Every year for the last seven years, I have forgone the traditional New Years resolution in favor of a slightly different approach, setting a “One Word Resolution” (not my original term or idea, but a goodie!).

For this process, I choose a word to represent the focus I want to hold for the year. It is a word that calls to me, that whispers of inner desires and outer possibility, explorations to lean into, discoveries to make, and challenges to meet. Sometimes multiple words come up, or I think I’ve decided on one until inevitably, there will be a particular word that stands out above the rest. It sits well. It clicks. It feels like YES.

I play around with my word, defining and clarifying what it means to me and how I might relate to it in the year ahead. The word then serves as a kind of overarching theme for the ensuing months; I use it to guide my goals, align plans and intentions, filter opportunity, move into new spaces of growth, and add meaning to the otherwise mundane occurrences of the everyday.

The word weaves itself into the tapestry of my year in ways that surprise, delight, and even challenge me. The results have been substantial and powerful at times, like running a 5K, getting a tattoo, and winning a trip to London (!!!).

Mostly though, I find the value is in subtler things, in my interpretation of those things that would otherwise go unnoticed or seem irrelevant; shifts and changes within myself, or external events and simple features in the environment to which I am inclined to pay closer attention and ascribe greater significance.

For example, 2020 was my Year of Love.

  • Early on this year, I started noticing hearts everywhere. Etched on the sidewalk. Painted on a building. On someone’s tshirt, or the shape of a rock.
  • Under the freeway overpass en route to a local trail head, I saw that someone had changed some old sidewalk graffiti. For as long as I can recall it had said, I hate Jobi. Now it was painted over to say, I love Jobi.
  • I developed an inexplicable attraction to the color pink (the color of love), even though for years I’ve had a strong dislike of it. My closet is now half full of it.
  • The one person I dated in 2020 happened to be born on Valentine’s Day.
  • I also happened to get a long-waited-for garden plot assigned to me on Valentine’s Day, and fell in love with gardening (the perfect timing for quarantine!)
  • Overall this year has been marked by intense contrast to love, with a lot of anger, hate, and fear stirred up through global and national events, in people’s attitudes and behavior. I myself have been fed up with the bulls*** of humanity at large. Consequently, I’ve had to rekindle my deeper sense of empathy and expanded compassion for others. With that, I’ve also had a growing desire to double down on my efforts around being vegan, which I do as a way to cause no harm, and care for animals and the planet.

Needless to say, directing my year with a single word has been an interesting tool for personal development, which I think is worth trying out at least once. It can provide leverage to lean into the new and scary parts of life (as I learned more than once), or allow gentle transition into them. It gives each year a handle, that helps to delineate timelines and still tell a cohesive story, like chapter titles in a book.

Having had a One Word theme for the last seven years in a row, I considered mixing things up and not picking one for 2021, mostly just to see what a year would be like without the influence of a this One Word Resolution framework. Would I miss it? Would it be a relief? Would I find an approach to the year I liked better? I decided not to choose a word this year. Ah, how refreshing.

And then… inevitably… a word came to me, and with it came a flood of intriguing associations, of budding desires, of fresh possibility, like a renewed, revitalized nudge from my soul to get going — forward on the path, to further weave intentionality into the tapestry of my life.

It clicked. It felt like YES.

My word for 2021:


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