Trading Resolutions for One Word
by Amy Diller

The end of one year and the start of another encourages reflection and self-evaluation. The new year offers a blank slate for bettering ourselves. Exercise more, eat less, break a bad habit, or get out of debt. We make resolutions that require willpower. But let’s face it, resolutions don’t work. Many people begin with the best of intentions, only to lose steam a month or so into the new year. We set ourselves up for failure by creating goals with either an unrealistic time frame or too ambitious to fit into normal daily life. We tend to view resolutions as all or nothing, and when we “mess up,” those goals are easily abandoned, leaving us with feelings of frustration and discouragement. 


Instead of making resolutions, what if we started the new year with just one word? One meaningful word of encouragement, growth, and challenge to focus on for the entire year. A word that impacts our hearts. One simple word that can make a profound difference.


Why 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 goal. 


Unlike resolutions, choosing one word for the year offers flexibility and freedom. Where a typical goal-oriented resolution is easily broken, the focus on one word allows us the chance to return to it over and over without feelings of failure. Carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully chosen, one word opens up the possibility for ongoing and lasting impact. It allows the Lord to bring about the kind of heart change that affects you spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Where typical 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. The Lord might speak to you through another person. 


Your word could be a character trait Jesus modeled that you want to see more of in your life, like kindness, patience, or compassion. You might choose a word like hope, peace, or rest to bring healing to your soul. 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 deeply within you even if you can’t yet fully see how the Lord will use it in your life, your family, and your ministry. However, you decide to find your word, take time to wait for His direction even if it 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.



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, put it on a bookmark – anything to remind yourself daily of what the Lord impressed upon you. You can find items with your word on them, like t-shirts, bracelets, or mugs. Do anything you need to do to continually return 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 pretty 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, we would love to hear about your experience! Ministry to Parents has a private Facebook group where you can share, ask questions, and find community. Visit to join in the conversation.