Don’t stop at your first word.
Workshop the words that come to mind. Don’t stop with the word “happiness,” for example. Think about the times when you have felt your happiest. What were you doing? Who was with you? What did these experiences have in common? Instead of “happiness” you might discover a word that better reflects how you might achieve happiness — perhaps through friendship, dance, movement, collaboration, volunteering or kindness.
Think about decisions you might be making this year.
A good word is one that guides you when you’re making both small and big decisions. Should I spend my time on this? Try this new thing? Quit my job? Move to a new place? Buy this item? Spend time with this person? If your word is “fearless,” you may come up with different answers to those questions than if your word is “relax.”
Find inspiration in other people’s words.
Dr. McGonigal’s words for past years have included mentor, community, vitality and dance. This year her word is “create.”
“The past two years have felt like survival mode to me — always reacting and not feeling a lot of agency or control,” she said. “I want to focus on producing positive things through intentional effort, doing things that make a difference and that reflect who I am as a person.”
Mr. Milne’s past words include resilience, advocacy, environment, calm and listen. This year he has chosen the word refresh. He plans to refresh his mornings by not checking social media and by drinking herbal tea instead of coffee. At school, he will be switching up lessons and, in his free time, exploring new foods, books and experiences. “I’m excited to see where ‘refresh’ will take me,” he wrote.
My word this year is grow. I first thought of it this summer when I created baskets of plants to attract hummingbirds. I was surprised at how much joy and connection I felt tending to the plants and watching them bloom all summer. I remembered that as a child in a military family that moved every few years, I often reminded myself to “bloom where I was planted.”
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about the work of Carol Dweck, who coined the term “growth mind-set,” which is the belief that you can develop your innate talents and acquire new skills through hard work and input from others. That clinched it for me to choose “grow” as my word for 2022.