Have you heard of this trend of creating a “word of the year?” Some people might dismiss it as woo-woo bullshit, but you know that words have power, and confidence can come from power, so why wouldn’t you want some of that for yourself?
Pick up the free workbook for creating your own power word, or theme for the year, and settle in for this process. I promise, it doesn’t hurt, but you might be surprised by what you get out of it in the end.
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In this episode
- Download the free Word of the Year workbook
- Episode 3 – Getting to Your Happy Place
- Wednesday on Netflix
- The Wednesday Dance
- Word Hippo online thesaurus
- Episode 6 – Lies We Tell About Ourselves
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[00:00] Paulette: Buen día y welcome to the Maker Muse Podcast, the place where child free Spanglish speaking, mujeres fuertes are inspired to find their confidence, su confianza, through creativity. I’m Paulette Erato the Maker Muse.
[00:18] Hey, mi amigue, the podcast is still on hiatus, but this is a timely topic, so I’m dropping in with some never before heard content.
[00:26] Actually, that’s a lie. I’ve done this topic as a live training, but that was a few years ago, so I’m reviving it for this year because I think we can all benefit from it. So welcome to the easy and gentle way to create a power word or a word of the year. Some people make New Year’s resolutions and you can do that too.
[00:42] I’ve even done a few TikToks about it lately. They aren’t mutually exclusive. You can do both a power word or a word of the year and New Year’s resolutions. Yeah, that’s great. So to help you in this process, I have a short little workbook that you can pick up for free from a link in the show notes. It has the whole process, plus some examples of words you might find helpful. And did I mention it’s free?
[01:05] So there are some simple, not rules, but guidelines for doing this process. One, your word doesn’t even have to be in English or whatever your native language is because words are just sounds. So if it sounds good to you, then it’s all good. Two, choosing your word doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it forever. You can change your word.
[01:24] Three, similarly, if you’ve already had one before and you want to reuse it again, that’s fine. Recycle your word. And four, have fun. So go get yourself a drink. Snuggle up with a notebook or the workbook, and let’s jump in. Actually, before we do that, I do wanna focus in on one thing.
[01:42] Choosing a word of the year is not a prison sentence. You aren’t shackled to your word just because you like it today. If tomorrow you change your mind, that’s okay. No one is gonna take you to word jail. You are allowed to change your mind. This decision is not a life sentence. That’s why I call it a gentle process. And there’s another reason I waited three weeks into the year to release this episode.
[02:07] Sometimes you need to live in the new year for a little bit before your word even makes sense. I’ll tell you right now as I’m recording this, I still haven’t fully settled on my word of the year, and that’s okay. Maybe I’ll have it by the end of this episode. Maybe I won’t. We’ll see. So what the hell is a word of the year?
[02:24] What’s this power word? You know how I’ve talked about having a hype song or a playlist you listen to whenever you need a boost of confidence? If not, go back and listen to episode three about getting in your happy place. I’ll leave you a link in the show notes. So the point of a hype song. Actually, have you ever watched wrestling like WWE?
[02:44] When a wrestler walks out to the ring, they usually have a song playing. That’s their walk on music, their theme song. Or watched a sporting event where the team’s about to come out of the locker room. There’s always this high energy song that plays for them. It’s their theme song. That’s what a word of the year is.
[03:01] It’s a theme for your year. So how do you go about picking a word of the year, this power word this theme? I’ve included a cheat sheet or an overview of this process in the workbook broken down into a few steps. One, reflect on the past year. Two, visualize the coming year. Three, brainstorm through some words, and I gave you some examples of that.
[03:25] Four, narrow the options to see any common themes or ideas. Five, test it out. See how it sounds and how it feels to say it out loud. Six. Choose the word, try it on and see if it’s the right. And finally use the word for a bit to make sure it’s like the right pair of shoes. I’ll explain that in a little bit.
[03:44] That whole thing might sound like a lot, but I promise you it’s not hard. It’s actually pretty fun. So if you want to pause here and go get your copy of the workbook, that’s a good idea. Make yourself your favorite beverage while you’re at it. Get comfy so you can dive right into the process. You ready?
[04:01] All right, let’s do this. So let’s start with a little reflection. Take a couple of minutes right now to contemplate where you’ve been this last year. How did last year play out? And then where do you want this year to go? Here are some questions to consider. Where did last year take you? How did last year surprise you?
[04:21] What did you expect? And did any of that actually happen? What about anything unexpected? And if you had a word of the year last year, did it serve you? There are no right or wrong answers here. It’s really just about what sensations do these questions percolate up inside you. Last year when I did this workshop, my friend Elise shared that her word of the year had been joy.
[04:44] Unfortunately, she had a really difficult year because her mom passed away in the middle of it, and that was really hard for her. Dealing with death and grief is one of the most exhausting and grueling things that a human being can actually live through. Her word joy served to anchor her in the feelings and the sensations and the emotions that come for her with that word.
[05:07] And she said it helped a little bit in her healing process, so I’m glad she had that for herself. And this is why I say there’s no right or wrong answers to these questions. Because while joy meant something very specific to Elise, it may not mean the same thing to you. And so you would have a different word.
[05:26] After we reflect, we visualize. Once you finish reflecting back on the last year, let’s look forward into this year. Visualize and imagine the future. Think about what you want out of the coming year. None of us can predict the future, right? But if you could craft your ideal year, what would that look like?
[05:46] What would get you excited? What do you wanna see? What do you wanna do? Who do you wanna meet? What do you want to accomplish? And what do you want to leave behind? What are you not bringing with you into this year? This is important because shedding some of those layers is necessary. You aren’t the same person you were a year ago.
[06:07] It’s like an animal, molting, like a snake leaving their skin behind. Or a crab that’s outgrown its current exoskeleton. So it moves on to a nice bigger house. If there’s anything you’re uneasy or unsure about this coming year, what would make you feel better about it? How do you want this year to serve you?
[06:27] How’s it gonna make you feel? And what are you leaving in last year so it doesn’t bother you anymore this year? What’s staying in your old crab house? Last year, I had a participant say they wanted to let go of unease in the new year. That’s a great example because unease and indecision, feeling uncomfortable in your environment, that takes a toll on your central nervous system.
[06:52] And it takes away from being healthy and you want to feel healthy. You want to feel at ease. And you want your central nervous system to be working for you, not constantly fired up in that fight or flight response because that can overwhelm you too and deplete your defenses.
[07:09] Unease can lead to disease and we definitely don’t want. So imagine what you want out of this year and what you’re leaving behind in last year, cuz it doesn’t suit you anymore. And get excited about the possibilities for what’s next. Alright, those first two steps took a lot of mental processing. So if you wanna take a break right now, get up and stretch and maybe jump around a little bit.
[07:30] You kind of want to short circuit your brain a little bit and wake it up. So even if all you do right now is chair dance, you know where you stay seated in your chair, but move your arms and legs around, that’s. But you could also do the Wednesday Addams dance. If you don’t know what that is, I’ll leave you a link in the show notes.
[07:47] If you haven’t seen it Wednesday is a Netflix revival of the old Addams family story, and the main character is played by Latina Jenna Ortega. Who like me, has both Mexican and Boricua blood. Yay.
[07:59] Okay, so did you give your brain a break? Then it’s time to move on to brainstorming. Now’s the time to just throw stuff out there and see what sticks and what feels good.
[08:09] If you’re using the workbook you see I included something like four pages worth of examples of strong and powerful words. It includes both action words and just feeling or descriptive words, and that’s something to note. Your word doesn’t have to be a verb. It doesn’t have to be something you’re going to do.
[08:26] Doesn’t have to be an action word. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember, this is merely a theme for the year, not a command. It’s not, you must do this. No, that’s not what this is about. So start pulling together some words that describe what you imagined in the last step. What is this year gonna be about?
[08:44] What words portray or represent that to you? You don’t have to make decisions yet. Just add any words that look or sound good with that in mind. Here, I’ll throw a few examples out from the list. Believe, design, flourish, mindful, radiate, satisfy, pioneer, serenity, transition. Maybe this is a transition year. ¿Quien sabe?
[09:09] Maybe for this year you want stillness or wisdom or wealth. Don’t be ashamed to want something. No, there’s no room for shame or judgment in this exercise. This is just about trying things on. It’s like shopping for shoes, which most of us love to do. It’s not like shopping for jeans cuz jeans shopping is no fun.
[09:29] But shopping for shoes, yeah, that’s a hell of a lot more fun. And we have to try them all on cuz some look really pretty. But you put your feet in them and they hurt and you’re like, I’m not walking three steps and these, no matter how pretty they are. So you’re in the process of picking out some shoes right now and you have unlimited time and the sales clerk is gonna bring you every single shoe in your size until you find it.
[09:48] So keep doing this part until you have a really great selection of words, like at least 10. Because in the next step, you’re gonna start looking at similarities in your choices. If you need to pause here for a bit, go for it.
[10:00] So now we’re moving on to narrowing. Because you’ve done some brainstorming, now here’s the part where you start looking for themes.
[10:07] If you have a lot of words that mean similar things, start putting them into these little buckets. In the workbook, I gave you three large areas to write these down, but you’re not limited to only three. You can have more or you might only have two. That’s okay. Remember, there’s no wrong answers here. See which of your words you can group together.
[10:25] Look for a common theme, some common patterns. Maybe it’s not so much similar meanings, but maybe even similar sounds. I’m big on how words sound. If you’re an auditory learner, this might strike a chord with you too. I need to say the words so I can see how they sound to my ear, but also how they feel in my mouth.
[10:44] This is why grouping words by sounds might be helpful. You know, there’s a reason why the word fuck has more impact than the word fudge. That harsh K at the end sounds really pointed and aggressive, and maybe that’s what you want in your words. Words like accelerate, conquer, create, or commit achieve that. Or maybe you want softer syllables.
[11:05] Words with soft S sounds like soothing or centered. Even words like flow or enthrall and even seek, which still has that hard K at the end, have a softer sound. So play around with these words. How does saying them make you feel? Some words might conjure up negative feelings, and that’s good to note. Words have power, so some might make you feel sad or uncomfortable, or even give you a stomach ache.
[11:30] Pay attention to that because that’s your body giving you signals that you probably don’t want to use those words. This is also where we start eliminating words that aren’t feeling right. If you have a few leftover words that aren’t part of any groups, maybe they’re not the right ones, you get to decide. This can take a little bit of time, so don’t feel like you have to get it right this second.
[11:49] In fact, if you’re feeling certain words but they don’t feel quite right, then maybe now’s the time to bust out at thesaurus or use an online tool like Word Hippo. I love that site, and I’ll leave you a link in the show notes for it. The next step is testing it out, and this is where you start taking those words you feel the most strongly about and scoring them from one to 10, 10 being the highest.
[12:09] And this may be the time to reflect back on areas of your life that you want to see improvement in, or you wanna see some continued growth. And think about these words in terms of how they might fit into your life. Like if you wanna have a more stable situation or you wanna have a stronger family situation, or you’re very content with your work situation and you wanna continue in that vein.
[12:28] How would this word help that? Score the words around those situations. Again, I always fall back on the sounds. Does this sound good? To me, that is super important because I’m gonna be hearing this in my head and I’m gonna put it on a piece of paper and put it up around the house like wallpaper. In fact, it does actually become my desktop wallpaper for a while.
[12:47] And this is where things might get interesting. You might have gone into this feeling very strongly about a certain word. But then scoring it lower than you expected. You know, you can feel very strongly wedded to something and then realize, you know what? That’s not actually it. It’s kind of like how we grew up thinking we’re either left brain or right brain, and then later in life we were like, oh wait, that’s bullshit.
[13:08] I get to be both if I want to. And that’s just letting go of stories. These quote-unquote lies we tell about ourselves. Check out episode six for more on that. Letting go of these ideas. We’ve clung so tightly to that maybe they even become part of our identity and realize, no, no, that’s not who I am anymore. And that’s growth!
[13:27] It’s healthy and it’s very good for you, even though sometimes when it’s happening, it’s not so much fun. So as you’re working through these words and sounding them out, you’re kind of trying them on for size. Again, it’s that shoe analogy.
[13:40] They might look nice, but do I wanna stand in them for several hours at a wedding? Can I walk in them? Will they pinch my toes? Do I want more of a steel toe boot over a stiletto? That’s what we’re figuring out here. And maybe go back to dancing a little in your chair and see how this word feels if you dance with it. Do any of them make your feet hurt? Maybe they’re not the right shoes or the word for this year then.
[14:02] I know this sounds silly, but think about how little time you spend paying attention to the sensations in your body. You live up in your head a lot and kind of neglect the signals that your body is sending. Like how often do you ignore the sensation of having to pee and just hold it until you do one last thing?
[14:20] Or ignore that you’re hungry and keep plowing on through a project? If you’re honest, it’s a lot. We’re taught at a young age to hold it, and we’ve carried that into adulthood. And a lot of us still aren’t used to putting our own needs first. So we’ve gotten used to ignoring them and the sensations that come from them.
[14:38] And that can screw up your central nervous system too. If it’s sending you messages and you’re just la-di-da, ignoring the call waiting, then it’s getting annoyed and maybe even a little confused. So I’m telling you to pay attention to that now. Take your time with this because it might not come quickly. You might have to sleep on it.
[14:55] So here we are, after you’ve taken a nap or had a good night’s rest, you’re ready to make a decision. You’ve narrowed the list down significantly and figured out whether you’re choosing a steel toe or a stiletto or even a chunky wedge, no importa. But what if there’s still a few contenders?
[15:11] That’s actually a good thing. Here’s where you can have a little fun. Maybe two words are what you want this year. No one is saying you can’t have two. And if that’s the case, cool. You’re done. My husband and I chose two words for this last year, and as the year went by, we ended up using one more than the other, but it was still fun to have two.
[15:28] But if you wanna narrow it down a little bit more, think about how you could combine the two words. Create what’s called a portmanteau or a compound word like brunch is a combo of breakfast and lunch. Another tactic you can take is finding a third word that encompasses both of these two words into a new word. Or is there a phrase that embraces the full meaning of what you want?
[15:50] Like if your choices are between self-care and letting go, maybe the French phrase “c’est la vie” is what you want. Remember, your word doesn’t have to be in your primary language. Because words are just sounds put together in complicated ways. So it doesn’t matter what language you’re speaking, as long as it resonates with you.
[16:09] And finally, the last step to determining your word is to put it to use. This is when you take that pair of shoes you’ve chosen, you put them on, and you go for a walk outside. Do they fit? Are they gonna look good with the rest of your outfits? Are you gonna build your outfits around them? Is it already part of your existing vocabulary?
[16:26] Is this something that you just use naturally and it’s become such a strong influence on how you speak that it’s now your theme? Or is it brand new? Contemplate how you use this because using the word is important. There’s no point in going through this entire exercise if you’re just gonna throw it away. And also this helps you determine if maybe you outgrow the word.
[16:46] Maybe you need a new pair of shoes next month or next season, or in the middle of the year, but maybe you don’t. I mentioned how last year my husband and I had two words. They were similar but different. The words were play and adventure. Basically we just wanted to go out and have fun. Because you know, we’d been locked up for a couple years, right?
[17:03] Well play kind of fell off to the wayside after a while, but adventure, that word stayed strong. I’ve been talking about how this word is a theme, right? It’s kind of like a guidepost or a flashing billboard that’s like, “Hey, remember me? I’m your theme.” So when you’re stuck on a decision or need to shift a perspective, you can anchor back into your theme and remember what you want out of this year.
[17:25] The word adventure really helped out when we went on our vacation to Spain. We were there to see my niece, but of course also to eat and drink and enjoy the scenery. But the travel agency we worked with kept canceling stuff on us. Luckily never the hotels! But it was pissing us off and no one wants to spend their vacation in a shitty mood.
[17:44] So one of us would always pull out the theme and remind us: hey we’re on an adventure! And that perspective shift really helped get us back to just having fun and making the most out of what we had. After all, we were really into the food and the wine, even if we couldn’t get into the damn Sagrada Familia. Then there was a year, my word was focus.
[18:06] That was a rough year. I traveled a lot for work, but I was feeling really scatterbrained all the time. And it was hard balancing my job, you know, the daily stuff I had to get done because there’s only so much work you can do on an airplane. Traveling is exhausting and still having to do things like month end budgets and manage people, and all this other crap, man, that shit was wearing me down.
[18:27] So my word of the year was focus, and that’s when I learned techniques to focus. I used time blocking techniques and these other productivity hacks that I learned, and I finally got it together. And I credit my word and the strength that I felt behind it and the need for it with helping me get through that. So that was a good year for the word.
[18:47] And that mis amigues, is how you come up with your word or words. To recap, you start with reflecting on last year, imagining what you want out of this year, going through some options, narrowing them down, testing them out to see how they feel and how they sound, then you choose it and then you use it.
[19:05] If you have any questions about this process, feel free to email me or reach out to me on Instagram. The links are always in the show notes. And if you wanna share your power word with me, I’d really love to hear it. So hit me up. And when I come up with my word, I’ll be sure to share it too. So stay tuned, and that’s a burrito!
[19:23] Wanna talk about this week’s episode? Feel free to DM me on Instagram. My info is always in the show notes. And if you’re looking to be a guest in the future for the Maker Muse Podcast, check out the guest form on my website at themakermuse.co. Yes, themakermuse.co. It’s also linked in the show notes.
[19:41] And hey, muchisimas gracias for listening to another episode of the Maker Muse Podcast. Are you subscribed? If not now would be a great time to do that.
[19:50] New episodes come out every Tuesday. I’m on Apple, on Spotify, wherever you listen. And then can I ask you a favor? Could you please tell all of your friends and family about it? ¿Sus amigues, su familia? Because if you love it, they probably will too. And I’d really appreciate it if you could rate and review it wherever you’re listening right now. ¡Hasta la proxima!