It’s Your Turn: How to Find Your Word of the Year for 2022

Last year, we did the heavy lifting for you. After we decided that resolutions were for the birds, especially after the year we’d been through (anyone remember 2020??), we found something else to focus on as we glided (stumbled? collapsed?) into 2021: a word of the year. That word of the year was “resilience,” since it just seemed so fitting. This year, as we were searching for the exact right word for 2022, it hit us: it’s time for you to fly from the nest and find the exact right word for you. 

That’s what 2022 is going to be all about: finding the version of you that you want to be, and your word of the year can be a mantra to bring you closer to that. Ditching the hollow resolutions and boiling your goals down to a word (or two, or three, or whatever works for you – hey, we’re flexible) can help you find your core purpose and bring you focus and clarity as we start anew in 2022. So how do you start the search?

Finding Your Word – and Your Purpose

a mountain trail with a red flag at the top
Studies how that having a purpose leads to less health issues, and more happiness.

Having goals and a purpose feels good, right? Turns out that might not be all in your head: some studies are now showing that a strong sense of meaning and purpose in your life is actually physically beneficial, as well as psychologically beneficial. For example, a study published in JAMA Current Open, found that people who didn’t have a strong life purpose – which was defined as “a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals”  – were more likely to die than those who did, and specifically more likely to die of cardiovascular diseases.

In the study, the relationship between having a lower level of purpose in life and death remained true no matter the income, gender, race, or education level of the participants. The researchers also found the association to be so powerful that having a life purpose appeared to be more important for decreasing risk of death than drinking, smoking, or exercising regularly – beats a vague resolution to go to the gym, doesn’t it?

So yeah, sounds like it’s time to sit down and think about what drives you, so you can feel centered, positively driven, AND bursting with vitality! Picking a word to come back to everyday throughout the year can be one big step in that direction, so let’s get started.

Step 1: Start Reflecting 

The first step toward setting your intentions for next year is to actually reflect a bit on the year that has passed. Ask yourself how you felt about last year, and jot down your answers without doing any self-editing. You can also ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is something I could improve upon, do differently, or keep working on?
  • What’s something that wasn’t or isn’t going so well for me, and what would be the more positive alternative to this? 
  • By the end of the day I feel (blank), but I would like to feel (blank)

Step 2: Look Forward

Reflecting is important, but we’re looking for the word to spark your goals for the coming year, so you’ll also have to ask yourself some questions about what you want for yourself for 2022. Start jotting down your thoughts on this subject; you can get the juices flowing with questions like: woman with her finger on her chin looking up with questions marks above

  • What do I want more of this year?
  • What do I want less of this year?
  • What would be a game-changer for me?
  • What would my perfect day feel like (not what would happen on this day, but how I would feel) 
  • What are 5-10 goals in all areas of my life that I have for this year? 

Step 3: Create a List

Now it’s time to take some time – say 10 minutes – and just go to town listing words that come to mind. Again, do your best not to self-edit – you’re going to refine this list, but for now, you’ve got to set yourself totally free. Your list might include words like compassion, free, fierce, abundance, passion, surrender, fire, forgive, aware, uncomfortable, vitality, force, explore, action, generous, fearless, commit, etc, etc – the sky’s the limit!

Step 4: Refine Your Goals and Your List

Look back at your goals that you jotted down for this year: can you find a pattern in them? Look at your list of words: can you narrow it down to a shortlist of favorites that seem to run on a common theme? Do your shortlisted words fit in with the pattern you see in your goals? 

Once you’ve found some overlap, look at your remaining words: are there any that jump off the page at you, make you feel excited, nervous, scared, uncomfortable, or at ease? Being a bit scared or uncomfortable with one of your favorite words is not necessarily a bad thing – after all, change isn’t easy, and feeling growing pains is natural! On the other hand, if you’re looking for something to bring you peace or empower you, feel out words that give you those feelings. 

Think about your words, but don’t over-analyze, just trust your gut and go with what feels right. It might help to think about the type of word you want to choose: for example, your word can promote action (verbs like “leap” or “rise”), intensify or describe (adjectives like “calm” or “fierce”), or focus on something concrete (nouns like “home” or “family”). 

And remember, no one’s going to judge you for switching words halfway through the year! Sometimes you’ve just got to roll with the punches.

Step 5: Commit to Your Word, and Use It!

hand holding a pen writing on a post it note
Once you find your word, write it on a post it note and put it somewhere visible as a reminder.

Hopefully you’ve chosen your word (or maybe it has chosen you!). Now’s the time to think about this: are you just interested in thinking about this word throughout the coming months, or do you feel committed to it? Interested means you might end up making excuses not to use your word, but committed means you’re more likely to work at making it a part of your daily life. In other words, your word should be actionable, and something you can and want to take daily action on.

So once you’ve committed to your word, make a plan for how you are going to use it, remembering that your one word can have many meanings and many actions related to it, especially as you apply it to all facets of your life. Keep your word near you so it is always in your mind. You can put it on your phone’s locked screen, write it on your bathroom mirror in dry-erase marker, put it on a prominent place on your desk, or keep it written on your journal/planner, so it’ll always be there to help you set your little goals and focus your day. 

No one could have predicted what 2020 had to throw at us, and for many, 2021 wasn’t really all that hot, either. But now we’ve got a whole new year stretching ahead of us, full of promise and potential, so why not grab hold of it, and do your best to make it what you want it to be? You might not be able to control the events of the world that shape your year, but you can sure try to shape how you act and react as those events unfold around you – and having a word of the year in your pocket might just be one way to do that. Happy New Year, everyone! And don’t forget to tell us what YOUR word of the year is!

Looking for a Word of the Year? Try Resilience

Some of us are just over the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions. We’re sick of judging ourselves, setting ourselves up to fail, or living in a cloud of negativity. 2020 was a rough year and you know what? We don’t need that! This year, instead of making another resolution to lose that mythical ten pounds, we’re picking a word of the year to live by. That word? Resilience. Whether you’re reading this on New Year’s or not, whether you’ve had a terrible year or not, being more resilient is something we should all strive for. We shouldn’t try to erase anything bad from our pasts, but instead learn to live with what we’ve experienced and grow beyond it. 

What Does Resilience Really Mean?

resilient spelled out on scrabble blocks
Being resilient means that everything will be okay as long as you learn to work through tough times.

Resilience can be summed up simply as the capacity to recover from difficult events. But that little definition doesn’t quite get to the heart of the word. Should you be expected to bounce back quickly and completely, like you’re jumping on a trampoline? Does it mean that you should just get over something, shed it like a snake sheds its skin, and never look back? No! Not only is that unrealistic, but it is not healthy, or productive. 

Being resilient does not mean that you never experience stress, or emotional turmoil or pain. It also doesn’t necessarily have to mean you are “tough.” Rather, it has more to do with working through suffering: addressing it head on, finding ways to work through it, and coming out the other side with strengthened coping strategies. 

Why Is Resilience Important? 

According to Amit Sood, MD, the executive director of the Global Center for Resiliency and Well-Being and creator of Mayo Clinic Resilient Mind in Rochester, Minnesota, resilience is “the core strength you use to lift your life.” All of us are bound to face some sort of adversity at some time, whether it’s illness, family problems, financial instability, loss of a loved one, bullying, or a shared national tragedy, so we all need the ability to cope and move forward. Developing strategies for resilience is important because, once you have those strategies in place, you will be ready to face your next challenge and overcome any setbacks that you may experience. 

In addition, people who aren’t resilient are more likely to feel overwhelmed by challenges both big and small. They are more likely to feel helpless in trying situations, and could even turn to unhealthy coping strategies like self-medication, avoidance, and isolation. Confronting negative experiences and working through them as they come is the best path forward – but can you build your resilience, like you would a muscle in your body?

How Can You Become More Resilient?

silhouette of a head with the words reset your minf anf the brain part filled with many words.
Develop self awareness in order to help reset your mind in order to learn how to deal with situations.

The good news is that resilience is not a fixed trait, or something that you need to be born with. More good news? Resilience in the face of adversity seems fairly common, which would suggest that people are pretty good at strengthening their coping strategies. For instance, one study reported that even though 50 to 60% of the U.S. population has been exposed to some sort of traumatic event, only 5 to 10% of those people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

You can build resilience, especially if you think of it as a process, and you follow certain steps to strengthen it. Think of the following steps as you live with this word of the year in mind, and try to:

  • Develop self-awareness – The first step in building better strategies for adapting to and coping with stress is to actually take a good, hard look at how you react to stress. If you know that you isolate, or that you take your feelings out on those you love, recognize that and see how you can try to change those patterns.
  • Remain focused In practical terms, you can keep yourself focused on regulating your emotions with stress-reduction techniques like breathing exercises or mindfulness practices. But remember also to stay focused on how you can control the outcome of events in your life, as opposed to feeling like external forces are completely in control.
  • Find coping mechanisms – There is so much you can do to help you deal with any challenges that are thrown at you. Try journaling, exercising, socializing, spending time outdoors, pursuing a creative passion…the possibilities are endless. These types of activities aren’t meant to be a simple distraction; rather, they are a way to be more present, tap into the enjoyable side of life, and even work through the emotions that are coming at you.everything will be okay written on a poster with a rainbow on the bottom that is taped to a window
  • Be more optimistic If you can find ways to be more present and enjoy life, then you’ll also be able to face your problems with more optimism. And when you’re feeling more optimistic about a situation you’re faced with, you’re more likely to feel in control of that situation. Build your optimism by focusing on what you can do in any given situation, and try to find any problem-solving steps that you can take.
  • Strengthen connections – There’s never any shame in relying on friends and family when you need them!
  • Tap into your strengths – Know your weaknesses when it comes to dealing with stress, but also know your strengths! Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your talents and use them when you’re faced with difficulties. You’ll feel more and confident and capable, and therefore, more ready to face adversity.

Learning to be more resilient doesn’t mean “toughening up” or just “getting over” the challenges that you’re faced with in life. It means building up the skills you need to face adversity and continue to grow in the face of it. We’ve all faced tough times – sometimes together, as in the past year! – and we all need to know how to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and use our experiences to get stronger. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” We’ll drink to that this year!

Resolve to Ditch the Resolutions This Year

Now that New Year’s has come and gone, what’s on your mind? Are you reflecting on the past year? Or are you looking forward to the year to come? Or maybe you, like many people, made weighty resolutions in the last few weeks with the hope that they would magically transform you into a new you for the new year. Now maybe you’re either trying to muster up the motivation to get started on them or feeling guilty that you’ve put them on the back burner. Not to be a downer, but by March, those resolutions will probably have disappeared into thin air. Depending on the study you look at, anywhere from 88 – 92% of people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions. So, you know what? Go with it! Ditch the whole idea of resolutions; instead, think outside of the box of traditional New Year’s resolutions and try some of these alternatives instead!

1. Choose a Word of the Year

cloud of different positive words
Choose a word for the year and put it somewhere you will see it everyday as a reminder to live it.

Discipline. Patience. Joy. Compassion. Action. Fun. What is going to move you this year? If you were to sit down and make a list of all the things you wanted for yourself this year, like working harder towards a goal, engaging in more community action or activism, or having more social time, you would probably find that there was a pattern or a theme. So try and distill your hopes for how you want to live in the new year down to one word. Post that word somewhere you look everyday, and strive to live each day with that word in mind. 

2. Start a Monthly Goals List

You can also call this your personal list of 30-day challenges. Sure, the usual 30-day challenges can range from silly to self-esteem damaging, but these are your own personal sets of goals that you make up for yourself. They don’t require being competitive with anyone else, or even with yourself. Making a 30-day challenge, or a monthly goals list, is just a way to break down the usual huge, 365-day resolutions. All you need to do is establish one small goal to reach each month; you can set them all in January or make them up as you go. 

For example, in January, you can plan to exercise three times a week, even if it’s only the 7-minute workout. In February, you can plan to get back in touch with at least four people you’ve been meaning to contact (one a week). In March, you can try to get on top of meal planning, in April, you can pick one closet to clean out or you can decide to get rid of 10 items a week, and so on. 

3. Get Experimental

The problem with traditional resolutions might be all in the framing. They often seem so negative, harsh, or punishing – like, I really need to lose weight so I have to run on the treadmill everyday for 30 minutes even though I hate running. What’s the point in that, and where is the joy? Sure, wanting to improve your health is always a good idea, but if you deprive yourself of fun, you’ll never stick with any type of goal or resolution. Instead, decide to make this year a year of curiosity and experimentation. 

try something new written in white by a caucasian hand with a blue background

Try conducting weekly “experiments,” and see where they lead – you might find some new habits that are worth sticking with. For example, decide to see what happens if you speak to five new people everyday for a week. You might find yourself coming out of your shell, conquering shyness, or making new friends. Or experiment with taking a brisk walk each morning for a week, and see if it energizes you. Try going vegan for a week and see how it feels! Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up if your weekly experiments end up not being right for you; simply find a new experiment the next week and see if that one works better! 

4. Make a New Year’s Bucket List

The idea of a traditional bucket list might seem a little bit morbid, but you can reframe the idea as a joyful way to start your new year. Instead of making resolutions or setting goals to complete tasks or change your lifestyle, simply make a list of things you actually want to do in the coming year. You can pick 52 small things, like taking a dance class or trying your hand at a new cuisine, or you can try to plan 12 big things, like a helicopter ride or a big trip. 

typewriter with the words "1 year=365 opportunities" written in the middle
Create a year round project that you can partake in everyday.

5. Create a Project 365

This is a great resolution alternative that you can really get creative with. Pick something achievable that you can do every day of the year, and see what you’ve got at the end of the year. For example, take a picture of the same thing (like a favorite tree, your child, your hair, etc), read one short story or chapter/essay from a nonfiction book, or write 500 (or more!) words every day. You might end up with a lovely photography project, a greater knowledge of a subject you’ve been interested in, or a small collection of writing that you can turn into a larger piece. 

6. Be Practical 

Another problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they are not only usually negatively framed, but they are also often too big and vague. Decluttering your house is a great goal, but might not be specific or practical enough. Instead, try something like a 100-thing challenge, in which you set a goal to get rid of 100 things that you don’t need throughout the year. 

7. Find Things to Look Forward To

white notebook with black polka dots that says "enjoy the little things" in the middle, with a pink pen next to it.
Make a list of things you are looking forward to this year, not resolutions to accomplish.

If you’re reading this in 2021, then last year may have been a tough one for you, as it was for many people. But whether or not you had a rough year, now is the time to move on and start looking to the future. So instead of setting tasks for yourself, make a list of things that you are looking forward to in the new year. It can be as big as a wedding or a trip, or as small as a new novel coming out, a new takeout place that’s opening, or a new season of your favorite TV show. 

It’s time to take the dread out of New Year’s! The start of a new year should be a time of hope and renewal, not of punishment and guilt. If making resolutions leads you down a negative path, then resolve to ditch those resolutions! You don’t need to tackle an overwhelming task or change your entire life, just start with small steps. You can make this time of year – and all year long – the time to find ways to live life to the fullest and to be as happy and healthy as possible!