53 – The Word of the Year: Setting Your Intentions for 2024

If you hate new year’s resolutions, or the idea of “new year, new me” then you might like a Word of the Year better.

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This episode guides you through setting an intention for your year ahead (as opposed to concrete SMART goals) via a seven-step method for finding the perfect word. It’s a unique approach that includes reflecting on the previous year, visualizing your aspirations for the year ahead, brainstorming words that resonate with you, and much more.

There’s no such thing as a wrong word, so you can’t fail at this like you might a resolution. Embrace your chosen word, as an intention, theme, guidepost, or mantra for the year. Discover how to pick a word that will set the tone for your best year yet.

If you want a copy of the workbook mentioned (including nearly 400 example words),  don’t forget to join the Substack community at this post.

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[00:00] Buen día, mi gente, and welcome to La Vida Más Chévere, the only Spanglish podcast for child free Latinas y Latines trying to dismantle the toxic cultural bullshit we all grew up with so that we can live our best lives instead. I’m your resident child free Latina and host, Paulette Erato. Happy New Year, mi gente.

[00:21] Right now, you’re probably inundated with “new year, new me” type of messages. People are making New Year’s resolutions. Or scoffing at the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Or they’re using smart goals. You might be one of those people and if you are, that’s okay. I used to make New Year’s resolutions, like full on SMART goals.

[00:42] For the last five years, I’ve been chasing a three plate deadlift, which fits every single part of the SMART framework. It’s specific, a 315 pound deadlift. Measurable by pounds. Achievable because last I checked I could lift 285 pounds. Relevant to me because the deadlift is my favorite lift. And time bound, I want to do it this year.

[01:08] And yet every year something gets in the way. Not that I’m making excuses, but you know, I get hurt and I can’t work out, work on that goal. Or there’s been a pandemic and the gyms, they just shut down for two years. Right now I don’t even have a lifting gym, so I’m getting a little antsy.

[01:27] Anyway, this episode isn’t about setting goals per se. The toxic cultural norm that we’re tackling today is the idea that you have to have your whole year planned out already. Nah. If you’re looking for a way to ease into 2024, can I interest you in a word of the year? In fact, if you have a New Year’s resolution too, you can still do this.

[01:49] You might’ve heard of the concept. It’s been done in Germany since the seventies and in the U. S. since the nineties. But what those groups do is they find a word that reflects the year that’s just passed. The Oxford Dictionary does this, Merriam Webster does this. But what we’re doing today is setting a theme for the year ahead.

[02:09] There’s a bunch of different ways to do this. My method is a simple seven steps. It’s super easy. I’m going to give you a quick overview of that process today. And, if you’re a Substack subscriber, you can get the word of the year workbook that walks you through all these steps, plus has nearly 400 examples of solid words.

[02:30] If you’re a paid Substack subscriber, I have a, what do you call it, a workshop or a masterclass available to you. If you’re listening to this and thinking, oh shit, when was that? Don’t worry, if you’ve missed it, you’re going to get a replay email in your inbox. You just have to be a paid subscriber.

[02:46] Becoming a Substack subscriber is free. And then there’s the paid subscription option, which is currently only five bucks a month. Or you can pay for the annual subscription and you get two months free. There’s always a link in the show notes to join Substack. Alright, let’s dive into this word of the year process.

[03:04] First, let’s take a very quick look at the seven steps. Step one is to reflect on the last year. Step two is to visualize or imagine what you want out of this coming year. Step three is to brainstorm. Step four is to narrow down the options. In step five, you’ll test out your word and you’ll see what I mean by that.

[03:22] Step six is about choosing the word, but we’re not done yet. Because in step seven, you’ll actually use the word. It seems silly, but some people completely forget that they chose a word. So that’s a good part of the exercise.

[03:35] Now, in the masterclass, I drill down into each step a little further and give you more examples of how this can play out for you. In this episode, I’m just going to walk through the steps pretty quickly.

[03:45] Sorry if you can hear my chair. I don’t have my regular desk chair and this one’s a little creaky.

[03:51] Anyway, let’s talk about what a word of the year is not. It is not a prison sentence. Just because you choose it today or over the next few days doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it forever. You can change your word.

[04:04] Which also means you can’t get it wrong. There’s no such thing as a wrong word. If you don’t end up liking what you choose, you get to pick something else that’ll fit better. Your word doesn’t have to be an action word. Maybe you prefer descriptive words, aka adjectives over verbs.

[04:23] My words for the last few years have run the gamut. I’ve used focus, create, renew, escalate, progress, and adventure. They’re a mix of nouns and verbs. In the example list inside the workbook, I don’t give you every single form of a word. Like the word love. You can change love to lovely, loving, loved, lover, and so on and so forth. So don’t think that your word has to be a certain form. It doesn’t.

[04:53] It also doesn’t even have to be in English. Words are just complicated sounds and how a word sounds when you say it, when you hear it, that’s important too. So maybe you’re looking for a word from sounds in a different language. I like to think of my year as a blank canvas and the word is the color family that I’m using to paint this story.

[05:16] What your word can be is a theme for the year, like I mentioned. Or a guidepost for your intentions, an anchor for your motivations, or even a mantra that could help you make decisions and clarify your options, or even shift your perspective. I’ll give you an example of that last one.

[05:35] The year that my husband and I went to Spain, our word was adventure. We shared that word. We had kind of a run of bad luck on the trip where all of our prepaid excursions were canceled, leaving us with a lot of free time, and a pissed off attitude. When it started getting us down, one of us would inevitably remember the word and remind the other one that we were on an adventure. And leaving room for the unexpected could pay off some interesting dividends.

[06:03] It helped us flip the perspective and have a good time anyway, regardless of what was going on. Because being on an adventure where anything can happen is a hell of a lot more fun than being on a trip where everything sucks. Don’t worry, we did get our money back. The point is, we still had fun. Alright, let’s get started picking our words.

[06:25] Step one is reflect. Look back on the last year to see where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. Contemplate the following questions. Where has this year taken you? How has this year surprised you? What did you expect to happen? What was something unexpected that happened? Did your current word of the year, if you had one, serve you?

[06:47] If you don’t have the workbook, which is again, is free, you can simply journal this or write it out on some paper. Whatever you choose, I do recommend committing it somewhere, whether in the digital workbook or in a journal. It’s going to make it easier to refer back to it in the coming steps. And once you’ve worked your way through these answers, let’s move on to step two.

[07:07] By the way, this can take a minute, so don’t just rush through it. Take your time. Step two is to visualize. Now it’s time to have fun daydreaming about the future. If you were to design your perfect year, here are some questions to ask yourself. What are you excited about? What do you want to see, to do, to accomplish, or to even let go of?

[07:30] Is there anything you’re feeling uneasy or unsure about? What would make you feel better about that? Now sit on this for a while too, I want you to let this marinate. This step and the last one, they, they take a little bit of reckoning and it might take a little bit out of you. Maybe you’re gonna need a nap here. Or just a nice cup of something warm like a hibiscus tea latte. I mean, I don’t know what you drink.

[07:54] Anyway, if you feel a little worn out after this step, take a break. Stand up, walk around, take a shower, do some jumping jacks, chair dance. Something that’s gonna get the blood moving. Then we can move on to step three.

[08:10] How about we all take a little break right now. Be right back in un momento. And we’re back.

[08:17] Step three is to brainstorm. Now it’s time to start the word search. Taking everything you mulled over in the first two steps, start conceiving some words that speak to what you want out of this year. Here are some questions to think about as you’re doing your brainstorming.

[08:34] What are some words that feel really good to you? Are they action words or feeling words? Do you need a thesaurus? I’ll have a few links in the show notes to some good word nerd websites like wordhippo and thesaurus.com if you get stuck. Think of this like shopping for shoes. Sometimes a pair of shoes looks really pretty on display, but when you put them on, they pinch like hell and there’s no way you’re going to wear that.

[08:58] Right now, you’re just trying on a bunch of shoes to see which ones fit best. Here’s the important part. Dump all the words out on paper. For visual and kinesthetic learners, this is important to see and write the words. For you auditory learners, your step’s coming up. Either way, do the brain dump. You’re gonna need it for the next step.

[09:19] Step four is narrow the options. As you dump everything out, you might start to see a common theme or a pattern in your words. These can be words that mean the same thing, but also sounds. Maybe you have a lot of soft S sounds, like shh, or process. Or harsh K sounds in your words, like screech, or fuck. Words are just complicated airflow, but some airflow is more pleasing than others.

[09:49] So look for the airflow that’s most pleasing to you. And then group your words together. Start with the words that seem similar and start putting them all into buckets. You might see some words that don’t fit at all and here’s where you can just get rid of them.

[10:04] Step five is the testing phase and this is for you auditory peeps because it’s important now to say these words out loud. You want to be able to see, and read, hear your word. Sometimes something might look good on paper, but sounds horrible when you try to say it. Like those shoes that look so pretty on display and just pinch the hell out of your feet when you try to put them on. Choose a few of your top contenders and start scoring them on a scale of one to ten.

[10:34] You can grade them however you want. Use whatever metrics you want, but pay attention to the ones that get the higher score. Now, step six is about finally picking your word. Take all your highest scored words from the last step and put your top three or four together and see which ones you’re leaning towards.

[10:52] Pay attention to how your body reacts when you see and say your words. Sometimes certain sounds can cause us anxiety, like nails on a chalkboard or the word moist makes some people cringe or cause their skin to crawl. Again, words are just sounds rearranged together, but if your favorite words actually make your skin crawl or your chest tighten or your stomach hurt, is it really the right word?

[11:18] Here’s where you want to go back to how you answered the questions in steps one and two. Which word or words best embody the year you said you wanted to have? You’re not planning out your year here, but you are giving it a guideline or a color palette, like I mentioned earlier. It’s not unusual for people to get stuck on two to three words at this point.

[11:39] Here’s when that dictionary or the thesaurus will come in handy. If you have a couple of words to choose from, is there a third word that encompasses the meaning of both? For example, what if you wanted a healthy but powerful year too? You can combine those two with the word robust. Or the word resilient. Or the word solid. Or you can simply just have two words.

[12:02] That’s okay. There was a year we did progress and adventure together. The goal was to have growth, but also have, fun! You can even combine your words to create a funny new word, like a portmanteau. Instead of just progress or adventure, sometimes we’d say pro venture. Who cares? This word is just for you.

[12:21] Finally, step seven is to use your word, or words. You don’t want to have done all of this work to forget your word. But first, congratulations on getting here. You have a word now, or words. You have your color palette for your blank canvas, your mantra, your guidepost for when stuff starts to veer off course.

[12:44] Now’s the time to examine your word. Is it already part of your vocabulary or is it a brand new word that you have to practice incorporating into your life? Going back to the shoe example, if these were shoes and you’re used to wearing flats and this looks more like a pair of high heels, then it might take some getting used to, some practice.

[13:03] That’s natural and it can happen with your word too. Think about how you’re going to use it. Is it going to become your computer wallpaper? Are you going to put it on your phone background? Will you use it as a cuss word when you’re having a bad day? All of that is valid, it’s your word, have fun with it!

[13:20] And that’s it, mis amigas! That’s how you create and use your word of the year. If you’re feeling like sharing, send me an email or DM me on Instagram with your word. And I’ll share mine with you too, because as of this recording, I haven’t quite landed on it. I have an idea, but it’s not fully locked in yet.

[13:39] Anyway, let me know what you choose. The links to contact me are always in the show notes. And that’s a burrito!

[13:46] Do you got something to say about this week’s episode? DM me on Instagram at Paulette Erato. And if you’d like to be a guest on La Vida Más Chévere, check out the guest form on my website at pauletteerato.com.

[13:58] All of these links are in the show notes. While you’re at it, can I ask you a favor? I’d really appreciate your helping spread awareness about the podcast, so could you please share it on your socials or even send it to a friend? New episodes come out every other Tuesday. You can enjoy them with tacos or burritos.

[14:15] Muchísimas gracias for your support, y hasta la próxima vez, cuídate bien.

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