I can’t remember how long I have been going through the process of choosing a word each new year. I don’t even recall where I first heard the idea. I do know that a lot of people do something similar so I am not taking credit for the idea. I wanted to share a little bit of the process that I go through to choose a word for the year.
1. Reflect on the year that just ended. There are lots of ways to do this activity. I usually begin by taking out my journal or a notebook and at the top of 12 pages write one month (January – December). I then begin by going through my calendar and just making a note of anything significant that happened during the year on the appropriate page. I don’t make any observations about what happened. I just write down things like: weddings, deaths, births, significant work related activities, vacations, etc. Even this process alone can take a few hours. It is amazing how much happens in a year and reviewing the calendar is reminder of how much we do in our lives. After I have done this review I go through my journal(s). My journals are often a combination of notes on books I am reading, reflections on conversations I have been having, notes from messages I have heard, articles I have read, etc. I usually use flags in books I am reading and then go back and write out the quotes in journals. I review Evernote, Facebook and Instagram as well. Lots of information gets captured in these places as well. When I finish reflecting on the year, I look for themes, lessons learned and take time to be grateful for all that I learned and experienced. This reflection of a year usually takes place over a few weeks.
2. Choosing a Word. Sometimes it seems a word chooses me and sometimes I need to really think about what word feels right. Sometimes I start with a word that is really the essence of what I want but after I reflect on it a little I begin to see that I can refine it a little or enlarge it to include more. Last year my word was “Define”. I wanted to really define what was important to me at this stage of life. A lot of things happened that I didn’t plan – like cancer and my daughter having a miscarriage. When I look back though even those very difficult things helped me define what was important. I do feel after 2013 a lot clearer about what I want right now in my life.
Here are some tools that I have found helpful in this process:
1. Unravelling the year ahead by Susan Conway. This is the second year I have used this free .pdf by Susan Conway. It’s a great tool to help you reflect on the past year and plan for the coming year. I usually plan a time to get together with a friend or two and review it together.
2. Abbey of the Arts by Christine Valters Paintner. I’ve just discovered Christine’s work this past year. For some reason in 2013 I found myself drawn to reading a lot about people who have chosen to live a monastic lifestyle. Even when I wasn’t looking for books on the topic I would receive them from friends. It was one such gift that introduced me to Christine’s work. She has an online (free) course in how to receive a word using monastic traditions.
3. My 3 Words for 2014 by Mitch Joel. I’ve been reading Mitch Joel’s blog for several years. He chooses 3 words each year. You can read what he does and some resources he uses on his blog.
So, there are some ideas for you. I would love to hear what word you choose for 2014. I will be writing about mine later this week. I’ve chosen the word ‘receive’ but I will explain what it means to me and why I have chosen it in another post.
How do you reflect on the year that has ended? Have you chosen a word for 2014?