Not a big fan of new year's resolutions? Same here! So ditch the resolutions and instead choose a word for the year. A word, or phrase, that acts as a guide for the actions you take throughout the year in order to achieve your goals for your business and your life. Consider it your mantra.
Learn when and how to choose your word for the year, what to do if a single word feels too limiting, and most importantly, how to make your word more impactful for your business.
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How to Choose Your Word of the Year
When you choose your word of the year, my advice is to Keep it Super Simple (KISS)! I know some people who choose a word for their business, a word for their personal life, a word for family, etc.
I love the quote "How you do one thing is how you do everything" and believe that there is one word or one phrase that represents EVERYTHING for the year. Don't over-complicate it by choosing different words for different scenarios. So how do you choose?
3 Tips to Choose Your Word of the Year (WOTY)
1. Review the Results of Your Retrospectives
You will usually see themes emerge that will give you ideas for potential words or phrases. If you have no idea what I am talking about when I say retrospective, think of it as a regular review of the things that are working well in your business and the things that aren't and can be improved upon.
(On a side note, I HIGHLY recommend you incorporate retrospectives into your business as part of your recurring planning activities - but that is a post for another day.)
2. Use the Imagination Technique
This is a powerful tool to use anytime you feel stuck, not just when choosing your word of the year. So, what is the imagination technique? It is imagining your business or your life at a point in time in the future and noting what is different.
You KNOW where you want to take your business. You might not have all the details worked out yet - because that is all part of the entrepreneurial journey - but you generally know what would make you feel like you've achieved success. So imagine that point in time in the future and describe what you see. What is different from today? What are some of the BIG things you can do in the next year to get there? Not the little day-to-day actions, but the big overarching things like "increase brand awareness and grow audience". Now think about what needs to happen in order to do those big things. Do you need to stop playing safe and take more risks? Be more open to change? Start collaborating with complimentary businesses? More often than not, you'll find that it is mindset related.
3. Brainstorm then Select
Using the results of your retrospectives and imagination exercise as a starting point, brainstorm ideas for words or phrases. Write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how wacky or weird. If you find yourself stuck, I created a list of more than 100 ideas to get your creativity going that you can access inside our private Facebook Group under the Guides tab.
Next you'll want to narrow down the list by thinking about which choices are the most relevant and impactful RIGHT NOW for the year ahead. The hard part is that you have to choose just one word or phrase, but don't worry about perfection. You can always change it later if you need to.
Using the examples above, potential words could be Collaboration or Growth. Potential phrases could be Embrace Change or Take Risks.
My Top Ones from Prior Years
Whatever It Takes
This one is fairly self explanatory and was a great choice when I was first launching my jewelry business, Criscara. As you probably know, launching a brand new business can be a wild ride. Super exciting AND... super overwhelming. It was truly a year of doing whatever it takes to get the business launched and certainly extended into my personal life as well.
Do Less with More
For those of you who ever worked a corporate job, or who have corporate clients, you are probably VERY familiar with the "Do more with less" directive that is given every year. Less people and less money combined with higher expectations to do more, more, more. I chose to focus on the exact opposite. Doing less "stuff" with more focus! It was hugely impactful and one of our best years yet! And has become one of the guiding principles for my business.
My Word (Phrase) for This Year
Why, you might be wondering? Because I know I am going to have to step out of my comfort zone often this year, try new things I would normally avoid (like getting on video - shudder!), and get comfortable with good being good enough in order to get fast feedback. I know I need a mindset of "fuck it, I am just going to do it or go for it" in order to achieve the outcomes I am looking to achieve this year.
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How to Make Your Word of the Year More Impactful
As you know, I am all about optimization. If you are going to take the time to do something, you should do it right and make sure it has the impact you want. That applies to EVERYTHING you do, including choosing your word of the year.
Here are 3 simple yet highly impactful tips to optimize your word of the year
1. Make your word actionable
Let's say the word you picked for the year is BOLD. A few of my clients recently chose this as their WOTY so my next question to them was, why did you choose that word? Followed by, in what ways do you feel you need to be bold? We then worked together to come up with actionable statements using their word to make it real. I recommend 3 - 5. For example:
Make bold decisions.
Take bold actions.
If you're into affirmations you could change that to:
I am bold.
I make bold decisions.
I take bold actions.
I'm sure you could think of many other actionable statements you could add. For one of the fashion designers I am coaching, we added the statement Create bold designs to her list. After receiving criticism that her recent designs lost their edge, she chose BOLD to remind herself to stop playing it safe and use BOLD fabrics and cuts in the design of her new collections.
Adding actionable statements takes a word that holds importance to you and makes it MUCH MORE MEANINGFUL. You can easily incorporate into your planning activities and validate that you are making progress when you use action statements.
2. Choose a phrase rather than a single word
Sometimes a phrase can say it better than a single word, so don't feel limited to using only one word.
You may have noticed that my words of the year were actually phrases. When I first started choosing words of the year more than a decade ago, I started with single words, choosing things like success, growth, and focus, to name a few. Over time, I stopped using words and began using phrases instead. It's really a personal preference - it's not that one is better than the other. I personally find a phrase like Whatever It Takes to be much more impactful than a single word like Growth - choose whichever feels more impactful for you.
3. Make your word or phrase visible everywhere
Make your word or phrase visible! Bonus points if you make it sexy and turn it into a piece of art, print it on a mug, paint it on your office wall, calligraphy it into your planner or journal, or better yet - order a custom journal with it printed on the front. We love Zazzle for creating one-off custom products, like the mug below (not an affiliate link). Whatever you choose, make sure it is something you see every single day to remind yourself of your mantra for the year.
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How to Use Your WOTY To Achieve Results
Once you have chosen your phrase, or your word with accompanying actionable statements, and you have made it visible in your workspace, what do you do with it? Integrate it into your planning activities. This is something I do as a regular part of planning with my coaching clients and within my own businesses. We include it in the strategic roadmap for the year, and in our quarterly objectives. I recommend you do the same for your business. Here are a couple ways you can integrate it.
1. As you plan out each quarter, look at the objectives you and committing to and confirm they align with your WOTY. As you create your 2-week action plans - i.e. sprints - all throughout the quarter, do the same.
2. When you complete a project or activity, confirm it aligned with your WOTD. If it didn't, should it have? This is a great thing to do as part of the regular Retrospectives mentioned above. In the example of the fashion designer who chose Create bold designs as one of her action statements, she and her team can easily see if her new collection designs fit that criteria or if she still has room to grow.
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When to Choose (or Change) Your Word
Any. damn. time.
There is no rule that says choosing a word of the year can only be done at the beginning of a new year. If the year is underway and you don't have one - choose one now.
If the word you chose is no longer relevant or meaningful in the way you thought it would be, CHANGE it.
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I see a lot of people randomly pick a word of the year because it seems like "the thing to do" on social media. Then, they never give it much thought again until the year is over. There is no value add in that activity. If you are going to pick a word of the year, invest the time to choose something meaningful and actionable! I hope the tips in this post help you to do just that, and to leverage your WOTY to achieve REAL RESULTS in your business this year.
So... I've told you mine. I'm dying to know yours!
What did you choose for your word or phrase of the year, and why did you choose it?
Please share in the comments below and let's support each other! XX
by Crista Grasso
Crista Grasso is the go-to strategic planning expert for leading global businesses and online entrepreneurs when they want to scale. Known as the "Business Optimizer", Crista has the ability to quickly cut through noise and focus on optimizing the core things that will make the biggest impact to scale a business simply and sustainably. She specializes in helping businesses gain clarity on the most important things that will drive maximum value for their clients and maximum profits for their business. She is the creator of the Lean Out Method, 90 Day Lean Out Planner, and host of the Lean Out Your Business Podcast. She is also the founder and CVO of the Profitable Planner Co and Criscara Jewelry.