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 Focus Word!

I find it helps me to choose a word to give me an over-arching focus for the new year. For many people, the Focus 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 Focus Word for the year is so compelling because it takes the “should” out of our wish for personal and professional development. Our Focus Word serves as a gentle (but powerful!) reminder, rather than a drill sergeant barking orders at us.

I’ve been following this Focus Word theme for years now.

I’ve been following this Focus 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 the 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” cyclist, 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.
  • In 2015, my word was Adventure. My husband finished his 3-year veterinary residency and we spent a month in beautiful Italy. What an adventure indeed!!
  • In 2016, my word was Savor. It was a great reminder to slow down and enjoy life more. I renewed my life-long hobbies of reading and writing. I read 84 books that year and started writing creatively again.
  • In 2017, I chose Creativity and loved it! I started writing my first novel, attended some amazing writer’s conferences, and brought a creative flair to everything I did, personally and professionally.
  • In 2018, I chose the word Embrace. I embraced my favorite hobbies such as reading, writing, and cycling, my health, my marriage, my business, and yes, even embraced my age (I turned 50 last January … yikes! how did that happen?!).

For 2019, my Focus Word is Dedicate. I plan to Dedicate myself to using what I already own, enjoying what I already have, focusing on the hobbies I already love, nurturing the relationships I already am in, and giving my all to my existing business and professional projects. The focus is more about enjoying the old than bringing in the new. And that feels just right this year.

When I posted on social media about this Focus Word approach, I got a huge response to my appeal for people to share their Focus Word of the new year. People’s comments were very inspiring and thought-provoking. Interestingly, people often share that they experience 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. And by the way, the Focus Word approach 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 Focus Word approach, you will. But many of us don’t need another to-do list. We need a focus, a rallying cry, a mantra, an affirmation, a reminder. Your Focus 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 Focus Word for 2019? I’d love to hear it. Please send me an email or even better, share in the comments section below 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 .

2 Responses to “Ditch the New Year’s Resolutions: Choose a Focus Word to Guide You in the New Year”

  1. Julie Bestry

    I’ve used four different coaching tools this year to try to find the word that works for me, and am still unsure. The year I chose “resilience,” I found that I kept encountering things from which I had to bounce back; this made me avoid “abundance” because, hey, bad things can be abundant, too. I’ve gone in circles, but keep coming back to a simple word that is resonating, even though it’s not usually my kind of word: BLOOM.

    • Lisa Montanaro

      That’s fascinating Julie! Almost like you are worried that your word may show up in negative ways and not just positive ones. Well, I think you are safe with BLOOM. Unless maybe you get a lot of weeds in your garden. Ha ha! I can see Bloom being not your kind of word in some ways, but if it is calling you, I think it’s what you should go with. Bloom in everything you do!! Looking forward to watching your journey.


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