Choosing a word for the year – and what to do with it once you have it

Since 2012 I have preferred to choose a word for the year rather than making resolutions. 

It is a powerful practice that is becoming more and more widespread, as people try it and experience how wonderful and effective it is for focused intention, attention, and growth. 

How to Choose/ Find Your Word of the Year

There is no one right way to do this. You can find your word through meditation, visualisation or journeying (you can specifically ask for your word to be given to you during meditation, perhaps written on a piece of paper that is passed to you, or in the sky with the stars spelling out your word). You can free-write in your journal and see which words come – this can be surprisingly effective. When I was new to it I used tarot cards plus Amy Palko‘s Word of the Year Goddess Reading to guide my choice of word. In recent years I use my own Wheel of the Year Reading to inform and inspire my word choice.  I have also used Christine Kane’s Word of the Year Discovery Tool in the past, and that was interesting (and a little less woo) too.

However you do it, ideally you will end up with a small pool of words that resonate for you. It can be useful at this stage to mind-map each of the words, noting any correspondences, associations, memories, or thoughts they bring up for you. Then look up the dictionary definitions for each word. This often generates more meanings (and additional possible words) in a really interesting and useful way. Some people like to add pictures and colour references at this stage too.

And then, and I find this the most important part, try and put them away from your conscious mind for a while. Eventually one of the words – or perhaps a completely different word (but the right word) – will bubble up and make itself known to you. You will recognise it as your Word of the Year. Sometimes this happens spontaneously, without doing all those previous steps. Either way. You will know it is your Word.

What makes a good Word of the Year?

A good word of the year is a focus for your attention and enables you to grow and blossom as you move through the year. That is to say that a good word of the year is one that works for the person who matches that word. It will stretch you, challenge you, nourish you, enchant you.

Personally, I am drawn to words that can have multiple layers of meaning – ideally both a verb and a noun. For example, my word for 2017 was PRESENT. That can mean many things e.g. a gift (given or received); this moment; standing up and sharing wisdom – and that’s just for openers. It has been a wonderful and powerful word to work with for me.

choosing a word for the year

Sometimes your word will not resonate immediately, but, given a bit of time to settle in, these words can be (extremely!) powerful. For example, a few years ago my word was HUNT.  It scared me a bit at first as it sounds so aggressive but looking back on the events of the year it was spot on!  It was a year when I uncovered more about myself and what I am here to do in this world than any other before and it wasn’t discovery in a passive, relaxed way.  No!  I was actively uncovering, searching everywhere, particularly my shadows, for the answers. (And it also fitted very well with my Goddess guide for that year, Artemis).

Another word that did not immediately jump out at me, but was so, so, good was my word for 2016: BUILD.  Build?! How boring I thought.  And initially when it popped into my journal I resisted it.  Build?  Yes, it’s practical but it didn’t sound very creative, or fun. But then I started thinking about things which are built: homes which protect and nourish us – our sanctuaries; meeting places where we come and share and trade ideas with others; temples where we worship our deities (or the divine in ourselves, like in gyms); libraries and universities – see where I’m going with this? And somehow build was less boring and more inspiring. And my build year was, fittingly, a year of slow work. One brick on top of the other. But my word kept me nourished and trusting. After all, that is how even the most innovative buildings are made. You can’t raise a roof without some kind of supports.

What Do You Do with Your Word of The Year?

This is where the magic lies.

You do all the same things as you did with your shortlist of words: Mind Map (mood board if you are so called); journal it; meditate on it; look up all available definitions of it. See where the spirals lead off. Continue to do this as the year progresses and see how your connection with and understanding of the word ebbs and flows.

Take it deeper by thinking about how this word is reflected in your life at the moment. How would you want it to be reflected? How do you feel about the word? What associations does it have for you? Which people, living or dead, embody this word for you? What does it mean for you to be/ have this Word in your life? What does your life look like though the lens of this Word?

Some people like to have their word in a prominent place, like on a piece of jewellery or art work. Molly Remer and Sherry from Dragonfly Inspirations have worked together to create beautiful custom Word of the Year Goddesses, who wear your/her Word hand-stamped on her belt. (I am definitely getting one of these this year!)

Custom Story Word of the Year Goddess

It is your word. Use it, and it will be a great source of power and wisdom.

A Goddess for the Year

A lovely companion practice to Choosing a Word for the Year, is discovering your Goddess connection for the year. Indeed, for some people, identifying their goddess companion comes first and inspires their choice of words.

This is not a practice which speaks to everyone but for those who it does resonate with it can be extremely powerful and healing.

You can find your goddess connection in exactly the same way as you found your word. Or you can use a specific Goddess Oracle deck (I use Doreen Virtue’s but there are a few really lovely and accurate ones available).

If you would like personalised guidance on choosing your Word of the Year and uncovering your Goddess Companion then my custom Wheel of the Year Reading may be a good fit for you. 

This reading uses a card layout that I have loved and used personally, every year, for almost a decade. I love it so much because:

  • It offers insight into each month individually, and the year as a whole
  • It identifies the lesson/ focus for the year in question and the personal strength or attributes you will bring forward
  • It allows significant words to bubble up to the surface. It will create a personalised pool of suggestions for your Word of the Year.

I will also choose a card representing your goddess guide for the year.

Find out more about this reading here.

Do let me know your words and your experiences with them. I love this practice so much, and find new layers are uncovered with every new word. 

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