4 min read

Why You Need an Intentional Word of the Year

Intentional: Done with purpose; deliberate
Why You Need an Intentional Word of the Year

Intentional: Done with purpose; deliberate

Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s taught us that life is short and unpredictable. We can take our lessons from 2020 and be intentional about how we want to approach the coming year.

What is an intentional word?

Choosing an intentional word, also known as a focus or power word, has become the new “Making a New Year’s Resolution.” Whereas New Year’s Resolutions have become synonymous with failures and broken promises, choosing an intentional word has become a guidepost that paves the path to achieving your goals.

It is a specific intention of what you want to encompass and embrace your year. It guides your thoughts, actions, and goals. It becomes the overarching theme of your year.

Choose Your Word

The act of choosing an intentional word for the year causes you to be more reflective and self-aware. What do you want to do in the coming year? How are you going to go about achieving it?

Jen Hatmaker has a section in her book Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire dedicated to “Who I Am.” I recommend reading all three chapters in this section as you reflect on who you are and what you need for this coming year.

Guiding Questions

Who are you?

What do you want to be?

How do you want people to view you?

What are you good at doing?

Spend a few minutes or 10 thinking and writing down everything that describes you.

Brain Dump

Then spend the next 10 minutes doing a brain dump of words that you want to embrace 2021. Write down everything. There are no wrong words.

Think about last year and what you want to change. Write them all down.

As you write these words, Hatmaker reminds us, “You deserve goodness. Full stop.” No holds barred, if anything was possible, what do you want out this coming year? Write it all down.

Need help?

Here are power words to think about: Inspiration, confidence, trust, delight, impact, replenish, self-care, transform, grace, faith, peace, calm, focus, connection, nourish, wellness, resilience.

Choosing my Word

As I was thinking about my intention for the coming year I’m torn between productive and self-care. Those are two very different words. Productive makes me think of kicking butt and getting things accomplished.

It’s been a very difficult year for my family. Not even counting the pandemic, I have been sick and in treatment most of 2020. Cancer is a brutal bitch.

I’m so frustrated with my fatigue and my lack of stamina. I am not the same person I was 12 months ago. I’m weaker, foggier, and more tired.

I so want to be more productive, but I’m afraid to make the intentional word because I don’t think my body will comply.

So I drift back to self-care. I know that if I take care of myself, there is a good chance that productivity will be a beautiful side effect of taking care of myself first.

Self-care makes me think of slowing down, the very opposite of being productive. It means taking care of myself by not rushing around, by not having to be superwoman or super mom or super wife. It means saying no to things instead of saying yes. It means putting my feet up and reading a book and sipping tea and observing the world around me.

But those are the very things I need to recharge my battery. Those little things actually help me become a better mom, wife, and friend. Because I’ve taken time refilled my cup, refilled my mental, emotional, and physical stores of energy, I am able to do more. I don’t burn out.

After 2020, this sounds like the year of self-care and healing. And just like that, I’ve chosen my intentional word for 2021. It’s going to be self-care.

What’s on Your List?

Now go back to your list. From your list, choose three words. Then spend time writing down 10 ways that you will integrate the words into your life. How will you use that word? Whichever word gets the most inspiration, is your set intention of the year.

Embrace it. Commit to it. Make it part of who you are and in all you do.

What Energizes You?

Just as I began thinking between productive and self-care. Productive didn’t energize me. It made me feel tired and already a failure because I know that my sick body will not comply if I try to push it to do more. But when I think of self-care, I lean into it more easily and ideas start coming to me about what that means and what it looks like.

Do the same. What words give you more energy? What is something you are willing to embrace? What is your intention this year? Mull it around. Talk with family and friends. Sometimes talking about it with someone else will help guide your decision.

Not a Resolution

Unlike resolutions, an intentional word becomes a part of your daily life. You address the neglected part of yourself and make it a priority. You commit to it.


Write down your intentional word wherever you’ll see it. Tape it to the bathroom mirror. Tape it to your laptop. Write it on the first page of your journal. Put it in a place where you will see it every day. Act upon it.

Narrow Your Focus and Live Intentionally

Choosing just one word instead of a litany of resolutions narrows our focus. It highlights what is important to us. We begin to live our life around that word. When we become intentional about how we live we naturally find more success. We meet our goals. We actively pursue the good things in our life. Our burdens seem lighter. We achieve more than we had hoped.

As we walk into 2021 and embrace what it has to offer, I wish you peace and light. May your intentional word of 2021 guide you into better things. May it comfort you, may it bring you peace, may it bring you joy, may it bring a sense of accomplishment.