Let’s Talk! {Part III}

“It’s not about any one particular word,” Carole says. “It’s about bringing intention to your year.

Welcome back!

Over the past month, I’ve been talking with 10 One Word practitioners about the first step of the process–

How do you choose your One Word?

Today, we’re wrapping up with the ‘best of’… a few duds….and a surprise word or two. I’ll also share our collective list of One Words, to date!

Note : : This 3-part conversation is an excellent introduction for newcomers, because that very question…How do you choose?…can stop people from starting One Word in the first place. I invite you to catch up on previous installments here: Part I, Part II.

Let’s go!

Is there a One Word Year that stands out as particularly powerful…transformative…for you?  

Kym’s One Word ’21 is Root

Kym’s been choosing One Word for a dozen years now. (See a few, above.) And she answered without hesitation: BALANCE! 2017…the year after my mom died and Trump was elected and I stopped working (career work, I mean). I felt like I was absolutely out of control. My life was screaming for Balance. I learned so much–and I still consider it “my word.” It’s at the (ahem) ROOT of everything for me now.

Carole had a strong start 8 years ago: My first word, JOY!, remains one of my favorites. Partly, because it was my first word. It’s also because joy can feel elusive sometimes, and I learned, that year, that we have to look for it–not just expect it to show up. It was the year one of my husband’s closest friends and business partner was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a devastating diagnosis.

Carole’s One Word ’21 is Create

I learned that we can’t really feel joy if we don’t also feel the opposite. We have to let grief and sadness and heartbreak into our lives in order to appreciate the good that we have. 

That seems like a particularly good year for a word like Joy–if really, really hard. (And what a significant way start to the practice, though it could certainly set the bar high!)

This feels like a good time to mention your 2020 word, Open–because some of our ‘best’ words are our most challenging, right? You say it so well here:

No word felt more burdensome to me than OPEN did two years ago! I mean, having that word in the midst of everything shutting down due to a pandemic? Oy. It was hard–but it was also really important to lean into WHY it was hard. In the end, the lessons were amazing and life changing. 

Deanell describes Practice as particularly powerful: I’ve spent a lot of my life having very high expectations of myself (and others). Being able to shift my view toward PRACTICE lifted those expectations. It allowed a sense of ease and gentle perspective that I was able to internalize and continue to carry with me today.

For any Enneagrammers out there, this could be tricky for 1’s…the perfectionists. I know you’re not a 1, so perhaps this wasn’t the case for you—but Practice could be a slippery slope to Perfection. I’m curious, Deanell. How’d you manage that? Was it a risk factor for you, especially being wired for high expectations?

Absolutely. It feels risky for me every day—which means managing this is an ongoing practice. Practice could be considered my Life Word!

Life Word!? Oh, the places we could go… Let’s revisit Life Words sometime.

Mary’s had a slew of powerful words in 15 years: Focus, Shine, Hope, And, as well this year’s Choose (not her ‘14 Choose) (yes, she repeated a word!). 

Mary’s One Word ’21 is Choose

SHINE (‘12) gave me direction–and the necessary confidence–to pursue volunteer and leadership opportunities after I retired. I really found my niche in women’s ministry at church that year and have continued to play a leadership role ever since.

AND (‘20) gave me an opening to practice non-dual thinking, a “second half of life” skill (thank you, Richard Rohr!) that was much needed as we navigated the pandemic, reckoning with systemic racism, a divisive election year…and the everyday trials of simply living as a human right now.

Quick interruption–AND was such an interesting one to follow each month (thanks to check-ins!) Your exploration certainly stretched my thinking about that word…word choice. Anyway. Back to you–

I’m so glad!

My ’21 word, CHOOSE, has helped me pay attention to the choices I have, the choices I make–both actively and passively. I’m working to make more active choices, specifically choosing thoughts, words, and actions that invite connection, gratitude, and joy–for me and others. 

Like many, myself included, Kat took a couple years to get in her groove…to figure out…What am I really doing here? In her words:

Kat’s One Word ’21 is Release

It wasn’t until 2019, with FOCUS, that I ‘got’ what a word could do in your life. It was so much more than a light-bulb moment. It was a life-altering year.

Can you tell us a little more about that?

Sure! It started to shift with Juliann’s monthly check-ins. Not only that, but ‘19 was the year that I really began ‘making myself’ meditate. (When I started, I had to ‘make myself’…now, meditation is such an intrinsic part of my day, it ‘makes me’ rather than vice-versa!) Part of that meditation time was thinking about my word (Focus, conveniently!). The word and that process helped me hone in on what I wanted more of in my life–and what I wanted a lot less of. 

Check-ins with the blogging community have been so helpful. They keep me accountable–and inspire me! I always learn something from this community that is helpful and meaningful to me and my word.

I couldn’t agree more, Kat. Accountability, inspiration, perspective, community—I’ve heard it put a variety of ways over the course of our conversation, but it all comes back to…’fueling’ the year. Literally—keeps us going!

Before we change gears, I want to share how these One Words are sticking around on a daily basis:

Carole’s One Word ’17 was Peace

For Carole, it’s Peace. One of the ways I connected with my word, PEACE, was to embrace peace signs–and we now have them throughout our house! There’s one made of bottle caps in our kitchen that we bought on vacation in Charleston, SC. We also made a peace sign wreath that hangs on our garage. The fact that it’s visible, on a daily basis, has reinforced how important is every day.

For Mary, Gratitude. One cool thing from ‘08’s GRATITUDE is that I kept a gratitude journal that year–and the next–and, now, journaling five things I’m grateful for is how I close every morning’s journal entry. (Honestly, reading Diana Butler Bass’ Grateful last November was more impactful than the whole year I spent with the word!)

The Duds…!

My first word ever was a dud. AUTHENTIC, 2015.

My One Word ’21 is Curate

For as long as I can remember, I had a way of readily losing my sense of self and falling into the Shoulds. So-Authentic was a good word for me. A very good word! But…I didn’t have an actual practice under my belt to ‘work it’.

I wrote Authentic on our chalkboard wall on January 1. And left it there. Come October, overcommitted and overwhelmed, I happened to look at the word–it’d been there for 10 months!–and I saw it as though for the first time. Next thing? I picked up my calendar, noted commitments that were decidedly inauthentic, cancelled what I could–and started thinking harder about Yeses and Nos.

At times, it’s hard to separate the word from the year you might be having, and the practice gets lost…along with everything else previously recognizable. 

Juliann’s One Word ’21 is Hello

For Juliann: That would be WEAVEIt felt right when I chose it, but it ended up being pretty much abandoned.  I think that’s because my mom had died the previous spring and I thought this word would help me to weave some of that story.  Maybe it was too soon.

Kym, too: I had trouble the year I chose RISK. It might have been a good word for me, but the timing was awful (it was the year my mom got sick and everything in my life got put on hold). It was the only time I’ve just let a word completely drop from my life… 

Mary echoes: That was NOURISH for me, in 2016. My dad went into hospice in early January. He passed away on the 23rd…that year is one big blur.

And some words? They’re not the right fit.

Here’s Carole’s dud: GRACE didn’t really do much for me. I wasn’t able to use that word to truly capture the feeling I wanted.

In hindsight, would you have done anything differently as the year progressed? While I think it’s important to consider what to do when a word winds up not being just right, I think it’s equally important to stick to the word you chose. So, I wouldn’t have really done anything differently with Grace–except, perhaps, extending myself some grace at choosing a word that didn’t quite work the way I wanted!

I think part of the problem with this word was that Grace is often connected with religion (the grace of God and all that), and that was not the direction I wanted to head. I felt like I was constantly working against the perceived meaning of the word and trying to establish a connection–in spite of that. 

For Deanell, it was her first two words:

Deanell’s One Word ’21 is Explore

DISCIPLINE in ‘10 and ACTION, ‘11. I can tend to be driven by my lists, either written or in my head, so I don’t really need more focus on either one of these things!

How tempting it could have been to scrap the practice, with your first two words missing the mark. But you’ve been at this, what, 15 years now? I hope this inspires anyone new to the practice! Because it’s not always a win, straight out of the gate.

And Kym’s dud: Oh, that would be the year I chose SURPRISE. What a stupid word choice! Looking back, I think what I was looking for was Open — as in, I was looking to be Open to new things. Or looking at things in new ways. That kind of thing. I chose Surprise because it seemed…more exciting, somehow? But you can’t plan to surprise yourself, y’know? So…total DUD.

Here’s how One Word surprised three of us…all in the same year!

Coincidentally, Sarah, Deanell, and I all chose Savor for One Word 2020. (Savor 2020? Did we really want to?!)

I suppose you could say SAVOR surprised me…in that I thought it was going to be richer than it turned out to be. I worked hard to keep it fresh all year, but I think I adopted the word record-early in ‘19. Like, mid-year. And because I was so excited about it…it seeped in. Not in ‘active practice’–but in anticipation. Looking back, Savor ended up not a Best. Not a Dud. Just occupying solid ‘middle ground’ for me. (Which really did surprise me!)

On the other hand

Sarah’s One Word ’21 is Balance

Sarah says: You’d think that with a word like Savor, there wouldn’t be much to do with it in the midst of such dark times. In retrospect, though, it seemed like the perfect word. Without knowing what would happen next, who might get sick or die, and what life would look like in the long term, having a word that focused me on making the most of the present was immensely helpful.

Deanell was surprised by the depth of exploration with Savor: I think that depth stemmed from intention, more than anything. Savor was the first word where I set a monthly intention regarding approach to my word. One month, I focused on savoring the food I put into my body; another month, I savored walking in the neighborhood. It felt like a turning point in how I think about My One Word. So, I suppose I created the depth simply by adding structure. It probably could have been any word but the fact that we “workshopped” the word at our October retreat helped set the stage for how I’d think about Savor throughout the year.

Savor also felt like a great word because I was turning 50 last year, as was my husband, and we were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary!  I intended for Savor to be a beautiful way to honor those milestones. COVID, of course changed all that… So I had to get creative finding ways to Savor moments without the obvious milestones.

You said, I think that depth stemmed from intentionwhich brings us back ’round to the top of this post. Those wise words feel like our cue to close.

But not without great thanks to everyone here–and in the whole of this One Word series: Carole, Deanell, Honoré, Juliann, Kat, Katie, Kym, Mary, Moriah, Sarah. Thanks for replying to my copious messages, digging up pictures (time, and time again!), and for your generosity. You’ve shared so much with all of us here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have!

{P.S. } Honorés got me on the edge of my seat. On the cusp of her 26th year choosing a word, she says: “I think my 2022 word is going to be quite different. One reason being I’ve been enamored with the word/concept for many years, and the possibilities are boundless…

What could it be?!

I hope you’ll join in the link party the week of January 4 to hear the big reveals! And maybe share a One Word ’22 of your own…? Here’s our list to date:

21 thoughts on “Let’s Talk! {Part III}

Add yours

  1. The list of words is so impressive! I am deep in thought about my 2022 word. I thought I had a direction but some things have been popping up during the day… showing me a different direction. Stay tuned!


  2. What a wonderful post Carolyn! And a terrific effort thank-you! Though I don’t participate in OLW it’s not completely out of the question!


  3. What an amazing practice. It’s so cool to have one word for the entire year, as that acts as a very effective compass. I should put some thought into what I want my word to be too. Thanks for sharing!


    1. That’s a great way to put it–your word as your compass. I post a prompt the first of every month, if you’d like to check it out. Between the prompt and a monthly check-in, it really keeps me on track and connected. Thanks for stopping by!


  4. Beautifully done, Carolyn. I come away from this series of posts feeling part of a powerful community of authentic people. You’ve made each one come alive, and I’m convinced that my 2022 ONE WORD will yield even more inner riches than REST in 2021.


    1. There’s so much wisdom generously shared here–it feels like a tool to reread once in a while. Thanks for visiting!

      On Thu, Jan 6, 2022 at 4:09 AM youroneword {the blog} wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

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