It’s a new year, which means lots of talk about fresh beginnings and just as many targeted ads for self-improvement products. But for me, it means just one thing…

A New Year’s word.

I have nothing against resolutions (or goals, or plans, or to-do lists), but for me, I’ve found the most impactful way to embrace a new year is to pick a word — just one word — to keep in mind. For example, instead of “Go to the gym more!” (which is rife with both the pressure to perform and the possibility of failure) you might choose the word “stronger,” a reminder of the quality you’d like to cultivate. Last January, my stressed-out, always-trying-to-bite-off-more-than-I-can-chew self picked the word “enough,” and it turned out to be more helpful than I ever could have predicted.

As 2020 came to an end, I kept thinking back to a Zora Neale Hurston quote I kept pinned above my desk in my twenties: “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer them.” It’s clear which type of year this last one was, with so many questions, broken open and still lingering. So this year, I’ve decided my word is “answer.”

One of my favorite aspects of picking a word is that it takes on multiple interpretations. In this case, it could mean writing an answer to something I’ve pondered, creating a resolution, doing something that gives me purpose, or just answering the phone and making a connection. For me, it’s an easy reminder to take whatever small steps I can to create action, find clarity, and feel better. For anyone similarly overwhelmed by resolutions and best-of lists (or just the world at large), I recommend the practice of a New Year’s Word. Plus, since it’s so simple, you can change it at any time.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? What would your 2021 word be?

P.S. An actually fun way to do New Year’s resolutions and wise words.

(Photo by Dave Waddell/Stocksy.)