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Word for the Year: The Three Word Approach

I am a really big fan of choosing a Word for the Year rather than making New Year’s Resolutions. Have you tried this yet? I talked a bit about it last year on the vlog, and I’m already trying to decide what I’m going to pick for 2020.

Choosing one word rather than laying out a specific resolution gives you more freedom to use that word in multiple ways throughout the year, setting up an infinite number of opportunities for you to feel successful. Even the term “New Years Resolution” starts to feel outdated by March, whereas Word for the Year tells you upfront that this thing is going to last all year long.

goMy word for 2019 was “Go,” and let me tell you, it’s the best word I’ve ever chosen. This has been one of my best years in recent memory. That word propelled me through the year, popping into my head whenever I was hesitating or procrastinating or overplanning or just plain wasting time.

I started blogging again. I began building my presence on social media again. I went on several trips. I’ve started working on a new book, writing almost every day. I’ve gotten more productive at my day job. I’m a much better wife, mother, and friend than I was a year ago. Overall, I waste less time. I credit every single bit of that to the fact that over the last year, when I was sitting and thinking about all the things I wished I was doing rather than actually doing them, I’d remember that I’d promised myself that 2019 would be the year that I “go.” I literally said it to myself out loud several times throughout the year: “Get up, Megan. GO.”

Here’s why I think that word was so powerful: it’s an action word. In the past I’ve chosen words like balance or gratitude, which are perfectly good words, and they hold a lot of meaning. The problem is, they didn’t exactly tell me how to achieve them. I just knew I wanted more balance, I wanted to practice gratitude, but they didn’t spur me into action.

“Go” was so successful that I’m already planning for what my word for 2020 could be. I started by brainstorming a list of words I liked, then took some time to examine those words. In doing so, I noticed there were three types of words on my list. Some of them are action words (move, explore, listen); some are things are general vibes I’d like to achieve for myself (confident, open, centered); and others represent values that I want to keep in mind when I’m making choices throughout the year (family, balance, health).

This year, I’m going to try something new, and I’m calling it The Three Word Approach, choosing one action word, one vibe word, and one value word.

Think of it like this: the vibe word is WHAT you want to feel, the action word is HOW you’re going to get that feeling, and the value word is WHY you want it. These three words will guide you through the whole year, and the best part is that they can work together or stand alone, depending on the situation at hand.

Want to try this yourself? You can find my lists of words at the end of this post, and you’re welcome to use those, but if none of those suit you, I highly recommend creating your own. Don’t rush through this. These words can have the power to motivate you all year long if you take the time to choose the ones that really grab you. For instance, the words “make” and “create” are both action words that generally mean the same thing—but one of those probably speaks to you more than the other. Grab a thesaurus if you need to.

Here are few more tips for creating your own lists:

ACTIONS (What do I want to do?)
This should go without saying, but all your action words are verbs. What words motivate you? They can be related to one specific thing (Want to write more in 2020? Your action word could be write) or more general (Want to be less passive? Go with speak or slay). The important thing is, choose a word that you can say to yourself anytime you need that extra push.

VIBES (What do I want to be/feel?)
These words are the hardest for me to define. Basically, if you step back and visualize your life, what sort of vibe do you want it to have? Unlike your action words and reminder words, vibe words are going to be much more abstract, like spontaneous, calm, or joyful.

VALUES (Why do I want to do/be these things?)
The importance of tying your goals to a WHY isn’t a new one. (If you want to delve into that more, buy Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map right now.) On those days when you just don’t feel like doing the things you know you should be doing, it helps to remember your WHY. That’s why these value words, like family, commitment, and health, are so meaningful.

After you have your lists, circle the ones that jump out to you, and gradually start narrowing them down. The words CAN fit together in an obvious way (action: write, vibe: accomplished, value: future) but it’s completely fine if they DON’T (action: explore, vibe: glow, value: community). If you go through each list and pick the word that is the most meaningful to you, but you can’t fit them neatly into the WHAT/HOW/WHY model, that’s okay! Sometimes the words choose you, and you just need to listen.

You may also find that some words are going to fit in the vibes column and in the values column, and that’s totally okay. Don’t get too caught up in worrying about rules. There’s no wrong way. Make this work for you.

Read that again.

After you’ve picked your words, write them down. Put them in a place where you’ll see them and be reminded of them on a regular basis. Tell people about them. Say them out loud to yourself. Do whatever you need to do to ensure you don’t choose these words and then promptly forget about them by February.

Have you tried the one word goal? Do you think the Three Word Approach will work for you? What words are you thinking?

word lists


2 thoughts on “Word for the Year: The Three Word Approach”

  1. This blog really spoke to me. I’ve been going through some challenges & not necessarily doing my best with them. I’m feeling the need to reset some thinking patterns so I can grow & enjoy more.

    The word “bloom” jumped out at me. I think it incorporates grow with a beautiful result. Next was “joy” as I’m looking to experience more true happiness in my career, health & life. And finally “be present”. With multiple businesses I find my mind is constantly racing, making lists, trying to get ready for what’s coming next & feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes I need to pause so I don’t miss the good stuff happening right in front of me.

    Thank you!

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