Guide to choosing your word…and how to make sure you love it!

Hi All,

Now that the longest, dark, ‘Let’s all hibernate and drink hot chocolate’ January is out of the way, I hope some of you are starting to re-emerge like me, bleary eyed and thinking about the next 11 months ahead, but gently does it yes? Here’s a great way to start…


There is some beauty in winter….when we peek outside!

I’m a big fan of choosing a ‘Guiding Word’ for the year, to help you do just that, guide you through the coming months of 2020, in all kinds of ways.

In recent years as people seek more ways to be pro-active in how they choose to live their lives; the practice of selecting a guiding word or also called ‘word of the year’ has increased hugely and is much more effective than creating a long list of new year’s resolutions that last all of 2 weeks!

“For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. Their articulation represents a complete, lived experience.”
—Ingrid Bengis

As a writer, I’ve always believed there is a great power in words and never more so when choosing just one! I’ve enjoyed choosing mine for the passed 4 years now, and speaking from personal experience, it really has helped shape my daily, weekly and monthly intentions.

So, what are the benefits of this seemingly simple practice, can choosing a word really make such a difference? Absolutely YES and here’s why:-

  • It encourages you to really think about the direction you want to take this year, how often do we take time out of the doing and think of the bigger picture? This can be a fun way to start, that can then lead on to more specific intention setting.
  • It can help you make decisions when you are swamped and overwhelmed e.g. which decision fits best with your word? For example, if you chose ‘focus’ to become more single minded in your work to try and make a behaviour change, does it then make sense to agree to a new project you know you don’t have time for and will shift the focus from what you really want to do?
  • On those days when we’re just not feeling it or things are going slightly wrong, your word can pick you back up and re-energise you, reminding you of the long-term goal and taking you away from the negatives of that day, a chance to re-set
  • When used well, you’ll find your word spreading across all areas of your life and having a wider positive impact
  • Focus and purpose are key elements for humans in terms of well-being, when we have things to aim for that feel good, it naturally releases endorphins and encourages us to repeat these actions, eventually turning it into positive behaviour change, it just take practice.

So now I’ve convinced you of the feel-good factors, how on Earth you go about choosing a word without searching through the entire Oxford Dictionary?

Firstly, you need to examine what you want the word to do. ‘Words of the Year’ are usually chosen to motivate you and use as a way of helping to change something for the better or to strive towards.

So, for example, if you spend all day rushing around looking after everyone else, then the word ‘self-care’ may be an option but if you’ve already built that into your life, then it’s not really going to challenge or inspire you, more just a reminder to continue to do the same.

In my experience, I go about choosing a word in the following way:

  • What do I want to improve on or change? This could come from a little evaluation work of last year such as; what went well and not so well and what do I want to stop, start, continue doing?
  • Have you got anything big coming up this year that could have an impact on your word choice? e.g. getting married, moving overseas etc
  • Next, it’s time to jot down ideas, just a simple long list of words at first and then leave it for a while, ideally overnight.
  • Come back to your list and narrow it down to just 6, by leaving it for a while, it’s easier to quickly eliminate as some will naturally no longer feel right.

Then go on to asking yourself the following questions for each one…


The mind-map for my words this year – get the coloured pens out!

  • Can my word stretch to be useful across all areas of my life – this is really important I find to embed it fully and to have maximum impact, (unless it is very important to you to address just one aspect of your life right now). I generally mind-map it out with the word at the centre, and all aspects it links to shooting off from it, that way I can truly integrate it into all areas.
  • Does the word excite me? This may be more for the writers out there but I’m finding myself increasingly trying to find less a ‘generic’ word, the one I picked last year was incredibly useful, but the word itself didn’t thrill me and it bugged me a little!
  • How can I make this really work for me, for example as a visual person and artist, once I’ve chosen my word, it gets made into a piece of artwork that goes on my fridge, so I see it every single day. It could be that you write it in your diary with examples of your day that relate to it or seek out podcasts along your word theme – whichever works best for you

This should have helped to single out the most appropriate word on your list, but if not, just sit with your reduced selections for a few days and one will soon rise to the top!

  • When you’ve finally picked one, talk about it! It’s a great fun exercise to do with the family and get the kids involved. Plus, it helps you ‘own’ it fully by talking to other people about it and even better to get friends involved and sharing their words too – you can then check in with each other and see how it’s going throughout the year
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to change it, or have a few…yes this breaks the rules slightly but it big life changes happen, your word may no longer be appropriate, or you may want to create one every 6 months rather than a year, it doesn’t matter – this is about something that will really work for YOU, no-one else, so just go for it!

So with all this in mind, and because I‘m used to this practice now, my word (s) came to me in the middle of the night and instantly felt right for what I’ve been through this last year and will continue to go through until my chemo treatment ends.

I’ve also been a rule breaker as I have one main word and then 2 supportive words! But there are reasons which I will explain below!

My main word is RISE;
supported by Re-Energise and Surprise….
bear with me!

Firstly, anything that comes to me in the dark hours is usually right and I instantly get a gut feel about it, most of my best ideas come to me at this time…and then I have to make sure I remember them in the morning!

Secondly, my word last year ended up being in hindsight, bizarrely accurate. It was VALUE and was all around health, finances, my time and people BUT it wasn’t exactly an enticing word and made me think of a budget supermarket range!

I love words in 3’s that are either alliteration (like The Curious Creative Club!) or rhyming and so this roles off the tongue nicely BUT of course it has to have deep meaning too!

Rise, as you can imagine is all about coming out the other side of this cancer/ chemo journey that has literally flattened me at times both physically (see footnote) and mentally and also a number of other situations in our family, there is an awful lot going on at present off the back off a pretty deflating 2019.

Like I say though, I like to stretch my words across other areas, so Rise also applies to raising my game across all my creative projects as I’m always striving to do better and to also rise above negative situations and distance myself a little.

As an Empath and Highly Sensitive Person (click for questions if you’re interested), I’ve noticed this last year as bad news has surrounded me left, right and centre, I’ve felt drained taking it all in and trying to help people and fix problems – I have to realise that things can’t always be solved, people have to want to help themselves, and so in some cases I’m trying to just take a little step back before it all becomes too much, particularly on top of treatment.

I’m a positive person myself, but sometimes you have to surround yourself with as much positivity as possible too (and not feel guilty for doing so) and thankfully I have many friends and family who are there for a much-needed humour boost!

That doesn’t stop me though from fighting for things I believe in or standing up for others who are less able to do so.

As my confidence has grown this year, mainly through writing this Blog and setting up our local accountability group – WOW Wednesdays, I finally have the self-belief that what I have to say can be important, inspiring and useful – I want to continue to believe in my voice and try and get rid of that comparisonitis feeling – another way to rise up I think and also learn from the inspiring people around us.

As my friend Tamara says;

We become taller by standing
next to tall people’!

I also loved the quote that Nadiya Hussain said on Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast recently where she tells her children constantly ‘Elbows Out’ rather than elbows in; basically meaning create your space in the world rather then shrinking and staying small  – a great mantra for anyone I think.

Now on to my supportive words – Re-Energise relates purely to my body, which has been well and truly battered through chemo, even just 5 sessions in I can feel the difference in muscle strength already which freaks me out a little. I know after all this it’s going to take some time to get back to full strength and feel confident that my body will now behave itself and feel strong again!

I’m no great exerciser though; dog walking and 1 Pilates session a week is about my limit but it’s that funny rebel thing again, now swimming is not allowed (infection and picc line!) it’s what I want to do the most!  I used to swim a lot and it is very therapeutic so I’d like to Surprise myself by getting back into that, and might even set myself a charity challenge.

Surprise also relates to pushing myself to get back ‘to normal’ as quickly as possible, getting back on track with all my creative projects, adding some new ones in and then ultimately surprise myself and my long suffering family and friends  (hearing about it all the time!) by finishing my nemesis THE BOOK – now that really would be the ultimate surprise!!

So, I hope the above gives you an idea of how I use mine, some practical tips of how to go about choosing a guiding word, especially if you are new to this, and that it inspires you to have a go too – what have you got to lose?

I’d love to hear what your word/s are and what they mean to you this year – please pop in the comments below!

Rise, Re-energise and Surprise is my mantra this year and I’m looking forward to getting it painted up and shouting at me in my kitchen!

Until next time…

Juliet The Curious Creative x

Footnote;   Rise couldn’t be more relevant this last week as I went into hospital on my birthday no less (you couldn’t make this up!) for 5 days, due to Neutropenic Sepsis! Quite a scary experience but as usual the NHS were fantastic…I’m now becoming a hermit from any winter bugs out there as I do not want to repeat that experience any time soon! Onwards and Upwards!!

3 Comments on “Guide to choosing your word…and how to make sure you love it!

  1. Juliet, once again you’ve blown me away with your positivity and way with words! I’m still working on my word (or words!) for this year, but I have a very strong gut feeling where I’m being led. You’ve inspired me to create my own blog, which should be happening very soon! Much love as you continue to get well xxx


  2. Pingback: The magic power of visualisation…why now is the time to set those dreams free – The Curious Creative Club

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: