How to Create a Word of the Year for 2024

For the past three years, I’ve embraced the practice of choosing a “Word of the Year,” and it’s been transformative.

Selecting a word offers focus and intentionality, providing a yardstick to measure goals and choices.

My word of the year for the past two years has been “contentment” and it guided me through 2022 and 2023, sparking tremendous and truly life changing personal growth.

In 2022 I spent a TON of time considering what contentment meant to me and what it looked like across my life. I asked a LOT of questions that helped me to create specific goals, which gave me strategies to try out and iterate.

I call this practice “life changing” because contentment ended up being a foundational pillar or belief that I now have in my life.

Although I’ve found this practice amazing why should YOU develop a word of the year?

Simply put, a word of the year gives you clarity, intentionality, and laser sharp focus. It’s like having your own guiding star. It helps you to define what’s most important to you, which means that it adds a a whole heck of a lot of intentionality to your year.

It gives you a yardstick, in which to measure your goals and choices. Or, it provides a metric for what “being in alignment” this year means. It can act as a framework to apply to all of your other goals for the year too.

So, how do you develop a word of the year?

Step 1: Reflect

Think about 2023 what it was like for you— what were your highs and lows? What went well for you? What worked, what didn’t? Keep this in mind for these look-ahead questions.

  1. What could you use more of in 2024 ?
  2. what could you use less of in 2024? Or, what do you want to let go of?
  3. How do you want to feel in 2024? Or, more specifically, how do you want to feel everyday or at the end of the year?
  4. Is there anything that feels missing or lacking right now?
  5. What qualities or mindsets do you want to embody?
  6. If you could have ONE goal or make one change in 2024 what would this be?

My personal favourite question to ask is #1. What could you use more of is such a powerful question because you’re considering what you need. What would help you to flourish, thrive, or grow in your life? What’s something you could benefit from having more of? hearing more of? seeing more of? What’s an area that feels underdeveloped to you? Or, an area that needs more attention or focus?

Step 2: Brainstorm

The next step is to use that data you collected from your reflection to brainstorm a list of words. Don’t worry about how long your list is, or how many words you have, just go with it. After about 5 or 10 words take a look and see what feels “right” or what feels the most “right” and use that to iterate. It’s also handy to have a thesaurus out for this.

This year my initial list looked like this: growth, confidence, courage, trust, positivity, tenacity, faith, gumption, grit, capable, belief, unstoppable, powerful.

The closest words were confidence and gumption but still those didn’t quite feel right.

When words don’t feel quite right that’s the time to explore a bit about why. Growth was too generic, and positivity was off the mark. If you were having self-doubt positivity wouldn’t be the fix— trust, faith, or maybe self-belief would be better choices.

Step 2B: Consider Criteria

At this stage it’s helpful to develop some criteria, which can guide you in your process.

It wasn’t until I started thinking about why some words felt wrong that I realized an important criteria for my choice this year is for it be inspirational in some way. I wanted my word to be a reminder or a pick me up. Seeing the word capable or trust doesn’t feel “inspirational” to me and this criteria helped me to narrow down my list.

Some criteria examples:

  • it’s something you’re trying to develop or cultivate— a skill, mindset, or belief you don’t already have but want to have
  • it’s something you can buy into— it’s not something you see as lofty, unattainable or out there
  • it’s clear or understandable— it’s not so abstract that it’s hard to understand or implement and As an example, growth felt too ambiguous to me even if it could have a lot of meaning in action.
  • it’s something that can help guide you through the year and inform other goals and activities. If you don’t feel as though you could set multiple goals under this word or have it inspire goals it might not be a good choice. I love grit and want to cultivate that in myself but it was just too specific for my choice this year.

Step 2C: Word or Phrase?

Sometimes a word isn’t what you’re looking for, but instead a phrase or a mantra is more appropriate. A word is more compact and can be a great reminder in a small package. However, your word has a purpose and a meaning that has a specific application to your life.

Sometimes a phrase is just way more on the mark or can accompany your word of the year to provide extra impact.

A phrase might be right if…

  • no single word is doing the trick
  • you want a reminder of something specific
  • you want something that motivates or inspires (phrases do this better than individual words)
  • you want to build in a new belief or mindset
    • ex. embrace failure or failure is my best teacher
    • having “failure” as your word of the year may be an awkward choice that ultimately feels negative when you see it. However, choosing a phrase like failure is my best teacher is a GREAT reminder and can be more positive than just “failure” when you see it
  • you want your meaning readily available without having to do the digging
    • ex. intention vs. my intention creates my reality or I live by intention or exist by default. A phrase has that meaning built in and you don’t have to dig around in your mind about why you chose your word and the purpose you want it to serve when you need a reminder at an important moment.

If you’re still stuck on which word to choose ask this question: which of my words can I actually commit to? Which do I think I can focus on or buy into for 365 days? If multiple words still stand out go with multiple. There’s no real rules here. Have 2 or even 3.

I very nearly went with confidence and capable this year because they complement each other and they also combine together into a phrase I thought could be a great mantra: have confidence because you are capable.

Step 3: Consider

Now that you have your word taking some time to reflect on why you’re choosing it, what it means to you, and how you want it to apply to your life is the last step.

If you just choose a word and walk away you’re missing an essential part of the process. You can’t expect yourself to have laser focus or greater intentionality if you don’t take the time to cultivate that.

Here’s your moment. Take 5-10 minutes to consider:

  1. why this word?
  2. why does this feel right?
  3. what does this word mean to you?
  4. how would you like to cultivate this word this year and why?
  5. what would living in alignment with this word feel or look like?

Why’s my 2024 word of the year?

faith.

This word is all about developing faith in myself and to learn to believe in myself— that I am capable and I can do the things I want and dream about.

Have faith that things will work out today, tomorrow, and in life. Have faith that I am capable and can handle hard truths and hard days.

Faith also means to have great trust or confidence in something or someone. So, it also encompasses confidence, which I love.

Faith goes deeper and involves a sense of commitment and trust in yourself. Cultivating faith in my own ability to be there for myself and to keep promises to myself. To follow through. To know that I can be that for myself.

Belief usually means an intellectual acceptance of something but faith requires trust and commitment. You can believe in something but not act in accordance with it. You can believe that candy is not good for you but still eat a lot of it or believe that too much time on social media isn’t good for you but still do it.

My word this year feels right, but there’s also some discomfort. Faith has overt religious associations in my mind. In fact, the word religion is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the word faith. I grew up in the church until I was about 14. I went to catholic school until grade 9 and my experience with religion is almost entirely negative. There is very little positive that came from my experience so a connection with a word such as faith was initially off-putting.

At first, I dismissed this word entirely because of these connections . I now see it as an opportunity to rewrite meanings, association, and narratives. I can stay uncomfortable with these connections or I can reclaim and reinterpret. This is truly an opportunity to create positive connections that didn’t exist before.

This extra factor encouraged me to go with the word faith.

So, what’s your word of the year?

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to read even more content on intentional living check out this blog on the difference between happiness and content. Or, this post on 11 one minute habits for mindful shopping.

2 thoughts on “How to Create a Word of the Year for 2024”

  1. Pingback: Your Ultimate Guide for a 2023 Year End Reflection: 25 Questions For Meaningful Review

  2. Pingback: The Difference Between New Year’s Resolutions and Goals

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