My Word of the Year

In prior years, I wrote resolutions, picked a motto and chose verbs for the year.

This year I’m picking a single word.

Picking a word of the year no doubt has been a long, noble tradition for some people. In a strange twist of fate, my word of the year came to me via a circuitous route.

My friend Justina throws a New Year’s Day party each year, and this year asked her guests to pick a word for the year. She got the idea from Christine Kane’s Word of the Year worksheet. Christine Kane in turn was inspired by Kathy LaMotte, who picks a word every year instead of a resolution. Kathy happens to be married to my long-time friend and mentor, Eric Jackson. And it was through discussions with Eric that I realized my own word for 2014.

What is the word?


Why pruning?

Because I need to focus.

So why not pick “focus” as the word?

Because trying to focus without first pruning is a losing battle—like the one fought by the dieter who keeps junk food in the pantry while telling himself to focus on the healthy food in the fridge.

Focus requires willpower. And willpower is limited.

I’ve been keeping too many side interests alive, while I have an important project to execute on. It’s not a matter of more focus, it’s a matter of cutting out the less important to make room for the more important. I need to prune.

Note that I didn’t choose cutting, trimming, or the ever useful no as my word of the year. The intention is not merely to do fewer things, but to eliminate strategically to allow for future growth.

In horticulture, pruning involves cutting back the dead and overgrown branches to allow a plant to grow and blossom.

I chose this word this year with the same intent. By cutting back my involvement, getting rid of unnecessary things and letting go of old projects, I aim to create the space, time and energy needed to achieve my goals.

I’m focusing by creating space. Space that my focus can grow into, rather than trying to squeeze focus out of other projects.

This year you’ll see me abandon or transition many existing projects, say no to new obligations, and get rid of old clothes to make room for new ones. And when the pruning is complete, an exciting new phase will begin in my life.

Now that you’ve heard mine, what is your Word of the Year?


  1. David Carr says:

    “GRATITUDE” is my word…

    Over and over again, I keep realizing the power of gratitude and how much more I need to practice this!

    It reduces suffering. It creates happiness. It cures depression. It helps overcome fear and worry.

    Reminded of one of my favorite books by Timothy Miller, How to Want What You Have. He’s a psychologist who discovered that if he could get his patients no matter what their mental affliction, to practice three things, he saw recovery…compassion, attention and gratitude.

    Gratitude is the basis of truly “seizing the day!”

  2. Pam says:

    Student is my word for the year. I’m moving to a new city, new community, eventually a new job and I want to become a good student of all the new’s in my life. I want to allow myself the time and opportunity to learn everything I can about my new space and seek opportunities that may come my way. Eventually, I hope to be an actual student going back to school.

  3. Dustin says:

    Love this. 2013 was a year of overwhelm for me, and pruning has been required big time for 2014 as I looked back with my annual review. I’ve already begun…

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