One word to define your year

Happy New Year, friends.

I’ve written about the new years and New Year’s resolutions before. I’ve written about how resolutions are one of my favorite annual pastimes, and how I spend a great deal of time designing mine. But—I’ve let it get out of hand.

Most sane and well-adjusted people you see on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve broadcasts report having a singular, simple-to-achieve resolution—Singer Ava Max said she was “cutting back on salami.” I wonder how she’s gonna pull that one off.

It’s not that simple for me. I create resolutions to cover every category of my life. Health. Diet. Finance. Posture. Breathing (through the nose—no exceptions) No stone goes unturned, no possible place for improvement unanalyzed. I see every new year as an opportunity to reshape the fabric of my entire life. And I’m deathly serious about it, every single time. Forget “exercise more” – it’s “I’m going to go from exercising maybe 30 days a year to 150.”

I keep doing this because resolutions are easy to make. They feel good to make. And making a vague promise to yourself to “do better” at some undefined point in the future, after (and never before) you eat all the potato chips in the house, is easy. It’s too easy. You get a little boost of “feel good” energy from just having the idea in the first place. It’s like telling someone you plan on running a marathon in six months. They’re likely to congratulate you, right then and there. You get a quick little burst of dopamine and, even a sense of achievement, just from saying it out loud.

It feels good, but it doesn’t affect change in your life.

So let’s make this year different—for reals this time. We’re not gonna make it different through trying harder or adding more resolutions to the list. We’re going in the opposite direction. Simplifying. Shortening. Focusing. What if I told you you only had one word to define the whole year?

One Word

open plan office noise

This year, consider setting a one word intention for the year. Consider it an overarching theme that encapsulates the mindset you want to maintain.

Maybe you’re fed up with procrastinating and want to finally pursue your dream. Maybe you’ve been pushing yourself too hard and need to reevaluate your priorities. Or maybe you have a more specific “shortcoming” you’d like to improve on, like connecting with other people or trying new things.

The beauty of this method is there are no metrics involved. No “10,000 jumping jacks in a year” or “read War & Peace cover to cover.” So in that way, technically, it’s not a goal.

But there’s still an intangible “accountability” aspect to it. This is a word that will be hard to forget once it sticks. And in December 2023, it will be hard not to reflect on your year and whether or not you lived up to your intention.

If you falter, don’t curse yourself for failing once and scuttling your chances at a perfect life. Where’s the logic in that?

Just remind yourself of your North Star. Focus. Imagine the better version of yourself you desire and decided you were ready to achieve.

Remember your word and continue on.

(I can’t take credit for this idea. The credit goes to online video creator Mattias Holmbom – see the video that inspired this article here.)

Let’s give it a try. Here are some examples that hopefully will inspire you to choose your word for 2023.


I feel like I’ve been in various stages of preparing, spinning wheels, trying new approaches, or trying to accomplish things and not quite accomplishing them—for years.

So, after what feels like a lifetime of preparation, my personal word this year is EXECUTION.

I’m being super simple with this. When I encounter a task I don’t want to do, I ask myself, “what year is it?”

“Oh, 2023? Guess I have to do it then.”

Because this year, for me, is all about actually, finally, really doing it. No matter what “it” happens to be.

If the year is 2023, I do it. Sometimes it’s the embarrassingly simple strategies that stick. I’m two-and-a-half days in so far, and it’s going well.


Effective meetings lead

Let’s say you want to improve the way you feel as you walk through the world—maybe you’d like to be calmer, or be a more active participant in your life—but you don’t know where to start.

Try a multi-faceted word like LISTEN. It’s wide enough to take on multiple meanings that could improve your life.

Instead of blasting pop music in your headphones, take one commute to listen to the birds chirping and the wind blowing through the trees.

Instead of nervously trying to think of a funny-yet-smart thing to say at a party, try to truly listen to what the person you’re talking to is saying.

Stimulate your mind by listening to inspiring podcasts or audiobooks. Try meditating with a guided meditation app like Headspace.

Or listen through a guided work session on the RescueTime Assistant—the flagship software that we make here at RescueTime. Now available on iOS and Android!


relaxing in a hammock

Mattias, the originator of this technique, began this exercise in 2022 and chose a word I hadn’t considered a possibility—REST.

Some of us worked ourselves extraordinarily hard in 2022. Some achieved a lot, and probably a lot more than they realized. Every year does not need to be about pushing, pushing, pushing.

If you truly feel like you’re spent, even after a holiday’s worth of resting, then consider making your word for 2023 something a bit more forgiving.

And if you feel like this is cheating at resolutions, it’s not. It’s exactly the opposite. I give you full license and permission to define your year by recovery and rejuvenation.

By the way, now that he’s rested, Mattias’s 2023 word is discipline. I thought this was a compelling choice—it wasn’t “super-hardcore-mega-effort”—rather, he was coming at things from a place of responsibility and stability. That’s real strength of resolve and motivation.

Stick to it

Deprioritize lead - crumbled paper by waste basket

Whatever your word is, you’ll be well served by maintaining your commitment to it longer than most people keep their resolutions. Let it stretch out and influence the way you filter your experiences and motivations this year. It’s not too complicated a philosophy to keep in your head, right? One word shouldn’t be too much trouble.

I suspect it will help you better than me and my 100-item list of “do healthy difficult things all the time” resolutions.

Best of luck, friend. Remember your word. We’ll see you back here soon.

If you have questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me directly at Or tweet me at! Every message gets a response.

Robin Copple

Robin Copple is a writer and editor from Los Angeles, California.


  1. Coincidentally, my intention for this new year resolve was to choose a theme or two rather than create any new resolutions. My new year’s themes include discipline, consistency, and progress.

  2. I heard about a word / theme / mantra for the year from “Self-Love Rainbow”
    My word for this year, after a lot of brainstorming, is “settle.” It’s got a personal and professional aspect. Personally, I’m trying to be settled as in calm and accepting, while professionally it’s more like ‘settle up’ to drive myself to *finish* those big and small ongoing or on-the-back-burner projects.

    1. Honored that I inspired an actual brainstorming session! And I ADORE the creativity of your word. Proud of you already ☺️

    2. Mine is “Submit”. Before anyone gets ideas, check “Better Ideas” (pun intended) on YT and watch “How to stop escaping in life”, that’s where I got the word from.

    3. Better Ideas is such a great resource! He’s really helped me refine my approach to all of this kind of stuff. And I like your word, too! Very creative.

  3. After some thinking about work, family & life, “Elevate” is mine.

    Elevate my thinking. Elevate the level I am executing on. Elevate my relationships. Elevate my sights.

    But also – Elevate my self-compassion. Elevate my empathy. Elevate my love for family and friends.

    1. Gosh I really like how it’s applicable in so many ways! The perfect thematic catch-all word for a year aimed towards improvement.

      I’d like to elevate my level of execution this year too 🙂

      Best of luck sir!

  4. I’ve being thinking of a New Year’s Resolution simple enough to stick to it, so this post was really what I needed 😌

    The word I choose is “Evolve”. I’m in a place where I think I need to make some changes in my life (professional and personally) to move forward. And as any evolution process, these changes are going to be slow and steady; which also reminds me to have faith and patience during the process.

    1. I really like all of these. I’ve chosen INTEGRITY for myself. I believe it will help maintain clarity and strength in fulfilling any goal big or small for the year ahead. Being true to ourselves about what we really want and who we are.

    2. What a beautiful word to remind you to keep your center in the face of any obstacle you face! I think you’re well-suited to achieve this year 🙂

    3. So happy this post found you when you needed it.

      And your word really spoke to me! A lot of us are in “level up” phases of our progressions. Important to remember the next rung on the ladder and that we’re more than capable of reaching for it.

      I wish you the best!

  5. Planning! If I take the time to make plans, then I find I’m a lot more likely to stick to all kinds of good habits!

    1. Planning is where it all starts! A good and thorough plan of attack is a powerful thing.

      Just be sure to jump from the planning stage to the executing stage when you’re ready. Or maybe even before you’re ready 😉

  6. Thank you for sharing this blog. This is awesome! We are in the mid-year, but I think it is not too late. I will share this with my family.

    1. Mid year is not too late! In fact, no time is too late! I wrote about that very topic here actually:

      Thanks for appreciating and sharing! Best of luck!

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