The Choice of Words for the Coming Year

6 years ago

Own Your Beauty is a groundbreaking, year-long movement bringing women together to change the conversation about what beauty means. Our mission: to encourage and remind grown women that it is never too late to learn to love one's self and influence the lives of those around us - our mothers, friends, children, neighbors. We can shift our minds and hearts and change the path we follow in the pursuit of authentic beauty.

I have been thinking about the choice of words for the coming year.

Hang out for too long on the blogosphere, and you will find this a pretty much irresistible invitation.

With December comes reflection on dreams, goals, plans and intentions alongside the setting and declaration of dreams, goals, plans and intentions for the year ahead.

I’ve seen a good deal of interest in the setting of just one word for the year and indeed, tried it for myself last year.

The word I came up with was rhythm.

[It helped, a bit, at times when I got stuck and reminded myself that it was okay to keep moving around to find a rhythm, and that indeed part of getting into rhythm requires an element of moving around, rather than stopping still ;-) ]

And as December edges forward, I see reflections and invitations once again emerging again into the sphere. Prompted most recently by my good friend Amy Palko I started to play around with words for the year. I stumbled on not one word but a phrase that could serve as a mantra, "clear mind, wild heart," and I might well use it.

But there’s a resistance and an awkwardness that I feel each time I do this kind of exercise.

At root I think there’s a voice inside me protesting. It says something like this.

I don’t want it to be all about me.

That’s partly selfishness. So many words of good intention have the opposite effect, making us feel small, exposed, guilty, inadequate, imperfect in relation to our declarations and expectations. (Er... or is that just me?)

But there’s something else there, something that says we’re collectively going adrift. That there’s an undue emphasis on individual brilliance. That things might start to look and feel a little different if we invested the energy at this time of the year into thinking about what we can do.

What we can support each other to do.

I know there’s something of a conundrum here. When I look back on the year that’s closing -- in relation to my own creative and professional work -- I have a sense of deep pride in the achievements of others: the stretches, the taking off of layers, the allowing for the expression of the creative self that I have seen and had the privilege to be part of. I like to see it in others.

But when I think of the sparkling and shining in relation to myself ... well, I prefer to think about the contribution I can make to the collective, to the quiet work of gentle support that I offer.

Not for the first time I think this might simply be an introvert / extrovert thing. My introvert simply does not want to shine.

But still ...

But still I wonder how things could be if we shifted a bit of emphasis from I to we.

If we made that, that shift to "we," the choice of word for the year.

In the midst of mulling this over, I stumbled on this poem by Hafiz.

The Seed Cracked Open

It used to be

That when I would wake in the morning

I could with confidence say,

"What am ‘I’ going to Do?"

That was before the seed

Cracked open

Now Hafiz is certain:

There are two of us housed

In this body,

Doing the shopping together in the market and

Tickling each other

While fixing the evening’s food

Now when I awake

All the internal instruments play the same music

"God, what love-mischief can ‘We’ do

For the world


I feel a wave of relief each time I read it.

Maybe I’ll ditch words for the year, beyond the reminder to read a bit of Hafiz each morning.

Although, I have to confess, “love-mischief” does have a certain ring to it ;-)

I’d love to hear your own reflections on the setting of one word, three words, resolutions, goals, or doing all of none of these ...

Further reading, and posts that prompted this:

Christine Kane on a word to last the year (and the resolution revolution), plus free download on choosing a word (requires email signup)

Amy Palko: word reflections and projections

Jon Swanson: 8 ways to prepare for the coming year (and links to many other resources to do it as creatively and differently as you wish to)

Patti Digh on a web of connections, structures of belonging

In thinking of an image to go with this, wild geese came to mind. I realised I was thinking back to the call to ‘Honk! Honk!’ we used to offer by way of encouragement at Joyful Jubilant Learning.


It was based on the lesson of the geese.

The poem comes from The Gift, by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

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Joanna is a writer and journal coach who helps people tap into their natural creativity and express themselves with confidence.  More of her work at Confident Writing, and Nature's Fire

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