2017: Finding your “WORD” of the year


Many people are replacing New Years resolutions with what is termed a ‘word’ of the year, sometimes also described as ‘ goals with soul‘. This can also be viewed as a “theme” for your life, and can involve deep thinking about (and re-scoping) both your priorities and overall life narrative*.

As a HDR student, it can be a good idea to think about a theme word that might encapsulate your thesis focus for the year, semester or even month by month – so you might have one word for 2017 or a word a month.The “word of the year” approach can be quite empowering, and used properly, I believe it might help you prioritise activities and choices that propel (and sustain) momentum on your thesis.

I can hear you asking: how does that work and what word could I use?

Well, in the interests of transperancy, previous words of the year for me have been TIME, FOCUS (the meaning here is obvious: time to focus on my priorities and say no to distractions) and my word in 2017 is EXTREME – I have a few major deliverables due this year and things I want to achieve, so for me, 2017 is not going to pretend to be about balance but about EXTREME effort and outcomes (as well as fun, leisure & downtime)… hence, the picture below of me  doing a “plank punch” in the office on Day 2 back at work  (I feel this deserves some explanation: in a meeting with my Research Fellow, we had a major conceptual breakthrough – she punched the air in joy. I said: actually, last night at bootcamp we did “plank punches”. She was interested in how you did that.. one thing lead to another…).


Now that you know my word (with embarrassing photographic evidence!), please start thinking about your word: what resonates with you in 2017?

Could it be BALANCE, NOW, JOURNEY, OPEN, DISCOVERY, MOVE, LAUNCH or LEARN? Here are some other ideas – with rationales –  to get you started:
FLY (a PhD student picked this, as this year she will finish her thesis and do this)
BRAVE (this word captured the new research direction a colleague is taking)
LESS (another colleague is attempting to dial back on commitments)
GENEROUS (a friend is going to live her life this way in 2017)
TRANSFORMATION (a new phd student has chosen this word to reflect her new beginning, and the journey from current to new state).

Hopefully you can see that this could be a powerful tool to help you identify – and hone in on – your 2017 priorities.

So, when you pick your word, I encourage you to keep it near you as a reminder – this might involve drawing or making a photo collage, a meme or more simpler, changing your work password to align with your word of the year. Or get creative and display your word on a wall in your office/home. Then, start setting some goals and working towards achieving your word of the year. Some of you might decide that you want one word a semester, or a word a month. There are no firm rules: play with it – try and let the concept work for and inspire positive action/change and progress on your thesis.

I hope you enjoy this process and it is helpful to you.

Please, share your thoughts –  and your ‘word’ of the year – below…

Your friend & HDR mentor,

*The ‘word of the year’ concept has been popularized by  inspirational authors (for example, see Danielle LaPorte & a wonderful free ‘finding your word’ course by Susannah Conway – A more academic, science-based resource that explores the psychology behind ‘word’ or ‘theme’ of the year’ can be found at  The Greater Good Science Center (University of California, Berkeley):

^Photographs in today’s post are from me and an online friend (Natalie H) from Susannah Conway’s ‘find your word’ FB group. Natalie’s entire family (including her two children) each selected a ‘word’ for 2017 and she then created a beautiful physical prompt in her home.  

Edited 25/1/17 to add a link to Thesis Whisperer on the same topic:


7 thoughts on “2017: Finding your “WORD” of the year”

  1. Hi Evonne, I am pleased to meet you.

    My word for 2017 – ‘reach.’

    I have a few new and somewhat intimidating objectives, and fear of failure has probably been my subconscious nemesis. So I’ve decided that it is time for me to reach first and deal with the consequences later. So far it is working well for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love REACH! And I think many of us can resonate with that “subconscious nemesis” holding us back.. I love that as an idea for a blog post, if you want to develop it further and write about it? Let me know if you would be interested in writing something for CreativeResearchers- Evonne


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