A Writer’s Life: Resolved — Ban New Year’s Resolutions

I failed at New Year’s Resolutions.

For years I prioritized my dos and don’ts for forward motion in the new year. I was eager. Determined.

And I always lost my meticulously prioritized list by mid-February.


Now I am all about one word.


The Why of One Word

I’m repeating myself for those of you who have read my other blog posts about my now-seven year commitment to selecting one word for each new year. Pardon the re-run. I want others to discover the benefits of concentrating on a single word for 12 months — or as a friend pointed out, the 366 days comprising 2012.

The How of One Word

I start mulling over my word for the next year in early fall, usually around September. It’s woven into my faith journey. My prayer time and significant Scripture verses play a vital role in directing me to my word for the new year.

I know some of you reading this would say faith isn’t part of your life. At all.

Can we pause for a moment, sit on the opposite sides of the supposed chasm that separates us? What I’d like to whisper across that great divide is this: I respect where you are. I’m not shoving anything at you.

Your “how” will be different from my “how.” Consider the circumstances of the past year. Can you distill down to one word the forward motion you’d like to experience in 2012?

The What of One Word

In previous years, my words were:

  • 2006: gratitude (a gratitude journal revolutionized my glass-half-empty attitude)
  • 2007: simplify (severe illness morphed this word into survival)
  • 2008: content (being content with what I had — and yes, I bought a lot less)
  • 2009 & 2010: forgiveness (had a lot to learn & unlearn)
  • 2011: hope (choosing hope no matter the depth of my heartache)
  • 2012: trust
My words are examples to consider, not a mandatory list to choose from. If you remember nothing else from this post remember this:
Life is complicated enough. We’re writers. We deal with deadlines and word counts and reviews and real life people and imaginary ones (and both are frustrating.) The New Year’s Resolutions habit/guilt trip/expectation is another unneeded complication.
Think like a journalist. Or an editor. Or a novelist instructed to cut “x” number of words. Distill your dos and don’ts down to one word and then focus on that for the next 366 days. You’ll be changed when 2013 rolls around. Guaranteed — or your money back!
Are you ready to walk away from resolutions and focus on one word in 2012? Are you a one word believer? Have you already pick your 2012 word? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Post Author: Beth K. Vogt

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an air force physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. She’s discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” She writes contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily ever after than the fairy tales tell us.

66 Replies to “A Writer’s Life: Resolved — Ban New Year’s Resolutions”

  1. Beth, I love this idea. I’m not a big one for New Year’s Resolutions. Most the time I find them vague and not well executed (at least on my end). I’m pondering one word for 2012……

    1. Hi, Melissa,
      I’m so glad you’re considering the one word option for 2012. Let me know if you choose a word, OK?

  2. One word. That’s tough, but I can see your point about achievable. My problem would be WHICH word.
    My NYR for 2012 was to read a book every 10 days. I’m going to have to reassess now.

    1. I think reading books in 2012 is an admirable goal.
      Your word could be “read.” Or “learn.”
      Or something like that.

  3. What a great idea, thanks so much for sharing! I’ll have to think on what one word I’d focus on.

    By the way, will you be at the Writing for the Soul Conference again this year? I was hoping to set up an appointment with you last year and never got the chance. I’d love to make your acquaintance this year!

    1. Hi, Lizzie,
      Let me know if you choose a word, OK? I’m glad you’re intrigued by the idea of one word for 2012.
      (Side note: While I’m still a consulting editor/writer with MOPS International, I no longer edit Connections. So no, I won’t be at WFTS in February. So sorry! But please connect with me over at my website/blog!)

  4. Hi Beth, Thank you for sharing this, it is thought provoking. However it has also touched a nerve and I’d really like to email you privately. Would that be okay?

  5. Powerful in its simplicity. Hard to escape the confrontation of that single word. But it’s a worthy struggle. My choice: one of two words that refuse to go away.
    Thanks, Beth, for this exhortation to honesty, to discipline, to perseverance.

    1. Good morning, Sam! (At least it’s very early morning where I am!)
      And yes, at times that one word and I do have a bit of confrontation as the year goes on. Excellent insight!
      But, as I say in the post, this commitment to one word has changed me in powerful ways.

      1. My word–FAITH. I run too much on emotion but FAITH perseveres. Our BSF study of Acts just completed a diversion over to Hebrews. Chapter 11 grabbed me by the nape of the neck … as it always seems to do. About time I take it to heart.
        To all of you, a blessed Christmas.

    1. Thanks for the additional questions, Beatrice. I ran up against a word limit on the blog post.
      How do I apply the one word? Hmmm. That depends. (I’m not really avoiding your question.)
      The year I focused on gratitude I kept a journal and wrote down on an almost daily basis what I was thankful for. And I posted a sign that I found that said “In all things give thanks” where I saw it multiple times a day.
      Doing something as simple as that reframed my thinking. And I began to choose gratefulness instead of whining–even whining about what happened in my writing life or my real life.
      The year(s) I chose forgiveness as my word, I ended up working with a counselor on some personal issues. And I wrote about some of the truths I learned — and some of those articles were published. Write what you know, right? And I journaled those two years. A lot. And I also realized some of my thinking about forgiveness was just WRONG.
      I’ll stop with those two examples … Hope this helps.
      Oh! One more thing: I always, always find a visual of some sort that reminds me of my word — a saying or a photograph … something.

  6. I’m in.


    I am terrible about pressing on, nose to the grindstone to complete the next task in the whirling process of the stuff that’s always on my plate. I often forget to stop and savor the moment, the beauty, the humor, the presence of God, the family, the conversation, the lyrics, the prose, the wagging dog. This is bad. And will become tragic since I have a daughter getting married in 2012 unless I jump off the hamster wheel and savor the remaining moments with her. It occured to me this week that instead of racing into town armed with a list of stuff I needed to get and do, one of them being to buy Christmas cards and hope there were some left we liked, I could invite my husband to come with me to select Christmas cards—listening to Christmas music and grabbing a coffee along the way and just savoring a relaxed moment together. Instead of the harried alternative. Yes, I could have *accomplished* much more of my to-do list with the time and gas. But my old brain is finally beginning to understand the value of things you can’t put on a to-do list. Savor the simple. (especially at Christmastime!!)

    1. Oh, Camille, I love the word “savor.” It’s such a rich word. And thinking of how it will influence your life for the 366 days of 2012 … a-ma-zing! I hope you keep a “SAVOR” journal!
      My daughter got married last year. You have much to savor, friend!

  7. I love this Beth! I’ve done something similar for the past two years on my blog. I give the past year a one-word theme. And then I try to predict or set my sights on giving the next word a theme.

    2009, my theme was Growth
    Tongue-in-cheek, I predicted that 2010’s theme would be Victory

    2010’s theme ended up being Surrender (how appropriate – hoped for victory, ended with surrender….I love how God works!)
    And I predicted that 2011’s theme would be Anticipation.

    So far, that’s been pretty darn accurate!

    I would love for 2012 to be filled with PEACE that surpasses understanding. That will be my goal.
    I’m thinking the theme though will be Change.

    Regardless, I’m excited to write my January post about it!

    1. Katie,
      Love the glimpse at how you live out the freedom of one word.
      And I look forward to reading all about it in 2012 over at your blog. (I mention one of your recent posts over at my blog today!)

  8. This is one incredibly idea. I never thought of it this way and yet you are so, so right!

    When I think about it, my New Year’s Resolutions all have one thing, one word, in common: Accountability. This is probably why your ideas clicked so quickly in my mind; I already had that single theme running through my resolutions. Merriam-Webster defines Accountability thus: “the quality or state of being accountable; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions” I’m going to define it as, “Doing the things I said I’d do when I’m supposed to do them.”

    Thank you!

    1. Accountability!
      Absolutely perfect, Kathrine!
      I’m thrilled this post distilled your resolutions down to one word.

  9. I appreciate this post. A single word can help clarify where we are, where we want to be. My word is release. Release the negatives, release the worries, release the doubts. What then? Fill. Fill the tank with the good stuff–joy, gratitude, trust. Here’s to a more positive 2012!

    1. Oooh … I love that word: Release. And I also love how you recognize that you are releasing things so that you can be filled with other (more positive) things.

  10. I love this idea since you posted it at MBT, I believe. My word is Strength. Strength physically and spiritually. I’d love to say I’m excited about it, but strength is my weakness! (physically, I do look forward to growing stronger spiritually) Thanks, Beth!

    1. Jessica,
      I understand not loving your word. There have been times I wanted to trade my word back for something easier, less daunting.
      But I’m always thankful I’ve stuck with the chosen word for the year, fears and all.

  11. Great idea, Beth. I really like the idea of one word for the year. I’ve had them in the past, but will have to give thought.to one for 2012. Thanks!

    1. Deborah (my writing friend with the name so close to mine!),
      I’d love to hear what words you’ve had in the past! And what one you choose for 2012!

  12. Beth, terrific post. This excites me.
    In two months my manuscript is due. A year later it will be a book. I am overwhelmed at each turn. When I wonder what to do about marketing, PR, writing, connecting, guest posts, etc.. When I say, “I can’t do all this. I’ll never get it figured out,” I’m going to use two words (unless someone can shorten it for me):

    “God can”

    1. Lucille,
      You’ve just challenged an editor (me) to condense two words down to one!
      Maybe: Enabled.
      (I mean that in a good way.)
      Or … hhhhm…. Sufficient.

      OK … thinking … thinking …

    1. Good morning, Cheryl,
      Be sure to let me know if you decide on a word for 2012!
      Maybe we’ll start a one word hashtag over on Twitter:

    1. Jodi,
      Glad you’re intrigued.
      I was when I first heard of the concept. I think I read about it in a Readers’ Digest magazine. Can’t remember.
      But choosing one word each year has been one of the best things I’ve ever done!

    1. Jillian,
      I know you’re a “one-worder!”
      And I love your word too.
      Well, actually, I don’t organize so well.
      I may have to put ORGANIZE on my potential word list.


  13. Once more I love your post & am grateful to you for the one word resolution. Hadn’t heard of that before you shared (personally) some time back and find it eloquent, useful. Thanks.

  14. I admit, I’m kind of a psycho about New Year’s resolutions — I love them. I typically make 6 or 7 each year…and I am fairly good about keeping them. But in recent years I’ve seen more and more about this one word approach, and it’s very appealing. I’m thinking about it for this year. I already know my word: surrender.

    Thanks for this nudge in the one-word direction!

    1. Brava, Michelle, for being able to keep your resolutions!
      And your one word for 2012: surrender … that’s a powerful word, isn’t it?
      Seems like a contradiction to think of surrender as being powerful, but it’s true.

  15. What a great idea! I have shunned New Year’s Resolutions for going on 15 years. They always became more depressing than motivating. I love the idea of one word. I’ll have to chew on that for awhile. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I agree — a long list of resolutions can be so discouraging. I hope you discover just the right word for 2012, Sandy!

  16. For 2012 it’s PERSEVERANCE. Many firsts await the new year – a traditionally published Bible study, among others, and the deadlines and marketing that go with it. Also, in the busyness of balancing work, writing, and faith life, I can’t forget to gather and laugh with friends. So, as I mentally map through 2012, I know I will need perseverance. I want to finish well. Not just finish. I want to finish still growing and maturing in my faith. Not having spiritual tempertantrums.
    “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3) Blessings!

    1. Donna,
      Sounds like you’ve not only chosen your word, you’ve also thought out what that word means!

  17. I love this. Last year was my first year to choose one word. It was “Assurance.” For 2012 it will be “Focus.” I want to slow down and focus on God and the tasks He has for me. I’m going to strive to replace my busyness with focus.

    1. Julie,
      I would love to hear more about how choosing the word “Assurance” changed you in 2011.
      And I am excited for you as you now turn your attention to the the word “Focus” for the 366 days of 2012!

      1. “I would love to hear more about how choosing the word “Assurance” changed you in 2011.” Where do I begin? 🙂 Sometimes I’m plagued with self-doubt and worry. This year has been about learning that my assurance comes from the Lord. Even when I don’t feel self-assured I can “rest assured” He is my hope, strength, and I have all the power at my fingertips through Him!

  18. This year was my first year to try the One Word idea. As I’ve looked at what’s going on in my life and considered changes I hope to see in myself. My word for 2012 is PASSION. Before I’ve already begun to discover that some things need to change within me before I can learn to live with genuine passion. Looking forward to the challenge. I think. 🙂

    1. I had the pleasure talking face-to-face with you about your 2012 word this morning. I’m still amazed at the thought of embracing the word “Passion” — and all that it means.
      So excited to watch this experience in your life.

  19. I was also intrigued by the one word concept to adopt for 2012. I am wavering between “write” and “diligence.” In the past two years I have began seriously writing poetry and now a fictional work. Diligence would encompass more than just my writing as many phases in my life need to be addressed. So may just go for “diligence” to encourage me to apply this word to all areas in daily living.

    1. I often find that I waver between two words. As a writer, the word “write” will always be part of my life, part of my focus. So I think choosing the word “diligence” is a wise choice. As you say, it applies to all areas of your life, including your writing.

  20. Thank you for the focused direction. I have never succeeded at NYRs. My word for the year has become obvious to me. It is just that, Word. Everything else in my life progresses in the right order when I am in the Word of God. The Word everyday. Thanks for a good “word!”

  21. I love this idea! I’ve been pondering my word for next year and I have realized it will be perserverance. No matter how crazy life gets I want to make sure I keep writing and reading the Word every day. Even if I fail, I need to remind myself to not give up and keep on going.

  22. I love your approach to the word perseverance, Sarah!
    It’s not failing to keep trying even if your don’t hit your mark every time. Keep at it — again and again!

  23. My Mom had the same resolutions every year – to have better diction and better posture. I would observe her as she worked on those things throughout the year; every time she sat up straighter in her chair, or paused before she spoke, I recognized what she was doing. So thank you, Beth, for offering a model of the ‘one word’ style of resolution making. I am thinking about ‘compassion’ as a word for the year.

  24. Been pondering this all afternoon and there have been a few words vying for contention. However, one that has its nose in front is “momentum.”
    Roll a marble down a hill and watch it gather speed. The problem is controlling the avalanche it creates. And that’s a good problem to have.
    Adam B @revhappiness

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