Around this time of year when we flip the calendar from one year to the next, most people make a long list of New Year’s Resolutions. It is a noble idea in theory, but often in practice, doesn’t amount to much. Resolutions often get cast aside and discarded, making their creators feel inadequate and unproductive.

So why not skip the New Year’s Resolutions altogether this time and opt for an alternative New Year’s ritual: the One-Word Theme!

I find it helps me to choose a word to give me an over-arching theme in the new year. For many people, the one word approach feels more manageable and powerful than a laundry list of New Year’s Resolutions which can often feel like another to-do list. One word is ideal. It gives you focus.

I believe that choosing a word for the year is so compelling because it takes the “should” out of our wish for personal and professional development. Our word serves as a gentle (but powerful!) reminder, rather than a drill sergeant barking orders at us.

carpe_diemI’ve been following this one word theme for years now.

  • In 2011, my word was Implement. Boy, did I implement that year as I changed my business brand and model, and went with my husband on 13 interviews around the U.S. to choose a place for him to do a residency and for us to relocate to from NY).
  • My word in 2012 was Change as we relocated across country from New York to California and completely changed our lives and I expanded my business.
  • In 2013, my word was Discover as I acclimated to living in Northern California and embraced our new life. I took Italian classes, became a “real” bicyclist, got back on stage with local theater groups, and more.
  • In 2014, my word was Presence as a reminder to live in the moment and savor all of the experiences personally and professionally that I was blessed to have in my life.

My word for 2015 is Adventure. It came to me the other day very easily when I started thinking about the year ahead. My husband finishes his 3-year veterinary residency and we will do some traveling in the United States and Europe, enjoying some long-awaited quality time together. We will also be researching and considering our options for the future in terms of where we will live next. My one word theme of Adventure will be both a comforting and powerful reminder to stay intellectually curious, seek out new adventures, try new experiences, shake up the status quo, live each moment to the fullest, and savor each drop of my life.

When I posted on social media about this one-word approach, I got a huge response to my appeal for people to share their word of the new year. People’s comments were very inspiring and thought-provoking. Interestingly, people often share that they experienced a little resistance to their word at first. Or were surprised at their word. Or hoped that something bigger or better had come to mind. Try not to resist the word that presents itself to you! The word you choose is usually the exact one that you need to be reminded of throughout the year.

life_is_too_shortAnd by the way, the one word theme is not a cop out! It doesn’t mean that you won’t accomplish anything or fail to take action. From what I have seen with the one-word theme, you will. But many of us don’t need another to-do list. We need a theme, a rallying cry, a mantra, an affirmation, a reminder. Your one word can serve all of those purposes and more if you give it some serious thought, choose wisely (or better yet, let your word choose you!), and then keep that word front and center in your mind, guiding your actions and behavior during the year.

So… what is your one word or theme for 2015? I’d love to hear it. Please send me an email or even better, share in the comments on my blog so others can be inspired too!

Happy New Year!

About Lisa Montanaro

Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and enjoy productive and profitable businesses. To receive her free Toolkit, Achieve Powerhouse Success with Purpose, Passion & Productivity, visit Lisa is the author of "The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life" published by Peter Pauper Press. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help you be purposeful, passionate and productive, contact Lisa at (530) 302-5306 or by e-mail at .

6 Responses to “An Alternative New Year’s Ritual – The One Word Theme”

  1. Alys Milner

    Lisa, what an extraordinary few years you’ve had. I’m happy to see you’ve gotten back into theater. I live in the Bay Area, studied theater at San Jose State, and worked locally at The Rep, West Valley College, SRT and a few others. What groups are you connected with? I’ll be we have a few theater folk in common.

  2. Lisa Montanaro

    Alys – Thanks for your comment! It has been an adventurous last few years. Probably why the word ADVENTURE came to me so easily as my word of the year for 2015.

    That is so cool that you are a theater person also! I have only done shows up in this area at the Woodland Opera House (Les Miserables) and Davis Musical Theater Company (Cabaret). Lovely little theater groups! We should get together next time I am in San Francisco and talk theater. 🙂

    Happy New Year! Looking forward to hearing how your year of CONNECTIONS goes (I know you chose that as your word of the year).

  3. Annette Torrey

    The one word theme has changed the way I approach things. Last year I listened to your goal setting webinar and chose my word: healing. I had just come off of a stressful two year project and was totally burned-out. I was also dealing with my mother’s decline from Alzheimer’s. I needed to heal physically, emotionally and spiritually.

    The one word reminded me to be gentle with myself when I couldn’t do all I wanted to do, and enabled me to choose activities that would help my process instead of hinder it. It was a transformative experience that let me get in touch with a deeper part of myself and discover that I want to go in new directions with my life.

    My word for 2015 is Bold. It is to remind me to step into this new direction I have chosen–-starting my own business-–without fear and to see myself in a new light:as capable and pioneering rather than risk-averse.

    I am even trying a word of the month to help me focus on getting healthier. Rather than try to tackle all my diet and fitness goals at one time (and fail yet again), I am choosing one each month with a key word. January is “hydrate” to remind me to drink more water.

    I’m also trying to figure out how not to lose what I gained from last year’s theme while pursuing this year’s theme. I will let you know at the end of the year how my two experiments go.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Lisa Montanaro

      Hi Annette – Thanks so much for your comment! I really appreciate you reaching out and letting me know how much the one word theme inspired you last year and this year. I particularly love that you took it and made it your own. The idea of drilling it down even further into a word of the month is spectacular! I can see doing that and having a word for personal and professional. For example, your word personally can be hydrate so that you remember to drink a lot which will improve your health and fitness. But maybe your word for your career is connection so that you reach out to a lot of people in your industry. Just an example.

      Thank you again for your comment. It’s so meaningful to know this resonated with you and is helping you so much!

  4. Miranda McLaughlin

    I have a sort of anti-word for the year: should. My resolution is to be aware of that word and pay attention to my and others’ pre-conceived notions of how things “should” be and where those ideas come from. One way I’m doing this is by trying to substitute other words when I have the urge to say “should.”

    • Lisa Montanaro

      Hi Miranda – I love your spin on my one word theme. Basically what you’re deciding is that you are going to take a word out of your vocabulary rather than adding a concept in. That’s powerful! And I can see it working. I decided to do that a few years ago when I decided to take out the word “busy” out of my vocabulary. I kept catching myself using it. I always tell my audiences that I want them to take the word “busy” out of their vocabulary also and people find it very difficult. It’s a good exercise. Let me know how you do with keeping the word “should” out of your vocabulary this year!


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