of my ultimate destination.  If I don’t know where I’m going, how can I expect others to follow me? How can I get others excited if I don’t have a clear vision for the future?

Last month, Christin talked about the importance of taking some time to reflect. I want to build on that topic by offering you an exercise to use during your reflection time here at the start of 2017. Often, we set too may goals or resolutions for the New Year. We’ll have goals for health, relationships, career, finances, etc. Having too many goals risks not getting enough done in any area. I call that the shotgun approach.

Consider instead the laser approach of having one focus to direct decisions in all life areas. This is a practice I learned from Christine Kane 5 years ago. It’s called the “Word of the Year.” Forget SMART goals. Instead, all you need is one word.

Let me show you exactly how to go about discovering your word for 2017:

  1. Brainstorm potential words that embody the direction you’re drawn toward. Perhaps these are words you’ve already found yourself thinking, saying, or hearing a lot lately. Don’t try to focus on one word right now. Just make a list of everything that pops into your mind. I want to encourage you to think of what you want more of, rather than less.
  2. Take a deep breath and review your list.  Pay close attention to any words that really pop out to you.  Don’t try to analyze why.  The whole point of this exercise is to get you out of your head. You’re much more likely to be successful if you’re connected to your word emotionally rather than just intellectually. Remember, this word is going to be with you all year.
  3. Go to a dictionary and look up the definitions of all those words.  I know it sounds silly and you may be thinking, “I KNOW what they mean,” but there’s a deeper level that can be gleaned from looking at the definitions.  This step usually helps me narrow down my word list because I’ll find that some of them just don’t quite fit once I look at the specific definitions.  At this point, I try to have my list narrowed down to 1-3 words.
  4. Next, use a thesaurus to look up synonyms for the remaining word or words you have left.  You may need to go back and look up the definitions for any new words you find.  This narrowing process will help you drill down further to the real essence of what you’re wanting.

A key value at Kairos is that we take our own medicine. We don’t just spout off ideas – we live them first. So here’s a snapshot into my meandering journey to find my Word of the Year for 2017.

  1. 2016 was very tiring, and I’ve got some big life changes coming in 2017. During a recent personal retreat, the word “restore” really stood out for me. “Restored” also happens to be the theme my church will be focusing on in 2017. I decided to do some digging since that word kept popping up.
  2. The definition for “restore” that stood out was: “to bring back to a state of health, soundness or vigor.” I then looked up “vigor” which means: “healthy physical or mental energy or power; vitality.”I then looked up “vitality” which means: “capacity for survival or for the continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence.”
  3. All of these definitions felt very much on track for me. My stress level has been extremely high lately, so coming back to a sense of wholeness and health is a top priority in 2017 in order to continue engaging in meaningful work and relationships.
  4. Finally, I like to switch my word from English to Hebrew because I find there’s usually richer meaning and I feel more connected spiritually in doing this. There are actually 2 Hebrew words for “restore”. Chadash which focuses more on “renewing and repairing” and arukah which is more focused on “healing” and “restoration back to the original.” Out of those 2 options, arukah was the right fit for me.

I plan to use this little word as an anchor to guide me through the myriad decisions I’ll need to make this year in order to achieve my restoration.I see it as a key element in managing stress, adjusting to my oldest graduating from high school, our daily family structure changing from 4 to 3 as she leaves for college, and any other twists and turns that show up along the way.

So, how about you? What word will best direct you in the coming year? Finding your word may take some time.  Give yourself permission to mull it over.  But understand that the “right” word will be evident on a feeling level, not an intellectual one.

Then keep that word front and center so you don’t forget it. Let it be the lens you look through as you make decisions – both big and small. Trust that you were led to this word for a reason and commit to seeking its leading and prompting this year.

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