Are you thinking about choosing a word of the year?? Are you wondering WHY you should choose one little word to last you all year long? Well, today I want to take a little bit of time to share my word of the year story with you, and WHY picking a word is a non-negotiable for me. I’m telling you, this has been such a powerful practice in my life!

For several years now I have been sharing videos of myself hand-lettering words of the year. Friends and followers across the globe have sent me their words, and their word of the year stories, and in hearing the heart behind so many wonderful words, it has become super apparent to me exactly WHY a word of the year matters.

Here are some snapshots from my Handlettered Word of the Year Project:

Handlettered Word of The Year Project

Want to check out all of the words I’ve lettered? Check out the hashtag #handletteredword of the year, or head over to my Word of the Year printable downloads over in my Etsy shop!

Why Choose a Word of the Year?

I truly believe that choosing a word of the year can be one of the most powerful things you can do in terms of goal setting and personal growth.

Why resolutions don’t work for me:

Personally, I choose a word each year instead of setting new years resolutions. For me, resolutions always feel like a bit of a setup: something that I can either succeed at – or, more commonly, something I completely fail at! More times than not my resolutions would leave me feeling frustrated and disappointed in myself, and usually by mid-March!

The difference between a word of the year and a resolution:

Choosing a word for an entire year allows me to create space for life to be, well, LIFE! We all know that life doesn’t always go as planned, and often those life changes become huge roadblocks when it comes to our resolutions. When we get sick or injured, or our life circumstances change significantly it can be hard to keep plugging along on a goal we set months ago. And although I know that everything can be figured out – sometimes it is just so darn discouraging when our plans go awry!

A Word of the Year, however, has this way of following you, growing with you, and evolving with you. If you allow it to, a word of the year can make a real difference in your life!

What a Word of the Year Can Do:

I am in my 8th year of choosing a word of the year, and each of these words has been a dear companion to me. I stepped into brave new things because of my word, I found my career as a professional artist because of my word, I learned to really love who I am through my word of the year, I released false beliefs because of my word, I started taking time for myself because of my word…. the list goes on and on!

I am telling you, I have found more and more fulfillment in this life of mine THROUGH my words! Year after year this has been a process of growth and discovery that just keeps on giving.

My Personal Word of the Year Story:

Rather than speak in vague terms, about success and evolution and internal growth… I thought I would use this space to share my own word stories with you. Below you can read my full word of the year Journey (up until now – and I’ll be updating this year by year!) Below you can read ll about what each Word of the Year I have chosen meant to me.
My hope is that these stories give you a little glimpse into exactly how meaningful it can be to choose a word of the year. And PERHAPS even inspire you to begin your OWN word of the year journey this upcoming year!
My Words of the Year

2015 Word of the Year: Begin

Ironically, the beginning of my Word of the Year practice started with the actual word “begin” in 2015. When I was thinking through the process and considering where to start, I realized that what mattered most to me was to just get begin! I wanted to step into all of the things I’d been waiting to start for years. Little did I know it at the beginning of the year – but my year of “Begin” was actually going to be the beginning of SO MANY things. As I mentioned, 2015 was the beginning of picking words of the year. In 2015 I also started some art and design classes. I began doing illustration work for actual scrapbooking brands (thanks Becky Higgins/American Crafts!), and in 2015 I began working outside of the home for the first time in over a decade! Most importantly 2015 was the real beginning of building my courage and confidence in my abilities as an artist…  It started me on this path I am currently on, and I SO love where it’s led me. I learned to release self-doubt and to stop putting things off. In 2015 I started actually DOING the things I’d been dreaming of. Begin taught me that the first baby step is actually the most important thing. BEGIN launched me forward, into well, everything.

2016 Word of the Year: Bloom

I started 2016 feeling so much further along than I was the year before. Because I had already mustered up the courage to begin, in 2016 I was able to focus on growing all of the things I already had planted. I took art class, upon art class. I learned to really immerse myself in the process of growing my skill – and I relished watching my skills grow! I finally started learning to watercolor, I formed an art journaling habit, I started my first art journal – I simply let myself bloom into more and more of myself. It was a precious year of competence building, finding footing, and trusting myself as I watched my skills blossom. Once again the word bloom stuck with me, it gave me the permission I needed to really invest in myself: to purchase classes, to give myself the supplies I needed. Bloom helped me get stronger and more sure of myself. It was such a great year for growing my business, and my confidence… and the best part: Every time I started to question myself “should I do this… can I do this??” BLOOM reminded me that I am here to grow into exactly who I want to be. It was a beautiful thing!
Word of the Year Bloom

2017 Word of the Year: EMBRACE

In 2017 I didn’t have to choose my word because the word I needed simply found me. I found the #embrace campaign and the brilliant Taryn Brumfit. As soon as we rang in 2017, I knew that it was just time. Time to embrace who I am. I was ready to stop trying to be something I was not, both in my physical body and in the way I exist in the world. I read books like Love Warrior, and Eat Pray Love, I stopped my yo-yo dieting cycles and just let my poor body BE. Over and over and over I came back to this word. Through Embrace I learned to really appreciate who I am in an honest way. I can not even tell you how powerful it was to spend a full year focusing on just being ME. I learned to appreciate my body, my abilities, and even my flaws! I honestly break down in tears every time I talk about my year of Embrace – because this word truly changed my entire life. You can read my embrace post that I wrote mid-year 2017 if you would like to hear more… let me tell you, those things I learned and the peace I found in being my full self has only grown since! It was truly such a beautiful thing. Embracing was a gift I gave myself for sure, and a gift that changed how I felt about myself on a deep, meaningful, level that I still hold to every day!
Word of the Year Embrace

2018 Word of the Year: FEARLESS

2018, friends was the year for FEARLESS. Originally this word was born out of that bible verse that says “There is no Fear in love.” On the tail of serious optical upheaval and so much divisiveness in the world, I found myself SO challenged by that verse. I chose fearless because I wanted to choose love and Fearless truly shifted SO many things for me! It forced me to stop hiding behind “sweet” and to be more REAL, it gave me the motivation and courage to do really hard things, and to face some of those long-standing, limiting beliefs that were holding me back. Fearless spurred me on to a new level of success in my business. It has brought me closer to the people I love the most (because I learned not to hide behind my old ways of being). I had NO IDEA how much I was operating from a place of fear until I invited the word FEARLESS in, and WHEW it was intense! Fearless was a year of courage, boldness, and HOPE. I’m beyond proud of where fearless led me. Fearless is a word that I will come back to again and again: because any time I find myself having an intense reaction, being unkind or unfair or overly self-critical, I’ve learned to look for that hidden layer of fear – it is amazing how enlightening that one change in my life has been.
Word of the Year Fearless

2019 Word of the Year: CHOSEN

In 2019 I really struggled to choose my word, I kept circling between different options trying to find the perfect combo – but when I found Chosen I knew it was just right. Chosen was about remembering, that I have a calling and purpose AND that I have the ability to CHOOSE the course of my own life. It is because of Chosen that I took the brave step forward in my business and launched my signature workshop Fearless Art – my passion and my pride and joy! On days when I couldn’t decide what to say yes to and what to say no to, chosen reminded me that I get to chart my course, and on days when I felt distracted, chosen reminded me to keep choosing what moved me toward my goals. On the days when the big things I was dreaming up seemed way WAY bigger than little me, CHOSEN reminded me that I was created to do meaningful things! Chosen still reminds me, over and over, that I was created just as I am, to do and be exactly what I was meant to do and be.
Word of the Year Chosen

2020 Word of the Year: SURRENDER

2020 started out with my son in the hospital, and well… we all know what else 2020 had to bring! When I heard the word Surrender start whispering to me at the end of 2019, I was a little bit intimidated… Um, surrendering did not sound easy – and oh BOY, it sure was not! But I chose my 2020 word with intention, and I had NO idea what that year would have in store.  Because of the pandemic, I had to surrender expectations and disappointment – again, and again, and again. But my year of surrender was about so much more: Surrender taught me to trust, to be patient, and to be brave enough to accept the unknown. Surrender freed me from deep deep bitterness and hurt that I’d been previously unable to let go of. I let go of so much shame, so much pressure, so much anger; and I was able to replace those things with trust, patience, and a deep abiding love. When chaos and angst arise today, I can still hear the voice of surrender: She says, “Trust. Breathe. Let go.”
Word of the Year Surrender
2021 Word of the Year: RHYTHM

Rhythm is a word that I was kinda scared of when I first chose it at the beginning of 2021. I’m not all that hip, I’m DEFINITELY not great with structure and I felt pretty sure that Rhythm was going to be all about pushing this free spirit over here to get her act together. I thought I knew what rhythm was hoping to teach me, but it wasn’t long before she taught me to totally let that go. Month after month, week after week, day after day, minute by minute, Rhythm met me in every chaotic moment. She would say to me, “Shawna, listen to your very own heartbeat, trust your ebbs and flows.” Rhythm invited me to notice my own inner pace, to dance to the beat of my own drum… She spoke to me through my headphones, she danced with me as I filled the dishwasher, she nudged me to actually just have some FUN. Rhythm taught me that “a good flow” doesn’t mean I have to be like everyone else. Instead, she nudged me closer and closer and closer to finding a rhythm all my own. It is because of Rhythm that I realized I need to rest, it is because of Rhythm that I made more space to travel and enjoy and explore. Rhythm is like my bestie now, and not because she changed me – but because she loved me for exactly who I was.

Word of the Year Rhythm

2022 Word of the Year: POWERFUL

Oh my goodness, this year is my year of Powerful, and although it is nearing a close – I’m not quite sure I can yet articulate the way this word has held me and uplifted me, and shown me a deeper power inside of me than I have ever known.  I imagined a year of knocking things out, growing my business, and busting down walls… but in April of 2022 I was hit with a severe bipolar episode, and over the past year powerful has held my hand. Through inpatient hospitalization, an 8-month long sabbatical, and mental health utter chaos lasting all year long, powerful took on a different form. Instead of knocking down barriers, superhero style, Powerful has settled deep in my soul. I am learning who I am is so much more than what I do, or what I have to give. I am powerful because I AM. I see my own worth so differently now. I see my purpose in a whole new light. My power is ever-present. I don’t have to prove it. This year powerful didn’t want me to hurry up and get crap done… Powerful, ironically, has taught me to go slow.

Word of the Year Powerful

I’m sure I’ll be back to finish sharing about my year of Powerful when the year is fully done…

This is the Power of a Word of the Year!

I love looking back, I love seeing how far I’ve come. In 2015, I didn’t even know really what I wanted from my life, and gosh, today I feel like the world is my oyster, and I KNOW who I am… Every year is more powerful than the next, and when the time comes, I can’t wait to see what next year’s word will have in store!!
Do you have a word of the year this year?? Have you picked a word of the year yet?? If so I hope you will share your story with me in the comments below!
If you haven’t decided on your word yet, I do have some tips for you over on my Choosing Your Word post, or you can check out my Whole Hearted Words Book and/or online course!
Inside Whole Hearted Words
No matter how you go about choosing your word, I would venture to bet you already know it deep in your soul… The work of finding your word is more about uncovering than actually finding, and I will always encourage you to look for your word inside! ❤️

Now go for it! Choose your own word of the year!

Choosing a word of the year is SUCH a personal, meaningful, and impactful thing. The best words of the year aren’t the ones you get from a simple internet quiz or off of a list of words someone else put together for you. The most impactful words of the year are the ones that stick. Those special words can become your companion, and really truly GUIDE you towards a richer and more fulfilled life: those words have to come from WITHIN!
Until next time my friend!
<3 Shawna