Choose a Word of the Year

As we headed into the new year, I had my word of the year all picked out. It came to me one day as I was thinking about last year’s word and what it meant to me. But after rereading James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits” to start off this new year, I suddenly realized my word was flawed so I added a second word. More on that in a minute.

As a self-proclaimed “word nerd” and a writer my entire life—and a paid writer since I was 20—I relish the process of selecting a word of the year. For several years, I actually picked three words—an idea I got from marketer Chris Brogan, who has been doing this exercise for several years. I wanted simple, positive, action verbs.

In 2016, my three words were:

  • Do—meaning just do it; don’t procrastinate.
  • Aim—that was my third full year of business and I wanted to aim for better clients.
  • Blog—meaning I would blog consistently. (I’m still working on that one.)

In 2017, my words were:

  • Enjoy—meaning don’t take work I won’t enjoy.
  • Simplify—a reminder that I can’t use every resource and tool out there.
  • Blog (again).

My 2019 Word of the Year

For 2019, I wanted one word, a more dynamic word. I chose “leap.” “Leap” represented doing new things and trying things outside my comfort zone. I tend to be a cautious person and a planner, so I can easily plan, plan, plan and overanalyze. I fall into “analysis paralysis,” which I experienced before I finally launched my podcast, Deliberate Freelancer, in March 2019. I spent over a year planning, researching, brainstorming and dreaming about that podcast before I finally made myself take the leap and just launch the thing.

Every year, for my word(s) of the year, I make a bold sign in Canva and post it on the wall to the left of my desk. This reminds me of my word throughout the year—both when I’m making big decisions and also when I have to make all the little choices throughout the day for my business.  

“Leap” pushed me forward throughout 2019. It called me out when I was being too content, too comfortable, with the status quo. Maybe I was playing small. So, I leapt.

My 2020 Words of the Year

For 2020, the word I chose several weeks ago was “explore.” I considered it in two ways: exploring new directions and new projects in my business, but also exploring new places with my husband, as we plan to travel more this year. However, as I was reading “Atomic Habits” yesterday, I came across a section that discussed motion versus action. Sometimes we feel like we’re doing new things, working on projects, being productive, but everything we’re doing is just “motion.” Motion is the research, the planning, the preparation, but it’s not the action of actually doing something.

Wow. I’m really good at motion. I plan, I research, I make lists, I schedule, I brainstorm. And while some of that is necessary for most projects, too much of it delays action. I might think I’m being productive, but I’m not doing the thing. I need to act.

And my word “explore” is the epitome of motion! It’s all the planning and thinking I love to do. I accidentally picked a word that I’m already living every day! Instead, I need to get out there and actually explore in real life, in real time.

So, I have two words this year that I believe will remind me to dream new things—to explore them—but then to actually do those new things—to take action.

Explore + Act.

What are your word(s) of the year?

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