Word of the Year for 2011

By Katie, 5:34 am

Yesterday I looked back on 2010, noting the achievements I reached, the challenges I faced, and the lessons I learned. Today I want to turn my gaze forward.

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve made them before, on a somewhat superficial level, but they never meant much. That’s because I associate an official Resolution with a whole lot of pressure. And I’m not one of those people who “works better under pressure.” I get all antsy and worked up and end up achieving very little.

So naturally I was very drawn to Christine Kane’s idea of trading in the traditional New Year’s Resolution and instead adopting a softer, more relaxed intention for the year ahead. That intention is encapsulated in a Word of the Year.  

A few days ago I settled on my Word of the Year, the word that embodies my intentions for the upcoming 365 days. My word is RELEASE.


The above photo is of a Chinese Finger Trap. Have you ever played with one of them? The more you pull and pull and pull to try to get your fingers out, the more trapped they become. You can only get out of it by releasing the tension, by letting go.

How’s that for a metaphor for life?

As funny as this may sound, I honestly believe that in terms of my hopes and dreams and goals for my life, I’ve simply been trying too hard. I make plans and lists and schedules. I plot it all out on a timeline or an Excel spreadsheet. I work and work and work, and then get frustrated when all that work isn’t working. And then I end up stuck.

So in 2011, I hope to be guided – gently and naturally – by the word RELEASE. I want to take a step back and trust my intuition even more than I do now. I want to lean into my gut, tune into my heart, and listen to my God who lives within me. I want to experience change without changing at all.

In Sarah McLachlan’s song “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy,” she sings these lyrics:

Peace in the struggle to find peace,
Comfort on the way to comfort

This is essentially what RELEASE means to me. It means letting go so that the journey can bring just as much joy and contentment and fulfillment as the destination; indeed, so that the journey can become the destination.

What word or phrase or idea embodies your intentions for 2011? What is your Word of the Year?

Be sure to check out this great Word of the Year post on Weightless!

47 Responses to “Word of the Year for 2011”

  1. Michelle says:

    Great post! My word of the year came from the front of the planner a friend gave me… INTENT. There’s a quote on the front that says “live with intent” and I think that’s what I’ll be doing. :)

  2. Ohhhh….I like that idea. It can encompass so many things to have a word of the year as an intention. Seems much more doable. And easier to remember!

    I would have to think on my word.

  3. heather says:

    I read about word for the year on another (amazing) blog yesterday – do you read ali edwards? If not, you should check her out!!

    I’ve adopted COMPASSION as my word for 2011.

  4. heather says:

    Here’s the link incase you’re interested: http://aliedwards.com/2010/12/one-little-word-2011.html

    • Katie says:

      I am not familiar with Ali Edwards but I just clicked on this link, and she’s amazing! I have a feeling I’m going to spend the next few hours browsing her stuff. ;)

      Love your word choice!

      • Katie says:

        Wow, I just checked out her site too and it’s really cool. There are so many words I could pick for the new year!

  5. I’d say my word for the year is Balance. I tend to bounce back and forth between extremes in most areas of my life — too much or too little food, too much or too little exercise, too much or too little work, too much or too little compassion for myself, and more.

    I notice that when I’m at either extreme, I’m not at my best in any way. It’s only when I’m balanced in the middle that I feel best, perform best, and make the most progress both personally and professionally. Balance is the theme of 2011.

    • Katie says:

      That’s a great theme! I too tend to live in the extremes, but find that life is much more fulfilling when I find the middle ground.

  6. Sarah says:

    Oooh fantastic post. Choosing a word for a year reminds me of Eat, Pray, Love when Liz Gilberts discusses how cities, people, etc have a word that sort of defines them. I might have to follow your lead and choose release as my word. As a (semi) control freak, I struggle with letting myself go but often I end up in a worse place than if I just surrendered myself to moment. So not only do I want to release myself from myself but also from the female image created by society and media.

    • Katie says:

      Oh I forgot about that part of Eat, Pray, Love, but that’s a great comparison!

  7. My word for 2011 is PRESENCE.

  8. Fanni says:

    I love this post Katie. Finding a meaningful word is much harder than make empty resolutions which I know all too well I won’t be keeping. My word for 2011 is DISCOVER. First of all I want to discover myself, my spirit, my mind. Since I’m new to the healthy living I’d like to discover new spices, interesting vegetables (I’m always too intimidated to try something new), new sports. I want to discover the deepness of my emotions toward God, my boyfriend, my family, my friends and of course me. Wow, this will be a fun year! :)

  9. i think mine is going to be discipline…especially in finances!!!

  10. Katie says:

    What a great word! I like the idea of an intention too. I love making a resolution because I always make it without pressure, just something I INTEND to improve on.

    I think my word for the new year is LOVE —> love for myself (my big goal to improve), learning to love and appreciate life again, and celebrating the love of my boyfriend who will be home from his deployment in a few days.

  11. This is such a good word to focus on next year! I actually work really well under pressure… but it’s not pretty. I think it’s because I’m a procrastinator naturally, as much as I like lists and schedules :)
    Good luck… and Happy New Year!!! :D

  12. Lisa says:

    Release is a good word. There are a lot of things I need to “let go” of in 2011.

  13. Dorry says:

    I love this! And release is such a powerful word for me. I’ll never forget the day a good friend emailed me and said, “Let go. Let God.” It’s so true. Letting go is so important. Letting go of control and of the way we think things “should” be in our lives. Hmmm – you’ve got me thinking. I’m definitely going to come up with a word for 2011! :)

  14. That’s a wonderful idea and a great word choice. I’m not sure yet what my word will be, but release is definitely a top contender. It’s more active than “calm” or “letting go,” perfect for those of us who spend too much time stressing. Thanks for giving me something to ponder. Release…

  15. I am really loving all the WORD posts that are appearing in the blogosphere. I think release is the perfect word for you! And the Chinese Finger Trap is such an excellent metaphor! Do you have one?? As you know, my word for 2011 is AWE!

  16. I’m totally inspired by Brene Brown’s work. My word for 2011 is wholehearted!

  17. Karen says:

    Great post Katie! I don’t really like the word resolution either…resolution has a negative connotation to me.

    I like the 2011 word for the year…my word for 2011 will be CONFIDENCE. The confidence to try new things, the confidence I will feel about myself, and the confidence I will help instill in others.

  18. [...] morning, Katie at Health for the Whole Self posted about a word for the coming year.  In the comments, I stated my word shall be [...]

  19. My 2011 word is “girlfriend.” 2010 was a really tough year for me, and I’ve made some important but painful life changes. So, I’ve decided to treat myself as I would a girlfriend who’s been through a really rough time, in terms of being loving, kind, and patient to “her.” For some reason, it’s easier for me to think about being kind to “her” than it is to think of being good to myself.

    • Katie says:

      Yes! I wrote a post a few months ago about treating ourselves the way we would a close friend. That’s such a great perspective! Congrats on making the changes you needed to make, and on your commitment to treating yourself with kindness.

  20. Liz says:

    “Dedication” is my word for the new year…to God, to myself, to my health, to my family, to my job, etc. I feel as if I need to renew and revive my dedication to key elements in my life that need my attention.
    Happy New Year!!

    • Katie says:

      Happy New Year, Liz! Love your idea of making 2011 a year of renewed dedication.

  21. Got chills reading this, Katie! Not sure what my word of the year will be, but I love the idea of seeing life as a process and trying to release some of my desire to control things. Happy New Year!

  22. [...] Katie chose release. [...]

  23. [...] perhaps? Overall, my goal has and continues to be to practice balance in life. And this post by Katie at Health for the Whole Self really resonated with my intentions for this year: I think I will adopt the word release for the [...]

  24. [...] beautiful, powerful, and uplifting ‘word-of-the-year’ blog posts have been shared by Katie (release), Christie (shine), Joy (flow), Melissa (authenticity and adventure), Margarita (feast), [...]

  25. I really think these word of the year posts are amazing and inspiring.

    My word would be truth–I need to stop living in denial and treat my body in a healthy way, with foods that nourish it, not eating foods my mind thinks it should eat. I also want to stop getting mired in gossip and other pettiness which takes me away from being the smart intelligent woman I know I am.

  26. Brenda says:

    Wonderful posts and comments too, first time I’ve really stopped to reflect on the passing of a year and the beginning of a new one. I feel quite good about 2010, a lot of wonderful things happened, and I feel I made a lot of good things happen too. For me, my word is “flow” – meaning to go with the flow of my life and my person and my world/family/work, etc. I realized in the last few years that when I work WITH who I am and what makes me happy and successful,rather than try to force it in some other direction, (or as you say, “work work work”) that better things happen, I am happier and healthier, and more successful all around. Another word for this might be “grain” – as in going with the grain of myself, of who I am, and the situations I am in.

    • Katie says:

      This is absolutely wonderful! I love the idea of working WITH myself instead of against myself, of going WITH the grain instead of against it. “Flow” is a beautiful word choice. Are you familiar with Joy Tanksley? She chose “flow” as well; I bet you’d love her stuff!

  27. [...] first read about this idea last week from Ashley at Nourishing the Soul and Katie at Health for the Whole Self.  Since then, I’ve seen many other bloggers who have posted about their “word of the year” [...]

  28. Herself says:

    My word of the year is BALANCE :)

    also – I adore your blog.

    • Katie says:

      I’m so glad you stopped by my blog! “Balance” is an awesome word choice!

  29. [...] this time of year, everyone’s talking about making changes – resolutions, intentions, words of the year, [...]

  30. kellyR says:

    got to think twice with your post

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