The Happiness Connection  

Choosing the right word

I’m pretty sure the universe has a sense of humour. I’m equally certain, it’s been laughing at me this year.

Rather than setting resolutions as I go into a new year, I like to choose a theme word. I picked spacious for 2020.

My thinking behind this was to create a year when time pressure was less evident. I wanted space to enjoy life and to live in the moment, rather than being ruled by a to-do list.

Instead of flying to Arizona in February, I decided to drive. It would give me more time to myself to enjoy an expansive experience. Fate had other ideas.

Only 10 days into the new year, I slipped on the ice while walking my dog. I broke my ankle and needed surgery to insert numerous screws and a metal plate.

To top it off, it wasn’t just any ankle; it was my right one. That meant I couldn’t drive. I had more time and space than I’d thought possible as I convalesced at home alone.

I thought maybe I had experienced all there was to experience with my chosen word for the year. But the universe wasn’t finished with me yet. It decided to provide me with even more spaciousness.

I’d postponed my road trip, but after spending so much time at home, I was eager to set off for an adventure. I had to wait six weeks after my surgery to start driving. I then gave myself three weeks to build my right foot stamina.

Just as I was packing my bags, COVID came to Canada. That marked the end of my adventure. It was time to experience the spaciousness of a lockdown and social distancing.

When I chose my word for 2020, I had no idea how it would show up. I’m not sure I have enough imagination to have predicted the way the year unfolded. Of course, it hasn’t been all bad.

I’ve had time to release my habitual need for a never-ending to-do list and discovered that time pressure doesn’t have to be part of my experience. I’ve also uncovered an artistic side that I didn’t know existed.

As the new year approaches, it’s time to choose a new word.

If picking a word for the year ahead isn’t something you’ve ever done, I’d highly recommend it.

It isn’t a magic trick. If you choose money as your word, that doesn’t mean you’ll become rich. Instead, you’re inviting experiences that involve money. That’s what you want to focus on during 2021.

You might learn about the value of money, change your attitude toward it, or decide it isn’t as important as you thought it was. There’s no predicting how any of your lessons will unfold.

Why choose a word for the year?

  • Rather than only having specific goals, a word gives you an umbrella that encompasses all the things you want to achieve.
  • Life happens. Things change. Your word will guide you regardless of your circumstances. If I’d decided to set a resolution to go to the gym regularly, that would have been broken ten days into the year.
  • A theme word can bridge rigid resolutions and desires or dreams that are only beginning to take shape.
  • Your word can help you make choices. I thought driving to Arizona would provide me with a more spacious experience than flying.

How to choose a word?

  • Think about the experiences you’d like to have in the coming year.
  • Brainstorm words that fit with your intention. Take a few days to do this.
  • Whittle your list down using your intuition. This is more about how a word feels than how much sense it makes.
  • Put your word somewhere you will see it regularly. My friend Myrna Parks had a sign made with my word on it. I have it hanging in my kitchen.


  • You can use any word. It can be a noun, verb, or adjective. There are no rules.
  • If you find a better word in the first few weeks of the year, feel free to change it, but draw a line at some point. Don’t continually hop from one word to another. Commit.
  • Every word has polarity. There is both a bright and a shadow side to every experience. You’re likely to face varying degrees of both. Savour them all. They have things to teach you about yourself.
  • Keep a journal. Pause regularly to reflect on how your word is showing up.
  • Remember, your word is for the year, not just for January.

I think my word for 2021 is going to be light. I want more experiences that are fun, and I want to move more easily.

The universe may have other ideas. Lightness may come from occurrences that I haven’t even considered and that I wouldn’t consciously choose.

Whatever word you pick, I wish you a year of peace, happiness, and a greater level of personal understanding.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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