The Power of One (Word)

Friends had been telling me how great it was for years. They would choose one word at the beginning of each year, which would serve as a kind of guide and focus for their efforts and journey throughout that coming year. It would remind them where they wanted to focus their energies when the rumble and fog of life made it easy to forget. I thought it was a good idea, but I hadn’t quite made it to the point of sitting down and going through the process of discerning a word I would truly take seriously for myself.

Until this year, that is.

Though I was slow to the ‘one word for the year’ concept, having now decided to implement it, I can see why it is so powerful.

It’s a modern-day touchstone.

In ancient times, a touchstone was a small, hard piece of stone tablet, against which metals could be struck to gauge their value. The strength of the touchstone was a way to measure the strength of the new substance.

In the same way, as we face different opportunities, challenges and decisions throughout the year, we can metaphorically throw them up against our One Word and see what happens.

Are they inconsistent? Weak? Powerful? Aligned?

I started mulling on my word for 2016 over the Christmas season, and then, using this excellent 2016 planner from psychologist Alison Hill, I contextualised that word within my journey through 2015 and my goals for 2016. Having still only had a fortnight or so living with my word, I am already impressed with the power of that single reference point.


Have you been thinking of identifying a word for the year? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:


Will it relate primarily to one key area of your life you want to focus on, like your relationships or career? Or will it reflect where you are going as a whole person? For example, perhaps you really feel that this a year to lean into building relationships, and what you feel to focus on is ‘connecting’. Or perhaps you feel that across all areas of your life, you need to ‘simplify’. 


It may be drawn largely out of your journey to date in 2015 and prior years, and what you feel is the next organic phase of that journey. Or it may more specifically relate to your concrete goals for 2016. For example, perhaps you have increasingly grown and developed in a certain skill or confidence, and this is the year that is internalised as ‘ownership’. Or perhaps you have identified certain ambitious goals in your work life and you know that this is the year you need to be willing to ‘stretch’. 


You may want your word be quite aligned and connected with other elements of your life – your partner or family’s goals and plans for the year, or the major phases of the journey you have been on as a person. Or, you may simply want to identify a theme or focus you choose, independent of other factors, to make your own. 


Identifying a word for the year is not an especially difficult process, but it does seem to be quite a powerful one. Is it something you’d like to try?