Ditch the New Year's Resolution and be Guided by a Single Word

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 58% of Americans tend to make New Year's Resolutions each year but only 9.2% feel like they are successful in achieving them. They also say that people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't explicitly make resolutions. This is an astonishing number! It seems as though we know there is something important about setting goals but we lack the tools to carry it out.

So, I have a proposal…what if you ended this unattainable cycle of failed resolutions and instead picked just one word? One word to carry you through your year.

The process of selecting your word provides clarity and helps guide your plans for life change by narrowing it down to something attainable. Something that centers on changing your character in order to become the person you want to be.

My husband and I have been selecting a word of the year for about a decade and the word has served to guide us in making decisions. It gives us a benchmark for where to invest our time and resources and ultimately becomes a mantra for the year. When we need guidance, we come back to the word. When we feel overwhelmed, we come back to the word. It is an anchor and a foreshadowing of the year to come. Certainly one could create goals (or resolutions) as well and the word would give focus to them.

There are many ways to select your word of the year, and I will be co-hosting a retreat on January 28 with Dalila Solis Yoga to help guide you through the process. For those that are not able to attend, here are 5 steps to selecting your word of the year:

  1. Look backwards. The process of looking back over the past year is an anchor for selecting your word, so don’t rush it. One way to do this is to read through your journal or sift through your calendar and make a list of memories, thoughts or words that jump out at you. Pay particular attention to who you were, not what you achieved. What character traits did you find yourself inhabiting as you went through the year?
  2. Find patterns and highlight words or phrases that resonate. Look over your list and see if there are any patterns. Did you find yourself stressed out a lot? Were you always on the go? What feelings did your year evoke? Was the year clouded with sorrow? Or was it bursting with joy? Jot some thoughts down about what you notice.
  3. Pick a word or two and try it on. At this point, hopefully you feel some sort of inclination toward a word. Start meditating on it. Look up the definition and synonyms for it.  What does the word mean to you? What’s important about it? Why is it significant?
  4. Write your own definition and action steps to cultivate the word. Write your own definition for the word, tweaking it until it resonates deeply. Then, write down the ways you hope the word will manifest itself (3 to 5 points). The manifestations should be simple and not too lofty.
  5. Display your word in a prominent place and tell someone about it. Place a physical reminder somewhere that you will see everyday. My husband and I create a sign with our words and display them in a collage. For you, maybe this is a sticky note on your bathroom mirror or a reminder in your phone. Then, share your word and manifestations with someone. This is an important part of the process as it helps to solidify the trait in our brain, so don’t skip it!

Remember that the process of picking your word is just as life giving as selecting the word itself. The process brings much needed perspective and pause so that you can truly tune into who you are and who you want to be. Try not to rush through it and embrace moments of excitement and frustration.

Best of luck as you begin the journey and remember to sign up for the Cultivate Intention Retreat that will focus on this very process! You can sign up by emailing me at rebecca@rebeccaolsoncoaching.com.


Rebecca Olson

P.S. As an example, here is my 2017 word of the year, along with the definition and manifestations. I share this so that it provides perspective on what this process might look like and as a personal form of accountability (i.e. step 5 – Tell Someone!)

Word: Wonder

Definition: (noun) an object of astonishment (i.e. I am an object of astonishment or a wonder)


  1. Talk (or think) more positively about myself. Be more accepting of who I am.
  2. Accept rejection, because I cannot please everyone. It isn’t personal.
  3. Find small and big ways to celebrate who I am (not just what I achieve).
  4. Speak up when I have something to say. I don’t need to latch onto others thoughts and passions... because I have my own.
  5. Share my feelings, particularly to my husband Darrell, and don’t worry about toning it down. Share who I really am and what I really feel.