One Word To Change Your Year
by Amy Diller

At the beginning of a new year, do you make resolutions? If you do, maybe you set goals for yourself or your family. You may tackle them with enthusiasm at first, but as daily life gets in the way, it’s easy to get sidetracked. If you do abandon your resolutions, you’re in good company. Many sources report that 80% of those who make resolutions in January have given up on them by mid-February or earlier. 


So why don’t resolutions work, and why do we make them knowing deep down that we won’t follow through? Everyone loves a fresh start, and a new year presents a perfect opportunity for one. The rush of the holidays is over, and a new calendar replaces the old. We resolve to do better and to be better. But, we often set lofty, unrealistic goals and end up feeling disappointed, discouraged, and frustrated when we fail to meet them. And then our resolutions get thrown away.


What if there was an alternative to creating a list of things to accomplish? What if one simple yet profound word could take the place of resolutions and set your focus on something that has the potential to change your life spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically? To interact with your children differently? 


The Idea of One Word

Resolutions often focus on external change. We put these goals on a list to check off if we achieve them. Resolutions aren’t inherently bad, but they do carry with them the burden of a pass/fail outcome. And when we fail to achieve what we set out to do, it’s easy to simply abandon all our resolutions. After all, if you’ve already missed the mark on one, it’s easy to think you don’t have what it takes to stick to any of them. 


Unlike resolutions, choosing one word to focus on for the year offers flexibility and freedom. Where a typical goal-oriented resolution is easily broken, the focus on one word allows the chance to return to it over and over without feelings of failure. Carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully chosen, one word opens up the possibility of ongoing and lasting impact. It allows the Lord to bring about the kind of heart change that affects you spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. While resolutions are usually about the here and now, the purpose of one word relates to an eternal meaning rather than achieving an earthly goal.


Choosing Your Word

Because our lives should be grounded in a daily relationship with the Lord, seeking Him first in all things, it’s important to allow His spirit to impress a word on your heart. Since He speaks to us all in different ways, there’s no single approach to selecting your word. You might be drawn to a Bible verse that contains a personally impactful word. If you keep a journal, you may gravitate toward a word that fits the theme of what you’ve been writing about most recently. The Lord might speak to you through another person. However, you decide to start the process, take time to wait for His direction even if your word doesn’t come to you right away. This is meant to be a process without hurry so you can be sure your word has deep meaning for you.


Your word could be a character trait Jesus modeled that you’d like to emulate, like kindness, patience, or compassion. Your word could also be in preparation for something the Lord wants to do in your life. No matter how you arrive at your word, it should resonate within you even if you can’t yet fully see how the Lord will use it in your life and the life of your family. 


Applying Your Word

Once you’ve settled on a word, it’s important to put it front and center, so it doesn’t fall by the wayside. Write it in your planner, hang it up on the bathroom mirror, add it to your prayer journal, or put it on a bookmark – anywhere to remind yourself daily of what the Lord impressed upon you. There are also items you can purchase with your word on it like t-shirts, bracelets, or mugs. Do anything you need to do to keep returning to your word. Incorporate it into your daily time with the Lord. Ask Him to teach you what He desires for you to learn.


Be open for the Lord to use your word this year in unexpected ways. Left to our limited thoughts and desires, we easily read our own wants into things. The point of this exercise is to see how He operates in and through you to bring about change. Unlike resolutions that can fall by the wayside quickly, a word for the year can be revisited over and over. You may forget about it for a time, but you can pick it up again without feeling like you’ve failed at the purpose. The idea of one single word for the year releases us from resolutions that often feel like chores to be checked off a list and allows us to see the Lord’s hand working in our lives in new and surprising ways. 


If you decide to participate in choosing a word for the year, encourage friends to join you. Sharing your experience with others is a marvelous way to give the Lord glory as He teaches you throughout the year.