How To Choose Your One Focus Word For The Year

How To Choose Your One Focus Word For The Year

A Guide To Help Select Your Own Personal And Unique Word For This Year

The New Year stands before us so bright and full of possibilities. Our hopes and dreams feel suddenly closer and much more attainable in these first few days of the new year. Life itself feels like a blank, page. So clean and eager for us to write down our own beautiful story upon its crisp surface. A new chapter has unfolded. This year could take us anywhere.

Don’t you love the new year? I know I do. There is something so inspiring about another chance to get it right. To do better. To achieve that goal or reach that dream. Yes, the new year is absolutely bursting with hope.

New Year Quote

Still, for many years, I would set myself resolutions that I would promptly break. And when they broke, a little part of me would break too. When your hopes are that high the fall can be treacherous. For some reason, my resolutions never resolved anything. That’s not really the way to enter a new year now, is it?

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But then I discovered something truly transformative. Something amazing that changed not only my life but changed me for the better. About five years ago I came across this book called My One Word. It is written by Mike Ashcroft and Rachel Olsen. And it is a total game changer!


This book led me towards a very different New Year’s tradition. Just one word. Selecting just one word to focus on, to use as a guiding light towards actually reaching some of those goals and touching those dreams and becoming more of the person I want to be. More of the person I believe I was meant to be. And it works. It actually changes things for the better.

About the Book My One Word

At the beginning of the book, the author talks about how she has her students take three pieces of paper and on the first one they draw the bug they are most afraid of. On the second one, they write the food they hate the most. On the third, they write the name of the mother figure in their life, usually just MOM but sometimes its Nana or something more personal. She then asks them to take the first paper with the dreaded bug and drop it to the floor and stomp on it as hard as they can. Then she tells them to take the paper with the disgusting food and do the same. She demonstrates, really creaming that paper. Everyone is having a ball. The room is full of laughter. Until she tells them to take the third piece of paper, the one with Mom on it and do the same. Silence. They look at her as though she is as disgusting as those bugs. And they can’t stomp that paper. Why? It’s not their actual Mom. It’s just a word, right?

Words have power. That is what she is demonstrating. And I think that’s the perfect way to start this journey. If you are with a group choosing your words, I recommend you start off that way. With those three blank papers.

From the book My One Word:

“Words create movement. They craft nations. They seal a marriage. They cast vision. They make us laugh. They focus our attention. They expand our horizons. They stimulate our creativity. And they script our possibilities. 

That’s why I’m so excited you’ve picked up this book. Inside these pages, we will walk you through the process of using one word this coming year to effect personal change and spiritual formation.

This is a simple but potent practice. Don’t assume its simplicity limits its effectiveness. If you enter fully into the My One Word process – one simple word will reach farther into your life and embed deeper into your character than you’ve ever imagined it could.”  – Rachel Olsen

Why You Need Your One Word

It seems to me, the need for resolutions and a focus word are the same general need. We want change. In some area of our life, we need to change.  If we change nothing, nothing changes. And for transformative change to happen we ourselves are what most needs changing.

My One Focus Word

My Personal Story About My Experience With My One Word

So let me tell you a quick story here. I discovered this My One Word thing several years ago through another Christian blogger. I wish with all my heart I could remember who introduced me and sing her praises here but I can’t remember. I do remember she had just discovered this for herself and was moved by the power it was having in her life. Since then, I have had five words of the year.

The Year I Chose Joy As My One Word of The Year

So the first four years I picked my words pretty easily. I had a year with Joy at my steering wheel. It was a great year. One I went into with a whole lot of stress and anxiety and came out of having learned how to transform those hard days into moments of joy. I learned a lot that year about how to handle my feelings. I also discovered yoga and meditation which have been amazing for me.

That year the verse I clung to the most was Psalm 118:24 – This is the day that the Lord has madelet us rejoice and be glad in it. And I lived that because I was really focused on living that.

When things came along that didn’t jive with my joyfulness, I reminded myself, I am joyful. And I found a way back to it. I prayed a lot. I dealt with a lot of the things which I noticed were rather consistent in their showing up to steal my joy. And here is the thing, simply recognizing the things that consistently tried to steal my joy helped me to see myself through a new lens. That perspective allowed me to see things I never had before. Suddenly, I could recognize toxic relationships, I could identify bad habits, I could see behaviors in myself that were self-destructive, etc. I could see, you guys!

In order to remain joyful, I had to confront a lot of things that were very, very, far from joyful themselves. I came out of that year a whole lot lighter than I went into it. I unloaded a lot of baggage that year. The thing is, before I chose that word, I didn’t even realize how heavy that load on my heart was. Also, while that year was hard, it was without a doubt a very joyful year for me. I made a choice to be joyful, even if that meant recognizing when I was far from it.

The Year I Chose Adventurous As My One Word

The year I chose adventurous was an exciting year. I chose it after having another year that was good but predictable in a lot of ways. I had found my comfort zone and I was all snuggled up in there. I had rooted down and I loved it. There were peace and comfort in there, let me tell you, it was a flat out cozy life.

So you can probably imagine my shock and my dismay when I was praying about my one word that New Year’s Eve and the word adventurous kept coming to mind. I didn’t like that. I wasn’t super excited about where this might be leading me but I knew it was the one. And so I started telling myself, “I am adventurous.”

When T would ask if we could take a long trip, or cook some exotic dish, or climb an entire mountain, I would want to stay in my comfort zone. But before I would answer I would remind myself to accept how adventurous I had become these days and then I would go. I would travel, I would climb (huffing and puffing and red-faced at first) that whole mountain, and I would cook that exotic dish. By March of that year, I was mad crazy in love with my word of the year.

That year the verse I stood on was – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians: 4:13

Also, the experiences I had that year were eye-opening. I have always loved to hike but I usually went to the same places over and over again. That year, I was reminded how big this amazingly wonderful world is, and how its every nook and cranny contain something beautiful. And I started to want to capture it. To show everyone how blessed we are to live in this beautiful world. I stayed in awe of God’s massive and exquisite creativity. And I fell in love with photography all over again. Also, all of that hiking kept me in good enough shape so that I could eat all of that exotic food. Isn’t it nice when life delivers such balance?

Focus word of the year selections

The Year I Picked Peace As My One Word  

The next year I picked peace as my one word. I wanted to feel peace and I also wanted to provide it. Everything I did that year was in an effort to bring more peace into the world.

I worked inside my home to create more peaceful environments. In difficult relationships, I chose to forgive, to find a point of peace where we could meet in harmony. In relationships where I was the only one who wanted to find harmony, I forgave and stepped peacefully back, unharmed.

I reached out and did a lot of volunteering that year. I tried to help in every way I could think of to bring peace to others. This was the first time I worked with Habitat for Humanity. After creating a peaceful little nest myself, I wanted to help other families find that too. I also worked with Second Harvest Food Bank. And I donated a ton of clothing and toys and games to the homeless and also Coalition for Kids. Our family even sent chickens, goats, and garden tools and seeds to help those in need on other continents. We helped fund clean water wells. Knowing you can feed your family good food and clean water is another way to bring someone peace. I was constantly on the lookout for places or people who needed some peace.

I also focused internally. (Hey, a year is a long time to master something.) I continued on the journey I started with Joy as My One Word, and I looked within. I dealt with what I found. I got really good at yoga that year too.

I also made sure to make time for quiet. To spend some time alone with God. That year I chose peace was beautiful and transforming in so many ways.

The verse I clung to through that year was Colossians 3:15 – And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. I also spent a lot of time in Galatians 5:22 –  – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law. 

The Year I Chose Gratitude As My One Word

The year I chose gratitude as my one word lead me to the most lovely places. But first, I had to recognize in myself some really ugly stuff. I had become ungrateful in a lot of areas of my life. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t even know it had happened. Seriously. I had no idea until I started focusing on gratitude itself.

I started being thankful for the things I had forgotten to appreciate; like the food on my plate, the breath in my lungs, or the sun rising in the morning. I had also forgotten to be grateful for the car I was driving, the house I was calling home, the clothes on my back.

It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy these things and even slightly appreciate them. No, I had simply forgotten what life had been like when I couldn’t count on my car to start every morning, or I had to live in a tiny apartment with neighbors too close for comfort, or I had a teeny tiny budget for my clothing that allowed for nothing new, ever.

I had forgotten what it was like to not have those wonderful things and I had started taking a lot for granted. I didn’t even notice the change in me.

After all, I was really grateful for a lot of things. I prayed all the time thanking God for the many blessings in my life. I just didn’t see how massive the count was! The sheep weren’t hurdling over my fence one by one but rather flock by flock, and somewhere along the line, I had stopped counting them.

I wish that had never happened to me because when I started really seeing them again I became so grateful for so much. It filled my heart with love for God, for my husband, my son, my neighbors, my planet, my home, my car, the breath in my lungs and that glorious sun that just keeps on rising. It filled my heart and my heart overflowed and I saw the world from a new perspective again. I’ve been through a lot and I have to say that truly owning gratitude does amazing things for your mental health, your spirit, and your body. This one word, gratitude, is a powerful life changer!

The verse I stood on for gratitude was Psalm 9:1 –  I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.

The Year I Chose Bold As My One Word

And then came bold. Let me tell you first the difference in this My One Word verses all of the others, my son chose this one for me. We were both working on our words. We had filled out the booklet and I was really struggling. I had prayed and still, I knew I didn’t have it right. I had made a list, but I knew my one word wasn’t on it. Then  T came over. He looked over my goals and my word list and he told me he knew what my word was but it wasn’t on my list.

“Your word is bold, Mom,” he said so certainly. And even though it was uncomfortable, like adventurous had been, I knew he was right within a few moments of hearing it spill from his lips. He then took me downstairs and pointed at our scripture board. I change the scripture once a month and sure enough, there was Joshua 1:9 – 

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

And I knew that my word was bold. This word has taken me so far. I wrote a whole post about just this one, my one word. You can read the whole thing here – Choosing Bold As My Word of The Year.

In a nutshell, being bold has taken me out of my comfort zone all year long. It took me all by myself on a very long road trip to the beach and a blogging retreat where I made invaluable connections and friendships and learned so much about this craft. My audience has grown by the tens of thousands as a result and I finally have confidence in what I am doing here on Geez, Gwen!

Bold also took me to photography classes and writing classes and I have even won awards this year for my work. You know why I actually submitted my work this year.  I refused to accept excuses even from myself and instead I went boldly wherever I went. And wow there were rewards to be had!

Also, our family was chosen as Abeka’s first ever Family Spotlight. I went boldly there too. At first, I wasn’t even going to respond. I closed the email and walked quietly away. But then I realized that I couldn’t be walking boldly away from an opportunity to be featured. No, I would have to walk boldly toward an opportunity to be featured even though that included a lot of things I didn’t feel comfortable with. Like interviews, and self-portraits. Yikes! Still, there I went, all bold and courageous. And guess what, they picked us! Our family. So cool. Going boldly really rocks!

This one has probably done the most for my career out of all of my words. It has changed the way I view myself and my work so completely. I didn’t realize I was excluding myself from so much by deciding I needed to work more on this or that before I tried this or that. But I was. I was counting myself out of a lot of opportunities and I almost missed out on some of the best experiences of my life by checking out instead of checking in. But now, this year and forever after I will be going boldly.

I told you my verse for this one, though I have several and you can view them right here – Quotes and Scriptures About Going Boldly, Here is the quote I have kept on my fridge this year too,

Marden Quote

“Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them.” – Orison Swett Marden

Why I Love The My One Word Movement

These words have changed me in ways New Year’s Resolutions never have been able to manage. I have been transformed and changed for the better by every single word I have chosen. Real change is hard to find. It does require commitment. But commitment can be awesome. Commitment doesn’t have to be all sweat and tears and misery and salads and days and nights at the gym or hour after hour organizing all the closets. I’m not talking about New Year’s Resolution Commitment.

There is a better kind. This commitment can be beautiful like it is in a marriage. It can help you grow while it loves you. It can show you things about yourself you never knew existed before. It can light up places that really could use some good old sunshine so that they can sprout new things within you that you are going to love about yourself. This kind of commitment can help you release so much of the weight you don’t even recognize you’re carrying, even though it’s threatening to crush you.

At least that’s how it has been for me as I have committed to one word after another and stayed focused on it. And I am so excited to pick my word for this year. We are starting a new tradition this year of getting a necklace or bracelet with our word on it. And we are also including my sister, my niece, and my mother in choosing our My One Word for this year.

word of the year workbook

Get Your Word of The Year Workbook To Help You Select Yours

I have made this cool workbook to help us reflect, narrow down our choices, choose our one word, and really claim it too. If you are interested in checking that out then you can get it in my shop!

Happy New Year, guys! I sincerely hope it is your best one yet. If you decide to choose a word for yourself and you feel comfortable, please share your word in the comments section below. I love to hear from you!

Be blessed,

Gwen

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