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How to Choose Your Word of the Year {+ A Giveaway!}

by Elise Museles

Spaciousness1-edited

What if planning for 2016 felt thrilling? Exciting? Fun and invigorating?

I don’t know about you, but when I was in the habit of making yearly resolutions, they most certainly did not feel like that. For me, coming up with my New Year’s promises to myself was more like an exercise in shame and disappointment; it seemed to highlight all the ways my previous year hadn’t quite measured up. Add to that the stress of planning goals and changes for the next year, and it became a recipe for disaster!

But at the end of 2013, I changed the way I thought about my coming year and instantly, everything felt lighter, easier, and more loving.

What did I do? I chose a word of the year. 

In 2015, I picked the word trust. In 2014, my word was simplify.

My “word of the year” anchors my daily life. It helps me focus. It guides the work I do, the choices I make, and the way I navigate my everyday. When I feel adrift, I remember my word of the year and come back to myself & my goals for 2016.

Elise Basket

My word for 2016? Spaciousness.

Sounds nice & relaxing, doesn’t it? 

This means making space in my day for a spontaneous game of fetch with my dogs or a leisurely stroll through the farmers’ market. It means finally making space for the book I’ve always wanted to write. It means prepping food on Sunday in a non-stressful manner… and then having space to kick back and enjoy my evenings without worrying about what’s for dinner during the week.

It’s resisting the desire to schedule, map out, and micro-manage every single last detail.

It’s saying “no” comfortably to make room to say “YES!”

Really, it’s greeting life and opportunities with arms wide open.

But the word that works for me is not necessarily the word that works for you. Maybe you’d like 2016 to feel focused or connected or inspired. Or perhaps you want ease or to be more playful.

Choosing a word of the year has grounded me and changed the course of my next trip around the sun—and I want that for you, too! Here are three steps that will get you started.

1. Think about how you want your life to look + feel
In order to keep traditional resolutions, we usually end up counting calories, dollars, or social media followers. We track numbers and assess our success based on said numbers.

But when you navigate your new year with a single word as your beacon, 2016 slowly shifts into something easier and sweeter. A “successful” year is a year that looks and feels the way we want it to look and feel.

Peer through the window of your Future Dream Life and really imagine the specifics. Would it look like Fridays off, getting a manicure with your best friend? Would it look like more quality time with your kids? How would you spend that time with them? What would you talk about? Would your Future Dream Life look like a night out in the city? Who would you be with? What would you be wearing?

And how do you want it to feel? Do you want to feel free? Supported? Seen? Imagine the way you want your heart and mind to feel every day and then choose a word accordingly.

2. Trust your intuition
Choosing your word of the year is a lot easier than you’d expect. You don’t necessarily have to labor over this decision; you likely don’t need to turn this over in your mind a thousand times.

Really think about 2015. What worked? What didn’t? If you’re honest with yourself, you probably already know how you’d like 2016 to be different. If a word immediately springs to mind and it feels right in your gut, you’ve found your word. Congratulations!

3. Now consider how you can apply this word to your whole life
“Supported”’ at home means something different than “supported” in your professional life. And “connected” to your body is different than being “connected” to your partner.

How does your word apply in the context of work? At home? Does it affect the way you move your body or the choices you make around food? Will it change the way you use technology?

When you take the time to imagine the way your word applies to all the areas of your life, you’re ready to make that word happen—everywhere.

Now it’s your turn: To encourage you to find your word for 2016, I’m giving away a copy of the just released (gorgeous!) cookbook, The Plantiful Table.  It will help you start the year off on a nutritious & delicious note. All you need to do is share your word of the year in the comments, and I’ll pick a winner at random on Monday evening, December 21. Good luck!

Wishing you a year filled with health & happiness…and finding just the right word.

***Update: The giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all of you who shared your word of the year! Congratulations to Cheryl Kindred.

Photo credit Robert Sturman and Rosa Loves DC.

83 Responses to How to Choose Your Word of the Year {+ A Giveaway!}

  1. Amy Goldstein December 17, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    Movement

    • Elise Museles December 17, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

      Amy, good word and goal. I hope that you saw December’s 12 Tiny Changes Challenge all about MOVEMENT! xo

  2. Michele December 17, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    Strength

    • Elise Museles December 17, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

      Seems perfect for you, Michele, based on your fit and fabulous name:)

  3. Stephanie December 17, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

    Resilience

    • Elise Museles December 17, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

      Love it, Stephanie!

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 3:49 am #

      Stephanie, that’s a good one for sure! Thanks for sharing here. xo

  4. Melissa Thurnhofer December 17, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    Such a great word for 2016!
    I’ve decided that mine will be “BALANCED.” It’s something I’ve struggled with during 2015, and now with my wedding coming up in 2016 (+ moving to a new city + getting a new job), finding the right balance in all areas of my new life will be so important.

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 3:48 am #

      Melissa,
      Congratulations on so many big life changes. I hope you find balance and take your time adjusting to all these new and exciting major events in your life. Wishing you all the best for the new year!

  5. Max December 17, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    My word for 2016, F-O-C-U-S.

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 3:46 am #

      I like that, Max! That means less multi-tasking, which is hard for so many of us. Happy holidays!

  6. Stephanie December 17, 2015 at 3:40 pm #

    Focused.
    2015 I ran in all different directions trying to do it all and making myself crazy. I will stop, consider What’s important and put my energy and focus into those things.

  7. Terry December 17, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    2016 is all about movement. I lost my Mom at the end of last year and it seems like 2015 was filled with paperwork and phone calls and “stuff” that needed to be sorted, moved, dealt with. Lots of sitting and not enough moving. I miss my Mom and body being fully engaged and energized. She would have wanted me to have more fun and adventure so that is what I’ll be doing for 2016.

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 3:52 am #

      Terry, I am so sorry about your loss. Sounds like 2015 was really challenging and that you’re ready for change. I love how you can make your mom part of your word for 2016. Wishing you a year filled with lots of fun & adventure. Sending love to you. xo

  8. Sarah December 17, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    Healing

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 3:44 am #

      Sarah,
      I hope your year is healthy & healing. Thanks for sharing here!
      xo

  9. Mara December 17, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    Focused. On my authentic self and expressing her in my life and to the world

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 3:55 am #

      Mara, we are ready to meet her! Great word and an even better description of what it means to you. xo

  10. Sarah December 17, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    Breathe.

    Just breathe and then proceed. Too often, I get so rushed. I walk fast, I talk fast and run from here to there. 2016 will be about breathing 🙂

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 12:58 am #

      Sarah! Yes, slow is the way to go. It’s not always easy to remember but when we come back to our breath, we naturally take it down a notch. Awesome word! xo

  11. Dee December 17, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    Harmonious !

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 3:44 am #

      Good one, Dee! Happy, healthy & harmonious 2016:).

  12. Lisa December 17, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

    Simplify. . I want to make my home as simple as possible, that way I can focus on what is really important

    • Elise Museles December 17, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

      Lisa,
      That was my word two years ago, and it made me feel free and so much less encumbered. I hope that you can focus on what matters most to you in the next year. xxx

  13. Anna December 17, 2015 at 5:44 pm #

    Growth!

    • Elise Museles December 17, 2015 at 7:23 pm #

      Anna! Always a good time to grow and expand. Thanks for sharing. xo

  14. Brenda December 17, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    Purge

    • Elise Museles December 17, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

      Brenda,
      Thanks for sharing! I’m doing that with my closet soon, and I know that will impact all areas of my life too. Wishing you a wonderful 2016.

  15. Eleonora December 17, 2015 at 6:22 pm #

    This is something I’ve been doing, without realising exactly what I was doing, for the past few years.
    So the word (or as I call it the ‘theme’) for 2016 that I had already received intuitively is “Travel”.
    I feel that it won’t only be physical travel, but also an inner one and I’m very curious to explore this theme and see what it will be like for me.
    Thank you Elise, for now I now what is that I’ve been doing for the past few years 🙂

    • Elise Museles December 17, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

      Eleonora,
      I love the whole metaphor with traveling inwardly too! How great that you have been doing this exercise every year. It is really a powerful one. Safe journeys to you in 2016!
      xo

  16. Bianca December 17, 2015 at 7:23 pm #

    Blossom

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 12:48 am #

      Bianca, what a great and original word. Thanks for sharing! xx

  17. Lee December 17, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

    Relax !

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 12:47 am #

      Great word of the year, Lee. So many of us need this reminder to guide us. xo

  18. Teresa Jo Rudolph December 17, 2015 at 8:38 pm #

    My word is Today. “If you’re depressed, you’re living in the past. If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future. If you’re at peace, you’re living in the present.” -Lao Tzu

    I want to focus on Today and to find all of the joy and peace in every single Today of the new year.

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 12:46 am #

      Thank you for this reminder, Teresa! I love that quote. Here’s to living in the moment. xo

  19. Maria December 17, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

    Ah Bless. Thank you Elise.

    I love all of these. They are so powerful and no doubt my year will endeavour to encompass all of them. But my word is TRUST.
    In the universe
    In myself
    In others.

    I let fear/guilt control my actions too many times this year.

    Recently when I decided to trust in myself and let go, good things happened.

    Thanks for your little messages of hope that appear in my inbox. I’m learning a little every day xx

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 12:57 am #

      Maria,
      What a beautiful way to start the new year. (TRUST was my word last year!) Have a happy & healthy holiday season. xo

  20. Tara December 17, 2015 at 10:19 pm #

    “self-compassion! ”
    I can finally see that if I can’t love myself in every moment, life will never be really my own.

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 12:49 am #

      Tara! What a great choice to guide you into the new year filled with lots of self-love:).

  21. Hannah J December 18, 2015 at 1:02 am #

    My word is adventure! I hope that 2016 brings lots!

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 3:38 am #

      I hope so for you, too! Thanks for sharing, Hannah.

  22. Kim December 18, 2015 at 2:36 am #

    fresh! fresh air fresh food fresh and clutter free space

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 3:38 am #

      LOVE! Wishing you a fresh start to the new year!

  23. Cheryl kindred December 18, 2015 at 9:20 am #

    I have been doing this for a few years as well. I often have a secondary word, but have one primary one.

    2012: transformation
    2013: centering
    2014: magic (inspire)
    2015: courage (kindness)
    2016: ease (order)

    I am so thrilled with the work I’ve been doing for 2016 and the ease of it in coming together in plans already. It’s going to be a fabulous year and I am focusing on creating order in my environment which will increase my self-esteem, my productivity and the EASE with which I acomplish tasks and will most of all allow me to have more ease each day.

    I am so excited for this year, it’s going to be an amazing one!

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 7:25 pm #

      Cheryl,
      Thanks so much for sharing all your words and secondary words here. I love how you pair two words together. It gives this exercise a whole new meaning. Your enthusiasm is contagious, and I can feel your positive energy for the year ahead. Wishing you a 2016 filled with EASE! xo

  24. Maureen December 18, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    Elise, What a lovely idea!

    My word is Prioritize.

    I often am too easily distracted by the busy/easy items and the day goes by and I haven’t done the things that truly matter. So, when I remind myself of my priorities – it helps me bring my attention back to the items that mean more to me; good food, exercise, taking time to breathe, etc.

    Thanks for sharing your word. Wishing you a wonderful year in finding your spaciousness.

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

      Maureen,
      What a great choice to guide you into 2016. It’s so easy to get distracted when we have so much coming at us in our busy lives. I hope that your year is filled with prioritizing your attention on what truly matters to you. Happy holidays!

  25. Carole December 18, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    2016 is the year of CLEAN

    AKA declutter, give away what I don’t need and stop leaving little reminders all over the place of all the things I think I need to get done. Honestly, I found a whole pile of post it notes with lists on them. I re-read the lists of what I thought was important and most of it was silly and totally unnecessary. So.. CLEAN living and working areas and CLEAN, orderly plans for living my daily life, CLEAN out negative self thought & No lists!

    • Elise Museles December 18, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

      Carole! This list is amazing. Isn’t it so incredible how that one word can inspire change in so many facets of our lives? Thanks for sharing! Happy holidays to you. xo

  26. Tegan December 18, 2015 at 8:19 pm #

    Fun!

    The past two years of my life (and first two years of marriage) have been very serious as we have had to navigate personal loss and lots of bureaucratic paperwork. Looking back is a nice reminder that there is now room for more fun and less seriousness in the coming year.

    • Elise Museles December 19, 2015 at 2:28 am #

      Tegan, I’m sorry to hear about your loss. Wishing you a fun-filled 2016 with lots of play…and laughter. Happy holidays!

  27. Denise December 18, 2015 at 8:46 pm #

    Healthy.

    Physically. Mentally. Spiritually.
    Focusing more on whole foods, physical movement, healthier relationships, etc.,

    • Elise Museles December 19, 2015 at 2:29 am #

      Music to my ears, Denise. I hope 2016 is your healthiest year yet!

  28. Sue Barnes December 18, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

    My word for 2016 is EXPLORE!!

    Expore my life!! .I’m retiring from work this summer
    Explore new things
    Explore what I want to do and be
    Explore ways to make my daughter’s wedding in summer an amazing day
    Explore new books, music, people……life!
    Just have an amazing year EXPLORING

    • Elise Museles December 19, 2015 at 2:30 am #

      Sue! Your plans for 2016 sound enriching & fulfilling. Congratulations on the next chapter of your life and also on your daughter’s, too! Have a fantastic year ahead.

  29. Sue Barnes December 18, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

    My word for 2016 is EXPLORE ☺

  30. Allison December 18, 2015 at 10:46 pm #

    Connected.
    To my self
    To God
    To the people in my life

    • Elise Museles December 19, 2015 at 2:32 am #

      Allison, thanks for sharing. Connection is key. I hope that you’re able to feel as connected as ever in the next year!

  31. Anna December 18, 2015 at 11:36 pm #

    ~Connection~

    Conveniently, after I had chosen this word, and written about what it meant to me and my life, I made myself a cup of tea and found that the little slip of paper on the end of the string had my word printed on it. 🙂

    • Elise Museles December 19, 2015 at 2:34 am #

      Synchronicity, Anna! I love when the Universe gives us signs. Connection is definitely your word:).

  32. Anastasia December 19, 2015 at 2:11 am #

    Prioritize. I’m always putting off what I really want to do for the same unimportant stuff like watching tv or playing on my phone. I want to do the things I’ve always wanted to do this year – more painting, more crafting, more baking. More important things.

    • Elise Museles December 19, 2015 at 2:36 am #

      Thanks for sharing your word and declaring what it means here! I hope you’re able to prioritize and spend more time doing all the the things you’ve always wanted to do! Happy holidays!

  33. Stephanie W December 19, 2015 at 2:26 am #

    I love this idea! My word will be prioritize. I spend too much time on things that are either unimportant in the larger picture or just wasting time (watching TV, playing games on my phone, etc). My health is something I often push to the back burner so I need to make time for healthy meal prep and exercise. I also need to follow through on the items I decide are important. I want to make spending time with family and friends more of a priority as well.

    • Elise Museles December 19, 2015 at 2:53 am #

      Stephanie, it sounds like you have already PRIORITIZED how you want to spend 2016. Wishing you a year filled with all the things that are important to you!

  34. teresa December 19, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

    My word for 2016 is FREEDOM. Freedom from anxiety, debt, pain, and feelings of helplessness.

    • Elise Museles December 19, 2015 at 9:03 pm #

      Teresa, sounds so nice and freeing:). Happy 2016~!

  35. Christine December 20, 2015 at 2:17 am #

    My word is Happiness

    • Elise Museles December 20, 2015 at 3:15 am #

      You can’t go wrong with HAPPINESS as your anchor. Happy holidays, Christine! xo

  36. Ally December 20, 2015 at 2:45 am #

    Calm. I work in a hectic field and I can sometimes internalize it. I want to work on stopping that, and work on being a source of peace for those around me.

    • Elise Museles December 20, 2015 at 3:14 am #

      Thanks for sharing, Ally. Wishing you a peaceful 2016! xo

  37. Kathy December 21, 2015 at 1:41 am #

    DETERMINED!! I am determined to modify my diet and exercise to be healthier, determined to continue with furthering my education, determined to be the best Director for my employees, and determined to SAVOR life day to day with my FAMILY and SELF!!!

    • Elise Museles December 21, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

      Kathy, I feel your DETERMINED energy. Happy 2016! xo

  38. Ariel December 21, 2015 at 1:58 am #

    “Able” I took a lot of challenges head on this year and I had to remind myself that I can overcome them.

    Happy holidays Elise! 🙂

    • Elise Museles December 21, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

      Happy holidays to you, Ariel. I hope your word helps you in 2016 and you overcome whatever challenges you may face. Thanks for sharing! xo

  39. Kiley December 21, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    I’m going with intention. Creating clear intention with every task and commitment, work or personal. Runners up were focus, methodical, worth, etc. Thanks for this exercise it really got me thinking!

    • Elise Museles December 21, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

      Kiley,
      I love that you sat with it to find just the right word for yourself. Happy healthy 2016 filled with clear intention! xo

  40. Reena December 26, 2015 at 2:29 am #

    Wow, it’s so great to read all these comments – I still haven’t picked my word of the year, but right now I’m leaning towards Balance. I’m finally realizing how much of a workaholic I am, and how that maybe isn’t serving me the way I thought it was… But hearing what everyone else has chosen is giving me a lot to chew on 🙂

    Love your blog and your ideas, as always Elise!

    • Elise Museles December 29, 2015 at 4:35 am #

      Hi Reena!
      I feel the same way about all these inspiring comments. I’m blown away by this community. I love having you in it, and I am confident that you will choose just the right word to guide you in 2016! Happy, healthy holidays. xo

  41. Sari Rudy December 30, 2015 at 4:12 pm #

    Humor- this will put everything in perspective. Life is a journey, meeting interesting people along the way, laughing/smiling and loving each and every day, and of course adding in some laughter.

  42. Mel January 1, 2016 at 5:38 pm #

    I love this idea – my word is proud. I want to be proud of the decisions I make regarding my work as a professor, the time I make for my husband and 4 children, the food I provide for my family’s meals and the jeans I will fit into in 6 months!

    • Elise Museles January 2, 2016 at 4:03 am #

      Mel,
      Thanks so much for sharing. I love your whole reasoning behind your choice. Wishing you a 2016 to be PROUD of:). Happy New Year!

  43. Debbie January 6, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

    I’ve used the word believe for a few years now…not really doing it as a resolution but a “resonation.” I am still trying to narrowing my list but here are some of those in the running…grateful, compassion, happy, and intentional.

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