What's the difference between a New Year's Resolution and a word of the year?

How to choose your word of the year by Shovorne Adams at The Hope Table. Ideas and a list for your word of the year 2020
How to choose your word of the year by Shovorne Adams at The Hope Table. Ideas and a list for your word of the year 2020

Your word of the year can be life-changing. Of course, there is nothing special about the word itself. Just like a New Years resolution, the power is not in the word but in the actions that accompany it.  

You might be asking:

What’s the difference between a New Year’s Resolution and a word of the year?

A New Years Resolution

A New Year resolution is a promise that you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year:

For example, “Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?” “Yes, I’m going to eat more healthily and give up smoking.” (Cambridge Dictionary). And of course, a New years resolution can be excellent! But usually, what starts off as a great idea can often end up feeling rigid and restrictive and therefore, ditched after a few months.

A Word or Phrase of the Year 

I’d describe a word of the year as a scripture or faith-based theme that flows through and influences your life throughout the year. It’s like a chord that links areas of your life together and brings about faith-based intentionality, and focuses your decision-making and underlying behaviours. It’s a word or value that speaks to the physical, the heart, mind and soul. It should inspire personal growth.

I first discovered the idea of having a personal word of the year before I knew it was even a real thing. Around New Year’s Eve, we’d go to church and pastors, prophets and preachers would announce what God has been speaking to them about on behalf of the church. They would then say what the ‘word of the year’ or the theme or scripture would be for the church the following year and then we’d pray the New Year in.

I remember being at home one NYE and staying home with the family. I read a scripture that spoke to me and knew that would be a personal word of the year. The family and I prayed the New Year in. That scripture guided me so much in my life the following year.

I later discovered that this was a thing and thousands chose a personal word of the year. That was over 10 years ago and I’ve had a word of the year ever since.

List of ideas to choose your word of the year for 2020

How do You Choose Your Word of the Year? 

This might change year on year. This is really uncomplicated and tends to come through quite a natural process after doing to for several years. If this is your first year, I’ll share some steps you can follow to discover your word of the year:

1. Goal or Purpose-Orientated Word of the Year

You may have a mission on your heart for 2020 – maybe God’s calling you to step out in faith and do something new or expand a project. Depending on what it is, you might want to choose your word of the year to help you focus on that. For example:














2. When prayerfully reflecting on the last year, is there a topic that has repeatedly cropped up?

For example, you may feel like you are at burnout point now due to being super busy, you may look at words like:

3.i) Choose a scripture of the year –

What does God’s word say? Look at scriptures about the topic you have selected in step number 2 and have that as your scripture of the year:

“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake” – Psalm 23:2-3  

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” Matthew 11:29 

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 

“I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me” Psalms 3:5 

3.ii) You can combine step 2 or your chosen scripture from step 3i into a word of the year or a phrase of the year 

Whole Restoration

Rhythms of Grace

Self-care & gentleness

Less is More

He Restores

God Leads Me

In His Presence



Intentionally Still

Be Still & Know

You can follow steps 2, 3i & 3.ii for any topic that stands out to you.

4. Has God been speaking to you about an area of your life that needs to change for the better?

If you’ve identified an area of improvement or change you don’t want to choose the negative word as your word for the year, you want to choose the positive opposite to motivate you and help you dig deeper and draw closer to God, For example:

 5. Read the Holy Bible 

When reading your Bible, is there a recurring theme or a thought that keeps popping up in your mind and touching your heart?  

Maybe you haven’t paid attention, but look back now and think about any recurring themes that came to your mind during your Bible reading time. What Bible story or verse resonated with you the most? That might help you find a theme for the year ahead and your word of the year.

If you do Bible journaling, look through the notes on your pages and your theme might become more apparent. 

Check out my blog post on how I came to my word of 2019 through Bible reading, hearing God through his Holy Word and journaling!  

 Maybe you’ve lost the zeal to read your Bible and reading the Bible more is something you plan to start in the New Year, but why wait. Grab your Bible now, dig in and hear what God has to say through His Holy word. There’s no reason why we can’t dive in today! 

6. Prayer

During prayer, God often speaks to us. Pray and ask God if there is something specific for your life in the next season that He’d like you to focus or lean into. Align your word of the year with what the Holy Spirit says.

7. Developing a Spiritual Practice

You may have realised there’s a spiritual habit in your spiritual life that is lacking. Perhaps it’s prayer or thanksgiving or fasting, reading your Bible, or attending fellowship. Whatever it is, you may wish to choose a word of the year that’ll help you encompass the change you want to make and the habit you wish to develop to spend more time in God’s presence. Look at words like:

Dig Deeper
Jesus First
Deeper Dive
Living Water
Daily Bread

And if none of the 7 ideas above work for you, pop over to DaySpring.com for a 2020 word quiz 

Helpful Things to Remember

Here are some key things to remember: 

  • A word of the year or phrase of the year is personal to you. 
  • It’s between you and God. You don’t have to share it with anyone.
  • You don’t have to choose one on Jan 1st! Sometimes it will come to you before Jan 1st, and sometimes months after. That’s completely ok, don’t rush the process. Last year I didn’t know my word of the year until after the New Year. However, I already know my word for 2020!  
  • Have fun and have faith. This idea of a word of the year is to motivate and encourage you to focus on what is important in this season of your life. To help you get inline with what you hear God saying to you.
  • My hubby and I had a word of the year for our marriage last year, it was ‘submit’. And we had a great time exploring it. You can apply it to other areas of your life.
  • You can change it at any time! My word of the year for 2019 took on new meaning as we approached the end of the year. As God spoke to me, things evolved, and that too is ok. It’s a journey and a journey will take you to different places. You can read about it here

I don’t know about you, but New Year is one of my favourite times of the year and I feel so thankful!

I hope you find this helpful in choosing your word of the year! Come on 2020!!!

Let us know if you have another process for finding a word of the year? Let us know about some of your previous words of the year or what you have in mind for the year ahead?

With heart and Hope

Shovorne Adams


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