If you’re like most people, each January goes something like this: You choose a problematic behavior that has plagued you for years and vow to reverse it. In fact, you can probably think of two or three undesirable habits—make that four or five.

Thus begins the litany of imperfections to be perfected—commonly known as New Year’s resolutions—all of which are typically off your radar by February.

“My One Word” is an experiment designed to move you beyond this cycle. The challenge is simple: Lose the long list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick one word.

This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus—just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future. 

Our resolutions seldom work because they are based on the type of person we’re tired of being rather than who we want to become. Plus, resolutions can be “broken,” leaving no room for the process of growth. 

What if our hopes for the year ahead centered instead on the transformation process?

It’s OK to want to be a better you, and the new year is a natural time to start. The question is how? 

My One Word replaces broken promises with a vision for real change. When you choose a single word, you have a clarity and focus. You are moving toward the future rather than swearing off the past. 

A Simple Process

So how do you go about picking a word? Here are a few steps to help you get started.

  • Step 1: Determine the kind of person you want to become.

Take some time and decide what kind of person you want to be at the end of this year. This goes beyond simply being healthier and wealthier. It must drive deep into your soul.

  • Step 2: Identify the characteristics of that person.

Get a picture of that person and then simply identify their major characteristics. Is that person gentle? Is that person generous? What are the qualities of the person you want to become?

  • Step 3: Once you have a list of the characteristics, pick a word. 

There might be 15 things you want to change, but you must resist the temptation to promise you will do them all. Instead, simply commit to one word.

This provides you with a lens to see the changes you need to make and a way to determine whether or not change is happening. 

Understand this process is hard, but staying focused on your word will help you struggle in the right direction.

Help Along the Way

Before you embark on this journey, a word of warning: Don’t be surprised if living out your “one word” feels unnatural and awkward at first. Remember, the reason you want to change is due to the fact this characteristic is not currently present in your day-to-day life.

Give it time and stay with it.


“My One Word,” by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen, is available for purchase at myoneword.org—where this content originated. It is reprinted with permission.