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Why I choose a ‘word of the year’ to live by

Pat Fenner

For quite a while now, I’ve tossed out the whole New Year’s resolution thing. I’ve spent too many years makin’ and breakin’ ‘em by the end of January, so I decided to finally be kind to myself and chuck the whole kit and caboodle — until two years ago.

Two years ago the pendulum started swinging the other direction. I started to realize when I don’t make any effort to change the status quo — do you know what happens? Nothing! Two years ago, I got tired of nothing happening. Stagnation sucks.

Around that time, I saw a blog post related to the concept of claiming a “Word of the Year.” The idea intrigued me. I liked the simplicity, and I was inspired by the possibilities that might make themselves available because of that lack of structure.

I thought long and hard about my word. I considered what irons I had in the fire: where I thought I was headed and what I’d like to accomplish. I spent time in prayer. I spent time talking to close friends and family members. I took this really seriously while at the same time fighting back cynicism and doubt.

I hoped for the best.

That first year my word was “foundations,” and it truly inspired and motivated me in ways that I had neither experienced before nor thought possible. That first year convinced me to try it again.

This past year, I went through a similar process — minus the cynicism and doubt — in trying to decide on a word. The word I operated under was “reach.”

It’s almost embarrassing to share that. It’s almost too simple and simplistic at first glance. I discovered so much about that word and how it deeply impacted my life this past year.

The word “reach” is a very active verb

Most obviously, it implies an outward movement, as in reaching towards a goal or an object. It also contains the potential for movement directed inside, as in digging inside for strength or determination or creativity. You can’t “reach” and be static — even just sitting in a chair and reaching up requires moving muscles and changing your focus.

Digging deeper into the word provided me with even more thoughts and ideas that were truly exciting, such as:

  • To encompass
  • Make an impression on and communicate with
  • To strain or stretch after something
  • To draw towards
  • To arrive at, implying the end of a journey of sorts — the result of travel and discovery

“Reach” is also a noun

Especially meaning…

  • The ability or power of someone to do or achieve
  • Growth, development or increase.

And the etymology of the word includes “to stretch oneself.” The definition explains quite a bit for me about the past year. After prayerful consideration, reaching was the “bar” I used for any activity I undertook or considered.

“Will this take me out of my comfort zone?”

“What am I straining towards here?”

“Will this new endeavor bring growth?”

Not surprisingly, most of my experiences centered around blogging. They included putting myself out there in ways I never have or would have thought of in past times such as:

  • Working under specific deadlines
  • Pitching ideas and concepts and words to editors and strangers who had no “heart” for the blood, sweat and tears that go into each piece
  • Learning challenging skills because I needed to know them
  • Meeting and talking to new and/or influential people about my endeavors
  • Portraying confidence when it was required and seeking help when it was necessary
  • Growing into the confident, capable woman God has called me to be!

I’ve started considering and praying about 2016 already, this time with excitement and optimism!

It’s amazing what one word can do!

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