One of my friends chooses a word each year to be a guiding resource or theme for the year to come.
Beyond a fun tradition, it’s become a real guiding light in tough times as she’s faced big challenges over the years.
I liked the idea and came up with two ways one might arrive at a meaningful word or theme for the year.
There are many more ways to arrive at a helpful word for the year than just these two methods. If you have a favorite approach that’s different from these, I hope you’ll write to me about it!
Each of these ways can be done in 30 minutes or across an entire weekend or even longer. For me, I found 1.5-2 hours helped me sink in and arrive at deeply meaningful results. Longer than that and I lost momentum. You choose the time span that’s realistic and helpful for you.
Method 1: Uniting Branches
This method works like smaller arroyos and creeks coming together into a single, united, powerful river that sustains life all around it – above the surface and below – and can move people, resources, fauna, flora, and can generate power.
This method involves generating detailed lists of everything you want to do and be for the year, finding patterns in those lists, and then summarizing those patterns over and over until you arrive at a single, strong word or theme.
- Begin by writing down details about what you want to do and be in 2021. These questions might help:
- Use your calendar. What plans are in place for each month or week? Write them down.
- What habits would you like to develop in the coming year?
- What beliefs would you like to have worked on?
- What people, places, and things do you want in the year ahead? Make a comprehensive, realistic list of each.
- What do you want to learn?
- What do you want to let go of? Write down replacements for each item, if you know them.
- Read through your lists. Group like items and name each grouping.
- Choose two group names. What single word includes or summaries both? Do this over and over with all the group names.
- Continue finding the summary word for groups and meta-groups until you have a single word or theme.
- Wonder to yourself: in how many ways might this word guide, assist, or support me? Write a brainstorm list if you like.
- Optional: If you like, add a daily, weekly, or monthly reminder to your calendar to regularly journal or jot a few details about how your word is showing up as you go through 2021.
Method Two: Intentional Day Dreaming
Intentional day dreaming involves asking a very specific question, doing a no mind/ mindless activity, and them journaling or drawing about what you did. You reflect on the experience and a word or theme comes to mind.
- Choose a specific activity that you like doing and that takes you into a flow state. Go on a walk in nature, play guitar, do yoga, go swimming, dance, meditate, play with your dog, go outside and look at the sky, listen to your favorite music – anything that’s super easy for you to do that takes you to a relaxed, open state much of the time. We’re not looking for perfection here, just something reliably easy and enjoyable for you.
- Find 1-2 hours you can set aside to do this process. Schedule it in your calendar or do whatever you need to do to reserve time for this.
- At the time you set aside, clearly ask yourself this question, without expectation: what word might guide me in 2021? If you want to modify this question, spend some time making your question very specific and make sure it’s stated in positive terms, then ask it of yourself, without expectation. Other possibilities: What theme in 2021 will help me enjoy life more/ be my best self/ love myself and others/ make a difference?
- After asking your question, do your chosen activity for 20-45 minutes. Let your mind wander and just enjoy the activity. Track on your experience as you normally would, letting go of the initial question entirely. Be in the flow/ no mind state as you normally would, enjoying yourself with ease.
- When your time has elapsed, write or draw what happened that day during the activity. After you’ve written or drawn, consider what word or theme is showing up for you. What supportive message could be arising?
- How might this theme or word show up for you this year? What might it mean for you?
- Optional: schedule another time, perhaps in a week or a month from now, to do your flow activity again, pondering how your word has been showing up, with or without you noticing until that moment.