In this week’s episode, we’ll talk about words of the year – what are they, do you need one, how they differ from yearly themes, and how I’ve used them over the last two years, plus my word of the year for 2020. In this episode:
- What’s a word of the year?
- Do you need a word of the year?
- My words in 2018 and 2019, and my upcoming word for 2020
- The story shared in this episode: how words of the year have helped me to grow personally and, in some respects, heal myself
“While a yearly theme is an overall concept that I want to keep working towards for the entire year, a word of the year is something that I will incorporate into my daily life and utilize every day.”
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After you listen, join our podcast community on Facebook or comment below and let me know: Have you tried using a word of the year before? Will you try a word of the year for 2020?
As with many of my podcast episodes, I have a FREE resource to help you - just enter your info below to get a FREE worksheet to help you define your word of the year.
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[00:00:00] In this week's episode, we'll talk about words of the year. What are they? Do you need one? How they differ from yearly themes and how I've used them over the last two years. Plus my word of the year for 2020. If this sounds like something you're interested in, please keep listening.
[00:00:17] You may write alone, but you are not alone. Inside the Writer's Soul focuses on how personal experiences can inform your writing and help you speak from the soul to really connect with readers and other authors as well. Your writer's soul doesn't need to take the writing and publishing journey alone. Join me, your host M. Khan, and let's move forward together.
[00:00:17] Hello and welcome! Today, I'm going to talk about words of the year. Last week I talked about yearly themes or a theme that you set for your life for a particular year. If you haven't listened to that episode yet, do check it out. Like yearly themes, words of the year can also be used to motivate and encourage you, and they can really help you focus in different areas of your life and help push you in the right direction. In today's episode, I'll go over the words I chose for 2018 and 2019, how they relate it to my themes for those years, and what I'm planning to use for 2020.
[00:01:16] So how do words of the year differ from yearly themes? While a yearly theme is an overall concept that I want to keep working towards for the entire year, a word of the year is something that I will incorporate into my daily life and utilize every day. Let me explain this by jumping right into my story for today.
[00:01:34] So in the yearly theme episode, I spoke about my themes for 2018 and 2019. My theme for 2018 was "My Year of No" where I said no to people or situations that made me feel unsafe physically, emotionally, mentally or creatively. My word of the year for 2018 was "No". I know it seems like that's pretty much the same thing as the theme, but I use the word in a slightly different way. 2018 was the first year I tried using a theme, so to help me stick to using it, I decided that having a related word of the year was something that also reflected that theme would make me more successful to stick to it. So that's why the word of the year and the theme are very similar.
[00:02:17] My theme was something I called upon whenever there was a situation where someone was making me feel unsafe. So I said no to that person and that situation and whatever they were asking me to do. My word of the year, which was NO was incorporated into my daily life by every day writing down something I wanted to say no to, or something that I had said no to that day depending on when I journaled. So if I journaled in the morning, I would write down something like "I'm going to say no to staying late after work today". If I was journaling in the evening, I might write down "I said no to that extra project at work", or "I said no to a social situation that made me uncomfortable". Using the word no every day helped me become more confident. By the end of 2018, after a year of saying no to people and situations and using the word no every day in my journal, I felt more confident in myself and I felt more confident saying no.
[00:03:13] I think being able to say no is one of the toughest things we learn. I know as a woman and as a Muslim woman and a woman of color, I'm always told or taught that I need to bend until I almost break to accommodate other people, so I never really had the chance to say no before. If I ever tried to say no, people would guilt me and then I just cave in to whatever they were asking me to do. But using no on a daily basis really helped me to gain the confidence and authority to say no, and then stick to the no. Now, when I say no to uncomfortable situations or people, they would sometimes not accept that, they wouldn't accept that I didn't feel comfortable. They would only accept what they felt comfortable with, which was a yes from me. So it may not seem like a big deal, but learning how to say no and then sticking to the no was an incredibly important lesson for me and a tool I use to this day. I don't think I would have made the progress that I've made over the last couple years if I had not started with a theme like that and stuck to it and really used that daily journaling to help push me through. So using a word of the year every single day is what helped to reinforce my theme for me and also helped build my confidence.
[00:04:28] Now for 2019, this year, my theme is to "Love My Life". So my word of the year is "Love". So every single day this year I have been writing in my journal something that I love about me or about my life. For a long time, I had - I mean maybe I still have - pretty low self-worth and doing this every day and reminding myself there are things that I can love about myself and about my life, no matter how bad things get, no matter what anyone else thinks, has just been unbelievably helpful to me. I feel so much stronger mentally, and I feel so much happier about myself just physically and about the way my body looks. For so many years, I have been told I look wrong in a variety of ways, and that's not something that you get over quickly.
[00:05:15] An example is my hands. Because I have worked so long and so hard, at times working even three jobs, some in the service industries such as food service, running from one to the other from as early as 3:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night, and just getting a few hours of sleep before I had to do it all over again...my hands are just really wrinkled and weathered with life and they have scars from when I've gotten hurt doing those various jobs. So for a long time, I've been told that my hands are ugly. So telling myself that I loved the way my hands look is really emotional for me. Similarly, I've also been told, you know, my teeth-I never had braces so my teeth are ugly. So just reminding myself that just because I can't afford braces, that doesn't mean that I am ugly. Maybe my teeth are a little bit crooked, but that's okay.
[00:06:04] It might seem really simple, but we all have these things about ourselves and about our lives that other people call ugly and not pretty and not acceptable and it's so wrong. Then we internalize their awful thoughts and think we have something wrong with ourselves. I've been told to get plastic surgery on different parts of my body and that I wasn't "good-Looking enough" to marry, and all kinds of other bullshit. So telling myself that I love the way my curly hair looks, telling myself I love the way other parts of my body look, like my breasts or my legs or my feet or my hips or my hands or my teeth or the belly I have that never quite goes away, no matter how much I work out...telling myself that I love those parts of me, that I don't just love those parts, but all of me, has been such a healing process. Telling myself I love my mind and my heart and my soul, all of these things have been immeasurably helpful to me.
[00:07:02] I'm so glad that every single day I have written down something I love about myself or even about my life. I may not always be happy at my day job, for example, but there are some really good days I've had there and I write those things down. I love it and I'm incredibly grateful for that income and I know I'm really lucky to have a job right now. Even other things about my life that I don't like, I acknowledge and tell myself I love them because it's important to love all parts of your life.
[00:07:30] I've spoken a little bit about this before on the podcast, but I am in a lot of debt from student loans and other types of debt. And when you're in debt, your mind begins to hate money because you associate it with this burden that's hanging over you. So even reminding myself that I love money - and yes, it's completely okay to say that you love money - has been important to help me move forward, to help pay down that debt, and to get in the right money mindset to become financially healthy as well. It's not just about mental health or physical health or even creative health, but it's also been about financial health for me this year, too.
[00:08:08] So for 2020, my theme for the year is going to be "Healthy Me, Fuck You", and I'm really excited about it. I'm going to be focusing on getting healthy in a variety of different areas of my life. All of the things I've mentioned so far, such as physically, creatively, financially, etc. I want to continue this journey I've been on for the last couple of years to continue to grow and accept myself and loved myself and loved the life that I'm creating and the things I'm doing and everything that I am putting out there in the universe.
[00:08:39] But my word of the year is not going to be as aligned with my theme as it has been in the past. My word for 2020 is going to be "Commit". I started to think more about this word as I was doing some introspection recently and I was trying to figure out why it was easy for me to commit to doing some things, but a struggle for others. Sometimes I realized it was because I don't feel maybe smart enough to tackle an issue like getting my finances in order or ensuring I have the right legal structure for my business and then trying to find an accountant or a lawyer that I can work with who I will trust has also been a challenge. And I'm not an accountant or a lawyer, so I get afraid of making the wrong decision when it comes to those different areas. But I need to commit to working through the fear and making progress in those areas and to pay down my debts and increase my income. Similarly, there are health issues I need to address, so I'm making a commitment to better my physical and mental health. There are also some author-related things I need to do, but keep putting off like getting print and audio versions of my books done.
[00:09:47] So I'm making a commitment to get those things done. 2019 in a lot of ways was a sort of reset year for me and my business. I invested a lot in education and upgrading or updating different systems I use. So I want 2020 to be a year where I commit to completing older or lingering projects, increase my income and also get healthier in those different areas of my life. And this is how the word commit relates to my yearly theme of "Healthy Me, Fuck You" because I will be focusing on committing to being healthy, but it's also distinct from the theme as well because it can mean so many different things. So the word you choose doesn't always have to relate to the theme you choose as well.
[00:10:31] So the question remains, should you have a word of the year? If you're looking for something simple you can implement each day to help you, then a word of the year is a great tool. And remember that your word of the year can change. If you get halfway through the year or even a month into the year and your theme or word of the year is not motivating you, then change it. There is no reason why you have to keep a theme or a word of the year if it's not working for you. My 2020 word of the year I've already changed a couple of times because the first one I picked, I liked it, but it didn't resonate for me. But when I thought of the word "commit", that's the one that really stuck to me and the one I really loved for the next year. I do recommend sticking with a word of the year or even a yearly theme for at least a month to see if it's really making a difference.
[00:11:20] As I mentioned in the last yearly theme episode, sometimes it can take you months and months before you see any traction or really notice results, especially when you're living something day-to-day. It's really tough to see the change because it can be so gradual that you don't even notice it at first. For me, I notice the difference in how I felt about myself and from seeing it through the eyes of people around me. A friend of mine recently commented about how much I've changed in the last two years, and she meant that in a positive way. We don't always notice the changes we make in ourselves, and that's another reason why I like to write some things down in a journal. You may not notice these things about yourself, but when you go back and you look at everything you've done and the things you've said over the past year or even the last few years, it can make a big difference to your outlook and your mindset. If you're interested in a simple journal to help you with this, I suggest you check out Episode Number 8 about the one journal that changed my mindset and my life.
[00:12:22] Now I want to hear from you. Have you tried using a word of the year before? Will you try a word of the year for 2020? Head to the blog or our podcast community on Facebook and let us know. As with many podcasts, I also have a free resource to help you. Head to the blog to download a set of free worksheets to help you decide on a word of the year. All of the links are in the show notes. I'd also be very grateful if you could leave a review for this podcast wherever you like to listen. Thank you.
[00:12:51] Thank you for listening to this episode. Check out the show notes for links to my blog and our community where you can get involved in the discussion and support others. While you're there, don't forget to sign up for my newsletter to get to free and powerful tools to help you. One: access to my growing library of free resources for authors; and Two: you'll also get access to my exclusive writing challenge "How to Write Faster in 14 Days" where I share all my tips and techniques that helped me finish over 20 works in five years. Check out the show notes for all the links and thanks again for being part of this community.