A new word for the New Year

Give the people a new word and they think they have a new fact.

Willa Cather, On Writing: Critical Studies on Writing as an Art

Every new year deserves a new word.

I’ve gotten into the habit of choosing a new word every year. It sums up my goals for my next revolution around the sun. I choose a word that pokes at a personal or spiritual issue I’m currently having. My new word incapsulates something I’ve decided to explore or conquer in the new year.

So obviously, the words I choose are uncomfortable, challenging, and vulnerable.

Here are various aspects of my word-process:

  1. I write each word in my journal.

2. I look up Bible verses and famous quotations on my word and write them in my journal.

3. I share my word with my husband, therapist, and a couple friends.

4. I listen for my word being used in various contexts and by various people.

5. I write it on a 3×5 card and post it over my sink.

6. Sometimes, I make it into a decorative plaque and hang it on my wall.

By fall, I’ve occasionally forgotten what my word is, and I have to look it up and face the music that I’ve been lazy.

Or the word has morphed into another word or another goal, and I make the necessary adjustments in my journal.

I may or may not need to reorient myself at that point.

Then in late December, I review the year’s journal to see if the word has changed me. I note what I’ve blogged, what I’ve studied, what I’ve processed, what I’ve learned. I do a self-examination.

Sometimes, I’ve stepped up to the word challenge. Sometimes, I haven’t.

Here are a few of my recent years’ words:

  • simplify
  • enough
  • create
  • rejoice
  • grow

Grow was my word for 2020. It morphed into grit around April and stayed with me for the rest of the year. I did an experimental self-study on the practice of becoming grittier throughout the summer. I dug into discomfort, I welcomed pain, I put myself out there, I didn’t give up. I did something hard nearly every day.

By fall, I was feeling strong but bitter. (I had a slight martyr complex.)

Did I grow? Yes. Did 2020 make me grittier? Double-yes. Am I changed? Yes, but it wasn’t all good.

Staying positive was difficult. I’ve been learning new levels of endurance and courage, but I’ve been losing hope in the process. The COVID quarantine/race wars/election bizzaro-world has made me grittier and more fragile all at the same time.

I trust less. I withhold more. I judge more. I assume more. These are the things that happen whenever we feel fear, trauma, or anxiety. And these are the things that change the words we use—what they mean and how they represent us. So this is my next year’s challenge.

Everyone has issues that carry over from year to year. But if I look at whatever bubbles to the surface in my day-to-day existence, I can grow. I can change what I acknowledge.

I’m thinking about the word hope for this year.

Here are some illuminating contexts for the word hope:

Hebrews 12:1—Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Psalm 147:11—The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Proverbs 13:12—Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

1 Timothy 4:10—This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance…that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

Words aren’t only bombs and bullets—no, they’re little gifts, containing meanings.

Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint

So what are your issues right now? What has bubbled to your surface in 2020?

What words would you use to describe yourself this past year? And what words will fix them?

Choose a word and tackle one issue. Just one.

The rest can wait ‘til 2022.

Do one thing to make yourself a better version of you. Be the person you admire instead of the person that comes easily.

I challenge you to choose a word for 2021 and share it in the comment section so we can encourage you as you inspire us.

Happy New Year! You can do it!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This