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  • katherinestano

How to Pick Your Word of the Year

Updated: Jan 3

GenX kids–as well as kids from other fine decades!–might remember the game, Red Rover. Everyone would hold hands in a straight line and face another group of wildlings holding hands in a straight line. When a kid was called over, you'd brace yourself and hope for the best. (Or at least not the worst.)

We played this game in the great outdoors on a place we called a PLAYGROUND. The playground wasn't a fancy, custom safe zone with soft edges and fluffy surfaces. Mostly, it was a patchy field/cracked asphalt blend with a few metal contraptions for untrained acrobats. It was fun!

Katherine Stano as a kid with childhood friend on swing set, along with brother holding a puppy
Left to right: Me, my good childhood friend, my brother absconding off with the neighbor's dog Photo Credit: Probably my dad

2024 is coming over like lightning, sprinting toward us like that one fast kid who could really play a strong game of Red Rover. It may feel exciting for some of us. And daunting for the rest of us. A new year can bring about many feelings and emotions: anticipation, hope, renewal, relief, joy, sadness, and reflection. Whatever you may be pondering, you can get ready for 2024 with your own Word of the Year.

What do you hope for in 2024?

If you need a fresh start for the new year and have no qualms about saying "buh-bye" to 2023, here are some ideas for your Word of 2024.

If you're wanting change or a new purpose:

  • Possibility

  • Refresh

  • Empowered

  • Openness

  • Perspective

  • Transform

  • Seek

  • Learn

  • Explore

  • Shift

  • Modify

  • Refocus

  • Simplify

  • Promise

  • Reset

  • Progress

  • Faith

  • Serendipity

  • Triumph

  • Powerful

  • Strong

  • Launch

If you're needing rest, peace, and less complexity:

  • Pause

  • Breathe

  • Slow

  • Streamline

  • Sleep

  • Honor

  • Reflect

  • Meditate

  • Pray

  • Calm

  • Rejuvenate

  • Lounge

  • Relax

  • Pamper

  • Shed

  • Unfetter

  • Unburden

  • Boundaries

  • Indulge

  • Humor

  • Health

  • Ease

  • Blessings

  • Comfort

  • Tranquility

If I chose "tranquility" for my Word of the Year, it might take me to the ocean, where I find so much peace. And that could mean a literal trip or a trip down memory lane where I make an album of my photos. It's all about being creative and feeding your soul!

Crashing ocean waves during a fiery sunset
Photo Credit: Me! Taken on iPhone. Location: Gulf Shores, Alabama. To see more of my photography, go to @katstanophotography

If you have a big goal you want to complete:

  • Accomplish

  • Focus

  • Prioritize

  • Achievement

  • Strive

  • Engage

  • Believe

  • Inspire

  • Confidence

  • Try

  • Persevere

  • Persistence

  • Desire

  • Trust

  • Succeed

  • Continue

  • Passion

  • Grasp

  • Wisdom

  • Prosperity

  • Endure

  • Organize

  • Destiny

  • Consistency

  • Prepare

  • Reach

  • Fortune

  • Brave

If you'd like to strengthen your relationships:

  • Listen

  • Empathize

  • Care

  • Respect

  • Admire

  • Gentleness

  • Thoughtfulness

  • Kindness

  • Forgiveness

  • Devotion

  • Generosity

  • Presence

  • Mindfulness

  • Communication

  • Share

  • Express

  • Adventure

  • Memories

  • Enjoy

  • Notice

  • Connection

  • Gratitude

  • Thankfulness

  • Contentment

  • Volunteer

  • Family

  • Friends

  • Love

  • Cherish

  • Treasure

  • Appreciate

  • Encourage

  • Savor

If I were to pick "savor" for my Word of the Year, I might think of enjoying the tiniest details of beauty that I come across each day. I might get lost in the moment or stop being distracted and really appreciate the faces I love so much. (This is the Hallmark writer in me!)

Single flower in front of a blurred pond and bridge
Photo Credit: Me again!

If you want to learn a new skill or rekindle an old hobby or talent:

  • Discover

  • Dream

  • Travel

  • Delight

  • Recharge

  • Play

  • Tinker

  • Experiment

  • Beauty

  • Marvel

  • Create

  • Imagine

  • Grow

  • Reconnect

  • Redefine

  • Plant

  • Artistry

  • Envision

  • Revisit

  • Nostalgia

  • Joy

  • Happiness

  • Wonder

  • Magic

  • Nurture

  • Courage

  • Sparkle

  • Glow

  • Unique

  • Original

  • Inimitable

  • Enrichment

If your goal is to be more altruistic or be there for others:

  • Compassion

  • Goodness

  • Helpful

  • Understand

  • Uplift

  • Optimism

  • Positivity

  • Advocate

  • Champion

  • Change

  • Meaning

  • Dedication

  • Voice

  • Roar

  • Contribute

  • Lead

  • Serve

  • Pioneer

If I pick "pioneer" for my Word of the Year, I might think of creating a project that benefits an organization I'm passionate about. And this is something I'm actually doing! Stay tuned for more news on that front and in the meantime, check out! Here, I'm featured with my pal, Bear. He has an incredible story. Because he's an incredible boy. Also, no one asked me to say this. I just adore Bear.

Katherine Stano hugging a dog named Bear
Photo Credit: Probably my sister-in-law

These words are, of course, suggestions to get started. You may need something even more specific. For instance, your goal may be to try a bunch of new French fry recipes, so possibly, your word could be FRIES. (Note: I'm not condoning any unhealthy diets, per se. That's up to you, friend!) Or perhaps you like to keep things pretty vague, so maybe you come up with something like BLUE-SKY. That's actually two words, but adding a hyphen technically makes it one, so feel free to use your own brand of trickery!

Is there a deadline to pick a Word of the Year?

Goodness, no! Take your time! Think about what you really want and really need. You can make a list of your goals and then see if there's a word that perfectly summarizes your journey.

What if you can't decide on one word?

There is no rule that you have to pick one word. Pick two! Or five! Or write an entire sentence. Your Word(s) of the Year is about creating the kind of life you aspire to in the next 12 months. And if you pick one and your goals change, your word can change, too! It's flexible! Flexible: also a great word for Word of the Year!*

What if my nemesis picks my word, too?

Tell them to go right ahead! The same word can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Because your story is different from your nemesis'! For instance, say you both pick MOTIVATE. You might be motivated to read more, start a band, and learn to cook. (Okay, you're not super busy or anything!) And they might need motivation to study more, organize their junk drawer, and pull the laundry out of the washer before it molds. (See how you guys are already thinking about it differently?!)

What if I become an overnight success and don't need my Word of the Year anymore?

Then, how fabulous! I applaud you! You have made your Word of the Year work for you. This is very good news, dearie.


What will be your Word of the Year? Please let me know in the comments!

And Red Rover, Red Rover, send that brand new year over! We're ready for ya.

Wishing you a healthy and peaceful 2024.

*Story Time: When I was in the 4th grade, I lost the spelling bee to "flexible." Afterwards, feeling sorry for their little spelling ingénue, my parents took me to Walmart and bought me a California Sun Barbie. Maybe I should've misspelled more stuff and gotten a Ken, too!

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