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Understanding your story in a word

August 1, 2023

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I don’t know when the “pick a word for the year” trend started, but it seemed kind of a silly one to me. How could someone possibly pick a word and know that it would be transformative and critical to their year? A year that has barely begun. 

Today I sit here swallowing my pride, fully confessing that I am now one of those people. In fact, I’m more than one of those people. I’m someone who encourages others to be that person too.


Words have power and are significant. We’ve known that since we were kids singing “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” and knowing full well that that was a lie. 

Words have power to uplift and empower, or tear down and destroy.

We see that in our everyday world with how writers use words to create stories that make us laugh, cry, and connect us with people across worlds and cultures.

We see that in the way cyberbullying exists and people who have never met another, can degrade someone with just their comments. 

The same can be said for the word(s) we pick for our year. They can hold immense power in the way we experience our year, see the themes of the year and understand the story of our year.

They could be the guideline for which we orient our year. 


When I pick a word(s) for a year, it’s not because I have seen all 365 days ahead of me and know that this word will be the theme of the year. It’s more that I pray it would be a theme of the year. 

And as I pray over the word and the year, I know that the way I see the word in the beginning of January might shift and change as the year progresses.


Last year (2022), my word was space. I was prayerful about having more space in my life to pursue the different creative endeavors I wanted to try. Space in our family and life schedules to breathe and move a little more slowly. Physical spaces of beauty and rest in our home. 

However, in early January 2022, I found myself with COVID in a foreign country, stuck in an AirBnB for the remainder of a just-begun trip, having to separate from my toddler and husband. This was not the space I had envisioned. And yet, it was the space I was given.

I wrestled throughout that week with why a word I felt so at peace with choosing was taking on a different meaning than I intended. I wrestled with not wanting the lesson it was going to teach me and only wanting the lesson I felt comfortable with leaning into.

As the week went on, I settled into an understanding that space was going to require more sacrifice and deeper unlearning of my own comforts and insecurities. I settled into an understanding that that early January lesson was a necessary one if I wanted to keep living into the word “space” for the rest of the year. 

The rest of 2022 held more lessons akin to the ones I thought I’d be learning when I picked “space” as my word. But the foundational lesson of “space” I learned overseas, helped me better receive the other lessons and gave me a broader perspective for where, in my own heart and being, I needed more space.

So maybe the word(s) we pick don’t always look the way we envision them to be. But it doesn’t make them any less a guide for our year and an understanding of our story.  

However, the word(s) only have the ability to be a guide, if we give them power to be.


Think of your phone that has completely run out of battery. It is perfectly useless until we take notice of it and plug it in.

Same with our word(s) we pick. Unless we take notice of our word(s) and check in with the word(s) we pick throughout the year, the word(s) have no power. They won’t serve as a guide because chances are, unless you’ve tattooed the word somewhere on your body or have a perfect photographic memory, you won’t remember your word come July. 

Not being able to remember your word(s) means that the word(s) picked doesn’t hold any power of being able to be a guide for the year. 

In order for a word to be a guide for the year, we have to periodically check in with the word we’ve picked. See how it is remaining the same in how we defined it in January or how it has shifted in meaning. If it has shifted, we can ask ourselves: why, how and what does that mean for my year and who I am and becoming.


If you picked a word for your year, now is the time to check in on it. How has that word remained true or changed in its meaning for how your year has gone? 

I’ll be honest and say that I completely forgot what my word was when I started writing this post, but I’m grateful that I took the moment to flip back to the early pages of when I wrote the word down. I can see how the word “release” has not shifted in its meaning, but deepened its meaning into my story over the years, not just this year. 

If you have a kindred planner, then you have preset space to write and reflect on this question at the end of July. If you don’t have a kindred planner, I would still encourage you to reflect on this question and journal in your own time and space.

Cheering you on in how your word(s) help you understand and tell your story.

With joy & gratitude,


PS: if you enjoy monthly reflection prompts like this one, check out our Simple Kindred Planner – completely undated so you can start at any time (even August). Or wait until October when our 2024 Kindred Planner launches – sign up for launch emails here

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