I shared the other day that choosing “free” as my word of the year (well, two years, as it turns out) was really profound for me. Developing a new sense and understanding of freedom changed how I approach almost every area of my life: parenting, marriage, friendship, family, vocation, spirituality…etc, etc, etc. It was big.
In the three years before I chose “free,” I enjoyed choosing and exploring my words, but they weren’t nearly as meaningful, and I’ve been wondering why that is.
To some extent, I think timing is key. It was simply the right time for me to learn about freedom, and much of that has to do with my relationship with Jesus and what God has been up to. It’s as though I chose “free,” and God used it as an opportunity to really, really move in my life. Of course, I don’t pretend to understand the mystery of how God speaks and teaches. I don’t know if I chose my word because God was teaching me about freedom, or if I wanted to learn about freedom because I chose the word. But at any rate, the timing was perfect: the events in my life and the books I read and the things God was up to all conspired into one big, flashing neon said that read, “Freedom!”
At the same time, I was much more intentional with my word in 2014 and 2015 than I had been with my other words. I looked for ways to incorporate it into my daily routine, and I tried hard to pay attention to the ways it showed up (both literally and figuratively). As I’ve talked about this practice to others over the years, I’ve had a lot of people ask, “Once you choose a word, what do you DO with it?” So, I thought I would get super practical here and share some ideas for making your 2016 word more meaningful. Some ideas are obvious while others are maybe less-so.
1. This is perhaps the most obvious: I write my word down and post it somewhere. I don’t think it matters whether it’s scribbled on a post-it note with Sharpie and stuck to the bathroom mirror or painted on a canvas with beautiful calligraphy. I also love to post Bible verses, quotes and song lyrics with my word up around the house. I think the key is to post my word in the places I will see it most: bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, kitchen cabinets, above door knobs, on my dashboard, and in my planner.
2. I brainstorm. This is pretty nerdy, but I basically make a mind map about my word. At the beginning of this year, I wrote “joy” in the middle of a page in my journal and went from there. I wrote down things that bring me joy, things that steal joy, and every application and meaning of the word I could think of. I was instantly more aware of how joy currently shows up in my life (or doesn’t, depending in the context), and I thought of lots of new ways to approach my word.
3. I keep a Pinterest board dedicated to my word. Here is my board for free, and here is my new board for joy. The easiest way to fill up the board is simply to search for your word and scroll through the results. Usually, I’m pinning based on the image itself, and NOT what it links to, but I also pin related things I find on the Internet as the year goes along. (And as you can see when you look at my board, some of the pins are related to the word or how it plays out in my life, but I’m not super literal about it. This past year I cut back on my Pinterest usage (though I don’t use it sparingly, by any means), but I still add things to my board as I find it. If I ever need some inspiration or encouragement, it’s just another resource I can draw from.
4. I collect quotes, Bible verses, and song lyrics related to my word. I use Evernote to collect these, but I have also jotted them down in my planner and journal.
5. I pay attention for my word as I read Scripture. Anytime I read something in the Bible related to freedom, I highlight the passage using a purple colored pencil. I plan on picking a new color and doing the same thing with joy (and I’ll continue on with freedom, too).
6. I took Ali Edwards’ One Little Word class. This was–BY FAR–the most impactful thing I did with my word. Ali’s class is full of writing and creative prompts that helped me keep my word at the forefront of my thoughts and think about my word in new and unexpected ways. The class does involve some scrapbooking and creative ideas, but at $31, I think the class would still be valuable if you only responded to the prompts by just writing or thinking through them. I took the class in 2014 and I’m not taking it again, but I am planning on redoing all the prompts from 2014 for my new word.
Some new things I’m going to try this year:
- Make a playlist for my word. This was inspired by Ali’s class. One month, she suggested making a list of song lyrics that included the words or evoked feelings related to it. So this year, I’m going to make a “joy” playlist and as I find them, I will add songs that contain the word joy, seem to be about joy, or make me feel joyful.
- Incorporate my word into my bullet journal. This year, I’m using a bullet journal as my planner and catch-all. (I love it, but that’s a story for another day.) Because it gives me total freedom to adjust the format however I want, I’m thinking about how to incorporate my word. Two ideas so far: write a quote or Bible verse along with my weekly log each week, or include a goal related to my word on each monthly to-do/goals page.
- Read some books about joy. I have definitely read books that impacted my understanding of freedom, but I didn’t specifically set out to do so. I think I will re-read One Thousand Gifts, and maybe I will try to find a Bible study related to the fruits of the spirit. I’m also planning on reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, because I know her philosophy has a lot to do with asking what “sparks joy.” I’ll see what else comes up.
Besides all that, the Internet is full of things you can buy related to your word. I love the custom acrylic words Ali Edwards is offering. Lisa Leonard has lots of custom stamped jewelry. I have a friend who bought a few letterpress blocks to spell out her word, and I did a quick search for “joy” on Etsy and found about a million different options for art, clothing, jewelry, and decor with “joy” on it. Super easy, and super fun.
This whole business of choosing a word is really what you make of it, I think. I’ve had years in which I barely thought about my word, but because “free” has been so meaningful, I am more eager than ever to really use my word to guide and impact the year ahead.
What about you? Any tips for making a word of the year more meaningful?