What’s your Word for the year?

Written by Dr. Kelly Whelan

Dr. Whelan is the Founder and CEO of Belem LLC. She specializes in partnering, empowering, and positioning executive leaders and teams for success by helping them design strategies that create stakeholder impact.

January 1, 2023

And just like that, it’s the New Year!

Before each of us is an opportunity to make everything new. A chance to reflect on what was and re-image what can be. There are no regrets nor failures, just 365 days, 8760 hours, and 525,600 minutes to make a difference in your corner of the world and beyond.

Perhaps you’ve reflected on the past year, celebrated personal and professional victories, and have a strategic plan for the year ahead. For some, that strategic plan is a formal road map for your life, work, or business. For others, your plan may be less formal. Regardless of formality, planning is part of what we, as coaches, help our clients decipher and implement. While we are good at assisting others in crystalizing their plan, there are times when we, as coaches and leaders, have a plan that is more of a muddy mess.

Tracking the Mess

Let’s face it. Life can be messy. Work can be chaotic. I would be in trouble if I didn’t have my calendar to help me stay out of the mud. People hear me say, “if it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t get done.” That is not always literal, but my calendar does guide my waking hours, whether work or play. Do I live by my calendar? I do! And it’s not a bad habit. My calendar helps me focus and keep the necessary boundaries for healthy living. This means scheduling myself beyond my work. I schedule myself out of the office and into “me-time, family-time, and serve-time.” While my calendar does the job, I need more to keep my planning and execution in check.

What’s in a Word?

With only ten percent of new year’s resolutions meeting with success in 2019, I started my year with a guiding word. This word helps me stay focused. It directs, informs, and helps me be and do my best.

I thought choosing a word would be easy, but I was wrong! Landing on a word to carry with me throughout the year takes time and consideration.

With more than a million words to choose from, you may be thinking, “how do I choose 1 word?” The answer lies in reflection. The process we ask of our clients. Why reflect? Reflection is about actively sifting through and extracting learnings from the past. This intentional thought process can prompt awareness and assist with planning for the future.

Here are some practical tips and reflection questions to help you get started.

Reflect on what was. 

When you think about 2022:

  • What’s one thing that went well and inspired you?
  • What values lit your life and work path?
  • What project got lift-off?
  • When were you at your best?
  • What themes do you see across the horizon?
  • What words describe what you are feeling, thinking, or sensing as you reflect?

Write them down.

Reflect on your becoming.

  • What inspirational words come to mind as you reflect on what could be for the new year?
  • What do you need to re-imagine?
  • What words encourage you?
  • What bible verse speaks to you most in this season?
  • Who do you want or need to become to serve your family, work partners, and clients?
  • What does your business need to become to serve your family, work partners, and clients well?
  • What word aligns with the direction you want to take yourself in the new year?
  • What word describes one of your top strengths? (especially if you are a Clifton Strengths enthusiast)
  • What other words are bubbling up to the surface?

Write them down.

Whittle Away

How’s that list? Were you able to find words that triggered something positive or inspired you? Maybe you were so inspired you found yourself with an extra-long list of meaningful words. If so, it’s time to start whittling. A good measure is finding 3-5 meaningful, inspirational words and working toward one (or two) dominant guiding words you can commit to.

Your word for your professional life may not fit with your personal life. That’s okay. No one says you have to choose just one word. The objective is to give yourself a roadmap for the new year. One word, two words, or even three, that, at the end of 2023, you will be able to connect your word to what mattered most. Your word becomes your measuring stick for everything you do or don’t do in 2023!

While I have three words to guide my year, prioritize will be leading the way. I will continue to use this word to position my thinking, doing, and being for the new year. Keeping the word prioritize front and center will help me be mindful of my decision-making, what I say yes to, and sometimes, more importantly, what I say no to.

Next Steps

You’ve done the work. You have your word. Now what?

  1. It’s important to commit and challenge yourself to work your word! Keep your word (or words) fresh and front of mind. Create a #hashtag. Use your word in social media posts, your writing, or your communication. Place your guiding word on your vision board, and TELL people!
  2. Start asking clients if they have a guiding word for the year. If they do, celebrate their word and see how you can incorporate their word into the work you do together. If not, perhaps they would like to walk through the process with you.

What word will help you step out of the mud and have clearer planning and execution in the new year? Leave me a comment below. I’d love to know!

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