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Discovering Your Word of the Year for 2019

Dec 22, 2018

I’m a list writer now more than ever. Brain injury issues. Lists of groceries needed, lists of things to do, lists of workflows to document… But what you won’t find me writing a list of are new year’s resolutions. I used to write pages of ideas and hopes and plans. But now, I simply choose a word of the year, and that word changes everything.

Eight or nine years ago, I sat writing lists in a worn journal by kerosene lantern light as the last moments of the year slipped away into the African night. Lists of what I hoped the new year would bring, lists of things that needed to happen for our project, lists of things to remember, lists of resolutions I made.

By the time we reached the second week in January, my incredible new beginning was hopelessly behind and teetering on the edge of failure. The lists that made me feel productive at first became crumpled reminders of everything I had not gotten done, of how far away I was from where I wanted to be.

All that changed when I started noticing friends talking about nixing the resolutions and lists for choosing one very simple and intentional word for the year. Just one word. Setting a focus, declaring a theme, hanging on to a promise.

Holding on to one word really can change everything.

In 2016, my word was focus. In 2017, courageous. This year, openness.

I had no idea how profoundly needed my 2018 word would become. I literally held onto it like my life depended on it, and in some ways it did.

There are years that leave stretch marks on your soul. This year was most definitely one of them around here.


It is a risky, dangerous road. To live with a heart wide open to possibility. To live open to hope even in the face of loss. To refuse to settle for a heart shut away in the name of some semblance of safety.

What if beloved… What IF your deepest setback was simply the setup for your greatest comeback?

There are a Lot of Words Out There…

How on earth do we start to find the one word meant for this one moment? And then what do we do with this word once we discover it?

I hear ya. I was the pre-schooler who thought memorizing the big heavy adult dictionary was the best game ever. Ever.

I usually spend the quiet week between Christmas and New Years in a place of reflection. I look back over the year to engage with what it has to teach me. I don’t rush. I go slow with a hot cup of tea in surrounded by journals, notebooks, sketchbooks, calendars, post-it notes… you get the idea.

Sometimes we have to slow enough to see.

Then, I set a timer and write down literally every word that comes to mind. I don’t edit while I scribble. It all spills out on the page. When my words or time runs out (whichever happens first), I put the paper away and let it rest.

Creativity research has shown our brains need downtime to process the information we interact with every day. I’m looking at you and me both friend with our calendars overflowing crowding every waking moment (and some sleeping ones too). Letting our minds wander while we are doing chores, allowing ourselves to daydream or stare out a window gives our brains the space to form new associations. Hello, creativity. It’s why some of our best ideas find us in the shower.

I come back to my word throwdown the next day and pick the top three that stand out to me. It’s a gut sense thing. Then I dig into Websters and research them. By the time I’m finished, I have always found a standout choice that resonates.

I go into a bit more detail in my very first YouTube video on my very first actual YouTube channel, Illustrated Business™. {I’m just a tad excited. It only took 346 tries to get it on camera.} One of my 2019 goals is to create a new video mini-lesson for y’all each week. So make sure you subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss the party.

Using Your Word: Surround Yourself with Reminders

One of my favorite things I did with Openness was to order a custom hand-stamped leather keychain from friends of mine at


Their work is gorgeous and it meant the world to me to have a tangible word to hold on to in the middle of the crazy this year. There were days I gripped that leather stamped deep with promise like it was a lifeline in a storm. (This mention isn’t sponsored in any way. I’m just sharing because that’s just what friends do.)

Using Your Word: Start a Dedicated Sketchbook

Start a journal where you can sketch and collect and interact and engage with your word and the journey it takes you on. Capturing lessons learned, goals reached, struggles embraced is one way to sky-rocket your growth on a daily basis.

To help get you jumpstarted, I put together a free workbook that will take you step-by-step through the basic process I do each year to find and embrace my word for the year. Nab it below before you leave. And I’d L-O-V-E to hear your word for 2019. Let me know in the comments so I can cheer you on.

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Guess what?  This is just the beginning.  I'm in the middle of writing & compiling & creating a whole resource library you can peruse for FREE.  My gift to you.  It is just getting started, but we are going to grow it together.  Your story matters because YOU matter friend.  So glad you are here.


Jama pants, fuzzy slippers, loud music & outside voices are totally acceptable

Running after what sets your soul on fire doesn't mean you have to run solo.

Brave Soul, You don't have to Do This alone.  i'm cheering you on.


Running after what sets your soul on fire doesn't have to be a lonely journey.

Brave Soul, You don't have to Do This alone.  i'm cheering you on.