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Choosing a Word of the Year

Choosing a word of the year is a fun thing I started doing back in 2016 that has turned into a deeply meaningful exercise for me each year. Today I’m reflecting on my 2021 word of the year and giving some quick tips on how to choose your own word of the year for 2022. 

In this episode:

  • My word for 2021 and how it showed up in surprising ways through the year
  • How my word of the year inspired change and new habits
  • Tips for choosing a word of the year for 2022

Listen to the episode here:

Choosing A Word Of The Year

Hello, hello! Do you choose a word of the year? I feel like this is a trend that is starting to fall out of vogue. Or maybe it’s just that 2020 was such an impossible year that no one wanted to test 2021 with some upbeat word of the year. And while 2021 hasn’t been easy and, in many ways, it felt so much harder than 2020, I think I’m still going to choose one for 2022. 

I’ve picked a word of the year every year since I learned they were a thing back in 2016. Don’t ask me to name them all because I cannot. I can barely remember what I ate for dinner last night most days so I definitely will not be able to pluck my word of the year for 2016 out of the recesses of my mind.

Every year I tell myself I’m definitely gonna write them all down somewhere so I can reflect later and every year, I do not write them down somewhere. At this point, I think I’m good as long as I can still remember the word by December. 

One thing I do know about the words that I choose is that I am always completely fascinated by how they tend to show up for me over the year. I always choose them hoping they will inspire me to do one thing and then end up inspiring me to do something completely different. I love it. 

One thing I do know about the words that I choose is that I am always completely fascinated by how they tend to show up for me over the year. Click To Tweet

Take 2021 for example. After the utter fuckery of 2020, I wanted to choose a word that felt hopeful and possible. I gave this word a big job because I expected it to almost magically fix me. The tail end of 2020 was the hardest part of last year for me. I went into a second self-imposed lockdown after a friend’s husband got COVID and burst my already very tiny pandemic bubble in November after spending my birthday alone (I HATE spending my birthday alone because I LOVE my birthday). Then I spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve alone. And was actually in lockdown until my best friends were fully vaccinated in early May. It was rough. 

So my little three-letter word had a lot riding on it. My word was JOY.

I decided that I was going to feel joy in everything that I did. That I was only going to do things that brought me joy. That I would choose joy and everything would be FINE. There was a vaccine on the way, surely everything would be absolutely fine. 

I decided that I was going to feel joy in everything that I did. That I was only going to do things that brought me joy. Click To Tweet

Laughs in 2021.

Let’s face it, I knew my JOY was in for it on January 6th. 

In so many ways, I honestly found 2021 even MORE challenging than 2020 simply because we had so much more information and science than we had in 2020 and still no one seemed to care. We slipped further into pandemic fatigue and depression and resistance and again it fell on the shoulders of responsible people to do the most while the irresponsible called the rest of us sheep for trying to keep their unvaccinated asses alive. 

There were sweeping voter restrictions and abortion bans and fires and extreme weather with devastating effects. It was a whole year and many days, in many ways, I struggled to find the perfect JOY I had craved so desperately when I picked my word in December of 2019.

But when I zoomed out, as I often do when I’m reflecting back on my word from the last year, I saw JOY in SO many different places.

2021 is the year I wrote and finished my first book that I’ll be publishing in a few months. That brought me so much fucking joy I can’t even begin to describe it. More than once I had people tell me that I sounded so animated and EXCITED when I talked about my book. 

Even when it was hard and messy and I didn’t want to, I loved it. And I learned a ton about myself in the process. Click To Tweet

I loved every single solitary second of working on it. Even when it was hard and messy and I didn’t want to, I loved it. And I learned a ton about myself in the process. And I’m actively working on books two AND three in the series now, too. I can’t wait to see how they shape up.

I found joy in routines. My mental health has really suffered from this pandemic. Like really suffered. To the point where I wasn’t doing basic things like eating regularly or brushing my teeth. So in 2021, I decided to finally embrace habit stacking which is something I read about in the book Atomic Habits forever ago. I took a few habits I was good at doing and once I mastered them I stacked others on top to create solid morning and evening routines that I almost never skip now. 

Even on the hard days, I know that I’m going to do something nice for myself like brush my teeth or pull some tarot cards. And I know that doing something is better than doing nothing so if I can only bring myself to brush my teeth but skip flossing, that’s ok. And the empty squares in my habit tracker that don’t get a checkmark don’t bother me anymore because I can just start over tomorrow. 

And I know that doing something is better than doing nothing so if I can only bring myself to brush my teeth but skip flossing, that’s ok. Click To Tweet

I found JOY in my friends. So much fucking joy. I really do not think I would have survived this year without that support system. Truly. We watched movies on Netflix together. We talked literally every day, whether it was constant or a few messages because that’s all we had energy for. Never any judgment. We hung out a few times once we were all vaccinated. (Fondue is life, people.) And this year I did not have to spend my birthday alone. That, in and of itself, was all the joy in the world to me. 

So what I thought was going to be perfection, ended up being so much better. Because there’s a certain kind of blessing in being able to find the joy in the rubble where you can. Not because we stan toxic positivity here, but because sometimes you have to be able to find a silver lining in order to make it through. And my moments of joy were my silver lining of 2021. 

I’m not sure about my word of the year for 2022 yet because I tend to choose it in the last 2 weeks of the year when I’m off on my holiday break. My brain has a little more time to breathe then and gives me some space to think about it. 

I don’t think there’s a big, huge secret for choosing a word of the year. You can sit down and brainstorm a whole bunch of words and see what jumps out at you. You can reflect on the past year and see what was missing that you might want to create more of. 

I think for 2022 I’m going to deviate from my usual “what do I want to create this year and how can my word push me to get it” vibe and ask myself “how do I want to feel?”

It’ll be interesting to see what comes up.

Ok, I wanted to keep it short and sweet today to wrap up the year and let you all get back to your holiday stuff. I’ll be celebrating Yule with myself and a long-distance Christmas with my family that’s back in Virginia. All I know is that I am determined to seek out the last little bit of joy that I can from the year.

Alright, that’s it for me today. Bye, y’all.

Reference links:

Atomic Habits by James Clear

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