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In the finale of season 1, we dive into a tutorial I’ve been getting asked to make for years – how to choose your word for the year. It’s a quick episode, but a valuable one, and I hope it helps you move into 2021 with the kind of energy you want to bring.
Welcome to the Who Made You Great Podcast where we speak with people who are great at what they do about who helped get them there because none of us does this alone. I’m Lala Jackson, your show host and today… is a really special episode – it’s the season finale of Season 1 so I wanted to do something that I have been getting asked to do for a decade.
First, a few housekeeping things. If you haven’t already, be sure to follow us on Instagram at @WhoMadeYouGreat. Remember you can always check out past interviews and shownotes at WhoMadeYouGreat.com. Wherever you’re listening, be sure to subscribe and review the show – it helps new people find the podcast, and your reviews always make me cry – in a good way.
Now let’s get into the show. If you’ve been following along, you know that I first started Who Made You Great as a website with written interviews in 2010. I believe we are each great in our own way, and the people who pour into us make all the difference. I also believe that pouring into yourself is just as important to that greatness, and things like what I’m going to share with you today helps you do just that.
The same year I started Who Made You Great, I started choosing words to guide my year. The idea of resolutions had never really sat right with me. I’m all for writing down measurable goals and working toward things, but resolutions felt… bad. I wasn’t interested anymore.
Instead, setting a word as a simple checkpoint allows me to consider things fully – does a thing I’m considering serve this word? If no, reconsider. If yes, let’s go.
For me, it’s both easier and bigger. Setting an intention through this word is far more about who I want to be, rather than what I want to do. It shifts my value from what I can produce to what kind of human I aim to be.
The other part of this won’t be surprising to anyone who knows me. I am a writer and I believe that words hold magic. In the same way each religion and spirituality has symbols, words themselves are symbols. We assign their meaning. So when we hold one in front of ourselves as a beacon, it pulls in that magic. It focuses it. And it allows our own magic to focus on it too. It makes clear to the world what we want more of and our energy goes toward that.
So today, I am going to give you a step by step tutorial on how to choose your own word to guide your year. I’m going to share with you the most important lesson I’ve learned over the past decade of doing this, I am going to share what my words have been each year and what they invited in, and I’m going to provide some suggestions on how to choose the word that’s right for you.
At the end, I’m going to share my 2021 word and a few very special guests are going to share theirs too.
First, the lesson.
I used to think that setting a word meant accepting that you were going to get all the difficult lessons that came with it. I thought you could only truly learn lessons by being knocked down and being forced to fight back to prove how much you want it. It’s why I very purposely didn’t choose a word in 2018 and 2019. I was exhausted. I had been learning hard lessons for years. I was breaking and I needed to rest.
Before I set my 2020 words, I had the realization – what if this was easy? What if my hard headed self could actually be taught lessons with ease, and with grace. What if the universe was protecting me? I invite you to choose your word with the same commitment to inviting in flow, rather than expecting it to be hard.
Next, my words.
Over the years, the words I’ve chosen have shifted, as I learned more about how I wanted to call things in.
In 2010, my word was healthcare. It’s not the kind of word I would choose now, but I was new to the game, ya know. I was also a person with type 1 diabetes with no health insurance, because it was before the Affordable Care Act. Life was pretty scary, but I did get health insurance that year. In 2011, my word was money. In 2012, Relationships – friends, family, and growing in my romantic relationship at the time. 2013 was Wellness. 2014, realignment.
2015 was growth. It was the year a major relationship ended, but it was also the year I became myself. In 2016, my word was Purpose. It was the year I accepted a job with a major diabetes non-profit, moved to New York City, and wrote my first book. That was a bit of an overachiever year. In 2017, my word was voice. It was the year my book came out in print, but it was also the year I’ve written more through more channels and platforms than I ever had before or since.
In 2018 and 2019, I didn’t choose words. I had attached to the idea that choosing words would invite in hard lessons, and my spirit was exhausted. I now know that the lessons don’t have to be hard, but I’m still glad I gave myself rest. In retrospect, that’s exactly what my words could have been.
In 2020, I chose two words for the first time. Write and Connect. My cup felt full enough to do so, and they’re what felt right.
I’ll share my 2021 words at the end of the show.
Now, you’re up. Here’s what I suggest to choose your word for the year.
Most of this comes down to observing and reflecting. There’s no need to force it. The right word will come to you. Whether you’re more driven by emotion and intuition, like me, or more driven by logic and reason like a few of you I’ve heard from, the word that makes sense will come.
I usually start this ruminating process in late September or October, but I rarely choose my word for sure until December. Notice what comes up and what keeps coming up. Take walks. Work out. Meditate. Spend time outside. Write down thoughts.
Write about what themes have been popping up in your life lately – is there anything in particular you’ve been avoiding, not giving enough attention to? Is there a common thread among your personal relationships or professional work that may be worth working on? How do you want to show up in the world? What do you want to improve about your relationship with yourself? Who are you growing into being?
Be more concerned with what feels good, rather than what feels like you should choose it.
Be more concerned with what brings you joy and levity, rather than what feels dutiful.
More precise words work better, I think. When less fits under the umbrella, you can put more energy toward it. When you do those gut checks of, “does this thing serve my intention” damn near everything serves the intention of ‘happy’. Less serves the intention of ‘serenity.‘
I like having my word pretty locked in by the winter solstice – in the Northern hemisphere, the longest night of the year. It’s the night to reflect, and to sit with. The night to cozy up with your word, and consider its magic.
Once you have your word, put it all over the place. Write it down and stick it in your wallet. Write it on whiteboards in your office or on a note stuck to your fridge. Make it front and center on your vision board. Put it in your IG or Twitter bio. It’s up to you how private or how public you make your word – I haven’t found it to matter much either way. But make sure your mind and spirit is being constantly reminded of it.
The details are not your responsibility; they’ll show up as they need to. But the intention lies wholly on your shoulders. As you go about the new year, use your word as your gut check, as your accountability partner. Be open to saying no to the things that don’t serve it. Be open to saying hell yes to the things that come your way from it, even when they scare you.
If you’re wondering what your word could be, here are some ideas:
Hey there, my name is Udee. I have two words for 2021. The first one is flow. And the second one is refinement. So my intention for these words – flow and refinement – is to live 2021 in greater flow with my purpose, with my body, with my spirit, with my passions and refining on all the deep, deep lessons I’ve learned.
Hi, it’s Raya. My word for 2021 is renewal. I intend on bringing a renewed perspective on everything that I face in 2021.
Hey, it’s Desi. My word for 2021 is ease. My intention with this word is to release the belief that my desires have to come from struggle.
Hey guys, it is Eritrea Mussa Kahn. And my word for 2021 is focus. My intention for this word is for me to really concentrate on my goals and to really hit it home in 2021 and make it an awesome year. Really focus on the things that matter, focus on things that I care about and focus other things that I want to change.
Ramon, who was our very first podcast guest, also wrote in with this one. His word is grit. His intention for this word is to remind himself to face all the challenges and changes that this new year will bring with passion, perseverance, and positive energy. We’re sending him the same.
My words for 2021 are divine feminine. I know that’s two words. I know I tend to go for one word. Just consider divine feminine as a little combo. Divine feminine is about who I am becoming. To me, divine feminine embodies the person who knows herself, who stands up for herself, is fierce and furious when she needs to be, but also invites in softness, care, and comfort. She allows people to take care of her while holding the world on her shoulders with ease. Someone who embodies the divine feminine to me, embodies someone who’s able to take care of themselves fully, who constantly makes sure her cup is full, who is warm and welcoming to those around her, and shows up as divinely herself in all of the spaces she walks into. I’m so looking forward to growing more into the person, I am meant to be through these words and through their intention.
Once you figure out your word, I want to hear it.
About 5 years ago, people started sending me their words, and it’s one of my favorite things of my year. That so many of you associate choosing your word with me. I hope you continue doing it. It makes my heart happy.
I want to extend a sincere thank you to all of you who have listened throughout season 1. It’s been such a joy to bring you these stories, and I look forward to doing it again for season 2 in 2021.
A big thank you to Lionel T. Djaowe for creating this music just for the show. I appreciate you. And a big thank you to you, dear listener, for showing up.
I wish you the absolute best for your new year.