Why I Set Yearly One-Word Intentions and You Should Too

by | Jan 6, 2019 | Setting Intentions

For the past two years, I have set a one-word intention instead of making New Years Resolutions. I have found this ritual so fruitful that I just set my 3rd annual one-word intention. If you aren’t familiar with one-word intentions, continue reading to learn more about them and get guidance on selecting your own. After learning about them below, I recommend reading about my one-word intentions from 2017, 2018, and 2019 to help you better understand how they can be used.

What is a One-Word Intention?

During my initial research into one-word intentions, I stumbled upon this quote by Wayne Dyer: “Our intention creates our reality.” This quote struck home for me because it really made me stop and think about who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, and want I wanted to have. Our intentions are at the root of everything we say, think, and do. Basically, if you want something to happen, you need to intentionally be making positive strides towards it. 

The general idea behind selecting a one-word intention is to commit to living purposefully all year. It is the intentional journey towards living purposefully that honors your commitment to your one-word selection. A one-word collective called OneWord365 sums it up best with their motto, “Choose just one word. Go where it takes you. Be who it makes you.” With that said, know that this idea is purposely abstract. 

The reason it is purposely abstract is so that each individual can construct their own mean, actions, and outcomes from their personal experiences. For some, their one-word helps them achieve a goal or overcome a challenge in life. For others like me, is an umbrella term for the path in which I want my life to take or changes I want to make in the upcoming year. Some people even use their one-word intention as part of their yoga or mindfulness practices.

As you can imagine, there is no universal term for this idea. I’ve found blogs, websites, and social media posts that interchangeably use one-word intentions, personal mantras, personal affirmation, power word, or simple word of the year. So, if you wish to call your one-word something different than I do, that’s fine. It’s your personal journey after all! :)

They are a Great New Year’s Resolution Alternative

Did you know that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February? So, if they have such a high failure rate, why do so many people make them? If I had to guess, I’d simply say, hope. We all have things we hope to do in the upcoming year, such as lose weight, get a new job, or start a new hobby. However, the reality of committing to these changes is far more daunting than any of us ever want to admit so it is easier to just quick.

One-word intentions help people set themselves up for success by allowing them to focus on one over-arching idea throughout the entire year. This moves the focus from hope to action by allowing them to internalize their intention and externalize it in a meaningful manner through words and actions as they arise.

Examples of One-Word Intentions

The easiest way to show you examples of one-word intentions is to point you my three previous blog posts from 2017 (intentional), 2018 (simplify), and 2019 (focus). These will help you understand how I selected my words, what areas I wanted to target throughout the year, and outcomes updates. 

How to Select a Meaningful One-Word Intention

I want you to revisit the Dyer quote from earlier: “Our intention creates our reality.” With this in mind, process through the following steps to identify your word. Remember that your one-word intention should help you journey towards a more intentional life.

Step 1: Dig deep and evaluate your life

Ask yourself the following questions/statements and jot down your initial honest response. If desired, take a break and then reflect on your initial responses and add further notes.

• What do I need to make myself feel balanced and/or complete?
• What makes me joyful?
• My goals for the next year include:
• What do I need to overcome?
• What area do I most need to improve?

Step 2: Reflect on your answers

Did you notice any themes when answering the questions in Step 1? If so, what barriers are you encountering? Prioritize your answers based on how important you think they are to your overall physical, mental, and emotional health. 

Step 3: Identify your path forward

Based on your reflections and prioritization, which area do you most need to address in the coming year?

Step 4: Brainstorm words that support your path forward

Let’s pretend that you identified lowering your stress level as your high priority path forward. Potential words you could brainstorm may include breath, calm, meditate, and/or peace. If you feel it would be helpful, you may share this brainstorming activity (or any component of this process) with a close friend or loved one. 

Step 5: Select your word

From the list of words you brainstormed, pick the single word that brings you the most joy when related to your high priority path forward. This word should bring you joy, a sense of calm, or an overwhelming feeling of rightness. You will be using this work frequently in the coming year so you want to make sure you are confident in your selection.

Personally, I test a word for a few days before I formalize my selection. It was through this process in 2019 that I changed my word from efficiency to focus. While I wanted to be more efficient, the word didn’t connect to me on a personal level. I repeated the process above and found my desired connection with the word focus.  

Incorporating Your One-Word into Your Life

Once you have selected your one-word intention, you need to determine how you will incorporate it into your life. The amazing thing about setting a one-word intention is that you can customize how you will use it. 

Create frequent touch points

Oddly enough, I typically think about my word in the shower. It’s an activity I do daily and it’s basically distraction free. This means I have time to reflect on my progress and set actions for purposeful living for the day/week. I’ve read about other people discussing their words over dinner, setting it as their text in their daily phone alarm, and even having a one-word accountability buddy. For those practicing yoga or mindfulness, you can create an affirmation using your word. For example: “Today, I choose to be _____.”

Reflect on your progress

As a professional educator, I know that self reflection allows individuals to enhance their skills and knowledge. In this situation, reflecting on your word and/or progress allows you to identify what is going well, where you should push farther, and needed self-awareness.

Take it to the Next Level

Most people who select a one-word intention share it with close friends or family. They may even share it on social media and/or blog about it. However, you can take it to the next level if you want a more physical reminder of your one-word intention. 

Before I started my one-word intention ritual, I would create personal affirmations during difficult times in my life. During our multi-year infertility struggle for example, my affirmation was “one day at a time.” I would recite this phase over and over again when we were in an emotionally draining phase or when we received bad news. It helped immensely. So much so, that I ordered a bracelet (see image) with the quote from a company called MantraBand. They even have some that are single word options now!

Other ideas that I have not tried personally, but look awesome include:

• Ordering a My Intent bracelet, necklace, or keychain
• Use this small rectangular letter board to share your one-word intent in your home or office
• Have your word engraved on a water bottle or keychain
• Or check out these options on Etsy

Share Your One-Word Intention

I would love for you to share your one-word intentions with me below in the comments or with me on social media! Don’t forget to use the #OneWord365, #OneWordIntention, 

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