Instead of Resolutions, Just a Word

Right about this time last year, we self-care nerds were talking about permission to go small and not wrap the year up in a perfect bow. But we don’t need a special plague year to give us a reason to scale back. Any year is a good year not to do what we don’t need, love or want to do.

Yes, New Year’s resolutions, I’m looking at you. Too grand! And too granular, as a rule. This year instead of taking vows of action, I am once again taking a pledge of attention. (You know, where “pledge” has neither religious nor legal standing. It’s just between me and now you.)

What I try to do is remember one thing, and to bring my attention back to that one thing throughout the year. It’s my touchstone, and thus my Word of the Year, aka WOTY.

I haven’t see a formal poll, but in these times the WOTY looks about to overtake the New Year’s resolution. Not that a single word can wipe out the urge to effect spectacular reforms, but maybe the glow of the public glow-up is dimming these days.

If you haven’t yet tried pledging loyalty to a word, maybe 2022 is your year? Here are some possibilities:

    • Your WOTY doesn’t have to be a sole word, of course. You could choose a phrase to guide your life, like “What Would Joan Jett Do?” or “Hike Your Own Hike”
    • The WOTY could represent a yearlong project you dedicate yourself to, like “No New Clothes” or “365 Lunchtime Walks” or “A Sweater for Every Family Member”
    • It could be a deeply held value, like generosity, curiosity or love
    • Your WOTY could be a goal, like “Deadlift 200” (which, if you reach your goal, gives you the option of choosing a second WOTY during the year)

My writing mentor Holly Wren Spaulding, founder of Poetry Forge, calls the WOTY a “watchword.” It’s a synonym that really elevates the concept—as you would expect from a poet. Kind of like a tattoo with an expiration date. (Unless your WOTY is evergreen and has no expiration! In which case it might already be inked on your skin.) 

The watchword is a reminder of what’s important, only without the specter of failure that’s built into resolutions. If you choose one, you might like to post it about the house, or paste it in the front page of your desk diary, or do as reader Pennie Boyett has done, and illustrate your WOTY to hang on the wall.

Suitable for framing!

You could even embroider a sampler, although I hope we would mostly tend toward the “embrace idleness” side of things and less the “shun idleness” WOTYs of centuries past.

If you’ve used the WOTY before, I’d love to how it’s influenced your life. And of course I’m dying to know what your word or phrase is. Please pop it into the comments below! Maybe we’ll even see common themes. (Mine this year is “Current.”)

Happy watch-wording, knitters, and Happy New Year!

Embroidered Sampler, 1827, Barbara Landis, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gift of Mrs. Robert W. de Forest, 1933. Used with permission.
Brave” and “Focus”, Pennie Boyett. Used with permission of the artist.
Sampler, Naomi Rebekah Stevenson, 1822, Metropolitan Museum of Art, From the Collection of Mrs. Lathrop Colgate Harper, Bequest of Mabel Herbert Harper, 1957. Used with permission.

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