“There is no greater power in the Universe than the power of love. The feeling of love is the highest frequency you can emit. If you could wrap every thought in love, if you could love everything and everyone, your life would be transformed.”
― Rhonda Byrne, The Secret
Hello and welcome to This Year’s Word Podcast, I’m your host, Courtney Symes. I’m an author, entrepreneur, mum, and wife. In this podcast series, I will share my Word of the Year experience as I explore the meaning of the word “Love” and how you can use this word to change your life, one day at a time.
In this episode I unpack why I chose “Love” as my Word of the year, how I choose my words of the year, as well as how I maximise my Word of the Year experience.
I am a huge advocate of goal setting, and have set goals for a number of years. However, my Word of the Year has super-charged my goals by helping me create a new level of focus and intention.
When I selected “dare” as my first Word of the Year, I had decided I wanted to resume work outside the home after being at home for a couple of years with my children. I then found a job that would challenge me so I could grow. Likewise, when I received the opportunity to teach night classes, rather than questioning if I was adding too much to my life at once, I jumped at the chance. My intention for the year was to go all-in and give it everything I had to see how far I could extend myself.
The following year, my Word of the Year was “Simplify”, which resonated with my desire to declutter and simplify my surroundings, as well as streamline my processes and commitments. I had been working for a year, and realised how precious time was – especially with my family. This year was focused on maximising what little time I had by “clutter-clearing” all parts of my life. This included revaluating my social life and friendships by limiting time with energy vampires and prioritising time with people who brought out the best in me, and vice versa. This word also offered an excellent opportunity to reconsider some of the opportunities I had taken on the previous year that now didn’t serve my higher self.
My Word of the Year in 2019 was love.
Even though my Year of Love took place two years ago, the experiences I had and the lessons I learned are more relevant today than ever. While it has been important to hold onto Love throughout the global pandemic, this word never grows old. Love in all its forms is eternal, and will continue to serve us throughout AND after this pandemic.
An intense and busy period in my life, where I was trying to juggle work, family time and other commitments led me to question the point of it all. On many occasions when I stopped and reflected - which I admit wasn’t as often as it should have been - I realised I was busy for the sake of being busy. Days, weeks, months and years were slipping away right in front of me and I seldom took the time to reflect and appreciate life. Sound familiar?
I had been aiming for “perfection”, but life was far from “perfect”, and when I really thought about it, I didn’t want it to be, but I did want to feel that I was the driver of my life, and not the passenger.
I contemplated, read a bunch of books, and contemplated some more. When I removed all the superficial, material “stuff and things” from the equation, love was the only thing that remained.
I’m not the first person to reach this conclusion, and my realisation was certainly influenced by the experience and writings of renowned authors such as Neale Donald Walsch, Marianne Williams, and Matt Kahn, among others. However, everything I was reading and feeling suddenly clicked and made sense. I decided if I focused on “Love” - in all its forms - for a year, the best case scenario was that life would improve, or at the very least have a deeper meaning.
Two years on, I still continue many of the love practices I learnt that year on a daily basis. In fact, the benefits of this year were so profound that I wrote a book about my experience, which will be published this year.
The intention of writing my book was to create a gift of love for anyone who felt like I did before embarking on my Year of Love: restless, lost, confused, scared, or uncertain about the path they are travelling on through life. The book and this podcast is for anyone who has ever thought they are not enough for their family, friends, work, society, or most importantly, themselves.
I deemed first two Word of the Year experiences successful. As I reviewed my journals at the end of both years, I noted positive change and growth in my life throughout the year, and new healthy habits that had formed as a result of my Words of the Year. However, I really wanted to immerse myself in my Year of Love, so much so I would be able to recall what I did and experienced so I could write about it and share with others - before the idea of a book was conceived.
This is how I went about it. I have kept a daily journal for a number of years, and was confident I could use this habit to get the most from my Year of Love.
My Love Project simply started with a journal entry prompt each day:
“Today I showed Love by…”
I naively thought this would be an easy task. Some days WERE easy – I was the attentive mother and wife and “kicked goals” at work. I managed to tick everything off my To-Do list and was on a productivity high.
Aaaaaand other days fell apart.
The most interesting observation was that whilst I felt good on the easy days, I felt the most accomplishment on the tough days. These were the days when I had to push through challenges - exhaustion, cranky kids, etc. When I pushed myself to show love on these days I felt like I had grown. These acts of love ranged from reading a book with my kids, when all I wanted to do was go to sleep, or going for run when I would rather have vegged out on the couch with a glass of wine (there were plenty of those days too!).
The interesting thing was, the easy days were just that – easy. But getting through the tough days while still feeling like I had shown love in some way – no matter how small – was where I found the accomplishment and growth. Despite exhaustion, frustration, and the overwhelming feeling of “I can’t be bothered”, when I coaxed myself to show one small act of love to myself or someone else, like reading a book to my kids, taking a long hot bath, or going for a run, I felt better. Even the smallest act was worth it.
So, how do you choose your Word of the Year? Choosing and honouring one word for an entire year can seem like a tall order. However, it’s not as hard as you’d imagine when you use your intuition. The word you choose can be a word that motivates and inspires you. It can be a regularly used word from your vocabulary, or it can be a word that keeps appearing in your life, as my words did. Each of the words I selected were words that kept appearing in the books I was reading, the podcasts I was listening to, or would simply present themselves in my consciousness.
As I tune into the language and words that surround me, I am presented with an abundance of words that I may or may not choose as my word of the year in other years. The word that ‘makes the cut’ is the word that resonates the most with what is going on in my life at the time, and therefore will be the most helpful in my current life chapter.
Brainstorming is also another effective way to identify words for your Word of the Year project. You can write a list, or use the trusty traditional mind mapping template so you can expand your ideas. I often find writing ideas down helps to crystallise them in my mind, sparking new ideas once the initial idea has been captured.
Once you have selected your Word of the Year, the next challenge in remaining focused on it for an entire year. I had my first two Words of the Year engraved on a heart charm and attached to a charm bracelet I worn every day. This did help me remember my words, but not put them into practice. Them the charms fell off the bracelet and I was back to square one. Since a tattoo was out of the question, I turned to my journal.
I have been journaling since I was a child – almost everyday since I was a teenager. I find a journal a therapeutic way of debriefing at the end of the day – it’s a bit like my security blanky. I miss entries on some days, and find it challenging to write when I’ve had a ‘bad day’. I’d rather just go to sleep and forget about the cringe-worthy moments , but these are the days I get the most out of writing – especially when I look back at the end of the year and see what lessons I’ve learned and how much I’ve grown.
My diary become an instrumental tool for maximising the benefits from my Word of the Year by creating a daily focus and positive habit. As I mentioned above, simply starting each journal entry with “Today I showed Love by…” was a game-changer.
This small tweak to my daily diary entries prompted me to reflect on my day through a Love Lens.
Suddenly the way I thought about my day completely changed. Instead of focusing on the negative, annoying occurrences, I was seeking out the precious moments of kindness, stillness, and peace – the golden moments that were like rays of sunshine breaking through clouds on an overcast day.
If you’re new to journaling, here are some of my top tips for starting a journal:
1. Smaller is better. The times when I’ve struggled to keep a journal have been when I’ve used a large A4-sized journal with so.much.space. A blank page of this size fees too overwhelming, especially on the days when you’ve got nothing left. I use an A5 sized journal or smaller – it’s less overwhelming to write in regularly and portable when I’m away from home.
2. Invest in a new diary every year. I’ve purchased some beautiful thick journals previously…and never finished them. There is a fun novelty in selecting a new journal each year, and I can select a theme that resonates with where I’m at in life. I’ve had health and exercise journals, gardening journals, flower journals, cosmic journals, inspiration journals with quotes – you name it, I’ve had it in journal form. Despite the theme, the one thing they’ve all had in common is enough space to write every day.
3. Use a dated diary. I purchase a diary with a page or section for each day of the year. This will help hold you accountable on the days you don’t feel like writing as you won’t want to see blank sections. There are plenty of ‘evergreen’ journals, such as 365 day diaries available now without the specific date, so you can start them any time throughout the year.
4. Less is best. I believe writing a sentence a day is more valuable than a page at the end of the week. Writing every day helps to capture the minute details and emotions that are harder to recall as time passes. Sure, a weekly summary is a helpful way to capture lessons learned throughout the week, but a weekly or monthly summary is more effective when comprised after reviewing daily entries. This is one reason why bullet journaling has become popular style of journaling. Simply writing a list of things you are grateful for or that made you smile throughout the day is more achievable than an essay-style synopsis of your day. Like meditation, a little bit regularly is better than a lot infrequently.
5. Write quickly. I like to write my journal entries as quickly as I can, because I write more intuitively and honestly this way. Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation – there are no literary awards at stake here. Author Julia Cameron created a journaling technique known as Morning Pages, which utilises stream of consciousness writing – basically a brain dump of anything that crosses your mind.
6. Pick your time. Establish a time of day when you are most likely to journal. I like to journal just before bed, as I find it a relaxing part of my night time routine. However, others like to journal first thing in the morning so they can clear their head before starting their day. When you journal is a personal choice and there is no right or wrong answer.
7. Review. I have only started reviewing my journal entries since I started my Word of the Year project. The biggest realisation I have had since doing this is how much knowledge and growth occurs in a year. I schedule time at the beginning of the year when I do my goal-setting to also review my previous years’ journal. I make note on the lessons I learned and challenges I faced. This review also helps me recognise the areas I need to continue working on in my life (such as patience), so I can identify new opportunities for growth in the goals I set myself for the year ahead.
So there you have it – my blue print for initiating a Word of the Year project that anyone can do. (recorded this sentence)
I’ve shared my previous Words of the Year - Dare, Simplify and Love, as well as how these words have helped to transform my life one day at a time by focusing my attention on my goals – big and small. I’ve also shared by journaling practice, which is my secret for success when it comes to getting ‘bang for buck’ out of my Word of the Year practice.
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I’ll leave you with today’s mantra:
I am true to my word, and I choose words that connect with my higher self.