how to choose your guiding word and optimise its power

Hi Everyone, how are you doing?

Firstly, Happy New Year! We really have made it into 2021, kind of surreal and a sense of relief for myself and many I think!

If you watched the fireworks and lights display over London on New Year’s Eve, I’m sure you felt very moved as it took us through the journey of 2020, it made me feel hugely emotional that we had all gotten through it, just, by the skin of our teeth and the bit at the end with David Attenborough telling us to look after the planet more, well he’s just my absolute hero.

The last few days have been spent removing the tree and the accompanying 10 thousand needles (I know we’ll be finding them for days despite vacuuming constantly!), going on snowy walks and sledging (it’s so pretty here at the moment) and eating comfort food as the cold really sets in, in front of the fire.

BUT, that Christmas lazy lull is starting to leave me and I can feel my mind buzzing to start cracking on with a plan and for me that always starts with choosing my guiding word/s for the year.

Now I know this practice is beginning to lose it’s uniqueness, years ago it was a well-guarded secret that slowly eased it’s way round the internet, spreading it’s magic, and now it seems the whole world and his dog are doing it, but don’t let that put you off.

Because of Covid and much of our social connection is via social media, the guiding word practice has spread like wild-fire, BUT that’s because it is good, and valuable and so when you can cut through the noise of everyone shouting about what theirs is, for those who are newbies, there are some really good tips to help you find yours, not least here of course!

Writer and teacher, @susannahconway also does a great free 5-day email course to guide you through choosing your word, click here to sign up.

I’ve been writing about choosing a guiding word since starting this Blog, right now heading into its 3rd year, and this ritual for me actually started 5 years ago when I learned all about it, initially from Mindset and Empowerment Coach @gabrielletreanor.   

So firstly let me explain, what on Earth is this ‘guiding word / word of the year’ thing that everyone is harping on about and do I really need one?

A guiding word serves as a regular reminder in our daily lives to help us reach desired outcomes, goals or simply how we want to feel / be. You can use the word to focus on one particular area of your life that you’d like to improve, or it can be a more over-arching theme that can relate to all aspects within your life.

“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! It’s a practice I really enjoy doing, I like to dig deep and find one that fits just right and that can take time, but there’s no need to hurry it, I know from experience that the right word will come to me and you eventually.

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 think deeply about the direction you want to take this year, or changes big or small you want to make, how often do we take time out of the busyness of doing and think about the bigger picture or long-term aims?

This can be a fun way to start, that can then lead on to more specific intention setting for the year.

  • It can help you make decisions when you are swamped and overwhelmed e.g. which decision is keeping true to your word and direction? For example, if you chose ‘align’ to create more harmonious projects that sit together better, does it then make sense to agree to a tempting, shiny new project that jars with the work you are already doing?
  • On those days when we’re just not feeling it or finding life challenging, your word can pick you back up, support and re-energise you, reminding you of where you are going and carrying 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 and your word can help you to commit.

So now you know the benefits, where do you start, 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 work 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.

I go about choosing a word in the following way:

Step 1 – The important questions

  • 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, job change etc
  • On an ideal day, how do I want to feel? E.g. rested, calm, full of beans, inspired, content, motivated, organised, joyous? It maybe that you choose a ‘feeling’ word rather than an action one.
  • What kind of word do I ‘need’ to help me feel this way? For example will you choose an active or passive word – do I need bolstering with a word like ‘Action’ or a nudge to go slower such as ‘Restore’?
  • Do I need encouragement to go inwards or outwards? Such as, do I need to work on my own self-awareness, perhaps looking after my health more or would I benefit from connecting or collaborating with others?

These are all important questions to ask yourself and uncover the truth of what you really need from your word – it should be your Ally, working hard like your own mini PA / Cheerleader in the background, so take your time to work through these questions, write the answers down in a notebook.

Step 2 – The long list and the short list

  • Next, it’s time to jot down some ideas, some words may already stand out from the notes you’ve taken above. Create a simple long list of words at first and then leave it for a while, ideally overnight.
  • Then come back to your list and highlight the ones that instantly feel good, don’t overthink it, use your gut instinct and get busy with your highlighter! Cross out one’s that you now think no longer work.
  • Don’t immediately get rid of words left behind that are somewhere in the middle, these may become supporting words later on.
  • Now go and make a cup of tea, you need refreshments to get to the serious business of narrowing it down! This part reminds me of choosing your children’s names! It feels that personal and important and you have to love it!
  • Finally narrow it down to just 6, or further if you can.

Step 3 – The chosen 1! (or 2 or 3!)

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

  • What does each word mean to me – how do I define it? Some words may have several meanings, make sure you explore them all, to make sure they still feel aligned to what you want them to do. For example ‘Present’ can mean 3 things: Present as in, in the moment, as in gift or as in to present something to someone on a stage – all 3 meanings may be useful, but in different ways?
  • 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 see for myself how it will integrate into all areas.

  • Does the word challenge & excite me? This may be more for the writers out there but I’m finding myself increasingly trying to find a less ‘generic’ word, the one I chose one year was incredibly useful, but the word itself didn’t thrill me and it bugged me a little!
  • Say your words out loud  – this is a bit like when you have a puppy and you check out a potential name as if you are calling it out on a walk! You have to feel good about it, and saying it out loud can test that! Maybe on your own though as your family may thing you’re a bit odd!

By now, 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!

Step 4 – Optimise your words’ power!

So, hurrah! Congratulations, you have your word! Now it’s time to empower it, put it to work in a way that suits you best and will make you sit up and take notice!

Ask yourself:

  • 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. I’ll also be writing it on my blackboard in the cabin!

Other ideas you can use:

  • Write it in your journal with examples of your day that relate to it or create a front cover with your word on too – like how we used to back books in school!
  • Seek out podcasts and books along your word theme and build your learning
  • Create a caricature of your word, for example Suzy Shine, Magic Maggie or Freddie Freedom  – have fun with it
  • Get some personalised jewellery with your word engraved – I’ve even seen some tags you can now put on Apple Watch or Fitbit straps
  • Find house accessories with you word on, like cushions or decorative pieces, eg Joy, Believe, Happy, Magic are all often used
  • Have fun on Aps like Canva or Pinterest to create some visual designs for your word –this is where I’ve got carried away this year! You can use these as images for your devices like phones and laptops – another way to say hello to you on a regular basis!
  • Create a wooden sign, carve in the word yourself or if you’d like to treat yourself and buy one, @modocreative do beautiful ones like the ‘Curious’ one I got for the Cabin, above.
  • Make a Vision Board with your word in the centre and supporting words and pictures around it, that encompass how your guiding word makes you feel. You can use your own images, pages from magazines, jut have fun sticking away!
  • Talk about it! It’s a great fun exercise to do with the family and get the kids involved. Plus, it helps you ‘own’ your word 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. As you know when we share and become accountable, we often do better in achieving our intentions
  • If some of the other remaining words feel too important to miss out, have them as supporting words instead
  • 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 or even one every month, 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 as this is already a long post, (I could talk about this for hours), next week (maybe a mid-week drop in as a bonus!), I’ll talk more about how I chose my own personal words for this year and how I intend to use them to their fullest, here’s a sneak peek on the work I’ve been doing on mine behind the scenes – I blame my addiction to Canva for taking this a bit further this year, BUT I know it will be incredibly useful for me to visualise it like this…

I’ll explain all about my choices and how the words, images and colours have come together to work for me.

BALANCE is my main guiding word for 2021 and is supported with BREATHE, they both feel really good!

Until next time…I hope you have fun coming up with yours and I’d love to know your choices AND how you will put them to task in your life.

TC, stay home and keep staying safe…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps Don’t forget for more daily tips and inspiration I mainly hang out on Instagram @thecuriouscreativeclub , I’d love to join you there x

3 Comments on “how to choose your guiding word and optimise its power

  1. Pingback: How my guiding words will work for me in 2021 – The Curious Creative Club

  2. Pingback: Putting dreams into action – creating a new Vision Board for 2021 – The Curious Creative Club

  3. Pingback: 100 lessons from the land of a Creative Blogger… on my 100th Blog post!

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