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Possibilities for Using a Word of the Year

In my last blog, I explained what a Word of the Year is and urged you to take up this practice as one way to see life through new eyes—whether you’re actively grieving or not. Here, I want to share some of the many ways you might use that word as a way to guide the changes you want to make. 

The primary idea is to engage this word often and let it work on you to create. Over time, you may find that your word helps you to experience life differently. For example:

If you feel stuck in your work, you might choose a word like create, build, endeavor, form, or generate. Any of these words focus your attention on a process that can help you shift your actions or goals. 

If you want to become more attractive to other people, especially those in your family, you might choose a word like patience, mercy, thoughtful, generous, or love

If you want more passion in your life, you might choose a word like kindle, manifest, breathe, engage, or challenge

If you want deeper spirituality (in any or no faith base), you might choose a word like grace, mercy, love, Emmanuel, creator, holy, or sacred.

Phrases like walk in beauty, seek kindness, always hope, journey forward can be useful, but these phrases have root forms: beauty, kindness, hope, and journey. So, consider the different manifestations of these word roots as well as the phrase you might have chosen. For example, each of these words' roots allow you to make new words with different meanings. Consider:

The root of freedom is free. The root of patience is patient. How are these words different? 

How is being thoughtful different from having thoughtfulness or using thoughtfulness? How is thought or thinking necessary to being thoughtful?

What do the different iterations of create mean: creation, creator, creating? How about the different iterations of grace: gracious, graceful, have been graced, graced or gracing?

Try adding a preposition to your word; for example, with grace, graced by ____, in grace, for grace.

Create an adjective: beautiful, bountiful, courageous, or merciful.

Add ly to create an adverb: thoughtfully, creatively, peacefully, mercifully, breathlessly.

Look at your word of the year in another language. Do you see a cognate (i.e., words descended from the same language)? Does a different language influence how you think about your word? If so, how? Why or why not?

Peace: Pax or Pacem (Latin), Paz (Spanish), Paix (French), Frieden (German), Salaam (Arabic), Shalom (Hebrew), Pokoj (Polish), Béke (Hungarian), Heping (Chinese), Fred (Swedish), Vrede (Afrikaans), Barish (Turkish)

Gratitude: Mahalo (Hawaiian), Pasasalamat (Filipino), Gratitude (French), Gratitud (Spanish), Gratidão (Portuguese), Zahvalnost (Bosnian), Taknemmelighed (Danish), Vděčnost (Czech), Sipasdarî (Kurdish)

Consider different famous phrases, song lyrics, and poems that include your word of the year. What do you learn about how you define that word and how others use it? Here are some examples for the use of the word peace:

“Give peace a chance” (John Lennon)

“Peace at any price” (Theodore Roosevelt and Neville Chamberlin)

“Peace if possible; truth at all costs” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“Peace on Earth; goodwill to men [all]”

“Peace is the only battle worth waging” (Albert Camus)

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (Jesus Christ in John 14.27)

“Internal peace is an essential first step to achieving peace in the world.” (The 14th Dalai Lama)

“Imagine all the people living life in peace” (John Lennon)

I’ve given you just a few ways you might intentionally use your word of the year. Remember, though, that just having your word will allow you to think about it subconsciously all year long. And when you come to the next new year, you’ll still have this word and all of its meanings to use in your life as you choose your new word of the year!

Have a peaceful new year!


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