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A Single Word Invites Unlimited Joy

Who knew an intention or focus word could be the key to smashing goals and experiencing more novelty and fulfilment?

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crossword puzzle with the word focus, focus word, encouragement, motivation
Sisters Staff
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Is there a word or phrase you like to use for focus or intention? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Several years ago, Oprah revealed her word of the year was “purposeful.” Her bestie Gayle King’s word was “graciousness.” TV mogul Shonda Rhimes wrote a bestselling book about hers: Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person.

The point: Words have power.

“A word of intention is a simple way to keep what's important in front of you and help focus your values and actions,” says Charryse Johnson, Ph.D., LCMHC, a psychotherapist and founder of Jade Integrative Counseling and Wellness in Charlotte, North Carolina.

I used to think intention words weren’t my thing because I forgot them after a month or two. However, I came across a different spin in Tabitha Brown's latest book, I Did a New Thing: 30 Days to Living Free. For day 29 of her adventures with newness, she wrote about how she chooses and shares a word of intention each day with her nephew.

Mind blown! I never thought of trying a word of the day. Or week. Or month.

When you choose a daily, weekly or monthly intention word, it allows you flexibility to adjust your word to fit whatever is going on in your life and gives you a chance to check your progress more often, says Dr. Johnson, who’s also the author of Expired Mindsets: Releasing Patterns That No Longer Serve You Well.

I now do a weekly focus word. It’s helped make my life more satisfying. For one, I start the week off winning. Knowing I’ve set my intention for the next seven days is a mini-accomplishment in itself.

Then, each week, the word I choose improves my life in some way. One week my word was “Kindness.” I went out of my way to be nicer and more patient with people. Result: My family and I had way more laughs together and got closer. Strangers reciprocated my friendliness. I felt good about myself.

Another week, the word was “Smiles.” I purposefully looked for reasons to plaster a huge grin on my face. A few days in, I realized searching for reasons to be happy made me happier. I noticed more of the good stuff around me and got tons of joy from the little things I would normally overlook.

During my “Brave” week, I experienced victory after victory. I tried a crazy intense Tabata-style workout I had been afraid to do. If you’re not familiar, that’s a high-intensity interval training workout in which you go all out (I mean, all out) for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and then repeat. I nailed it and felt badass! I stepped outside my comfort zone for a work project and landed a new client. One day, I even stood up for someone who was being mistreated. After that, several people reached out to me to express appreciation. I felt like I was on top of the world.

Every week, my focus word leads to something good. That’s why I actually get giddy about choosing and using my word of the week. This strategy helps me continuously work toward goals while adding variety to the mix. I feel like I get happier and more motivated each week.

Here are focus word tips (whether you do yours daily, weekly or monthly):

  • Choose a fun (and positive) word. Pick one that resonates with you and makes you want to work toward your intention, advises Dr. Johnson. What words make you feel happy, excited or encouraged? A few on my list for the future: adventure, dance, affection and glow.
  • Play around with your word. Write it on your calendar, bathroom mirror or make it your screensaver. To make it more interesting, I also think of a song with my word so it gets stuck in my head.
  • Remember your purpose. “Before you make decisions, ask yourself, ‘How does the decision I'm about to make go along with my intention for the week?’" says Dr. Johnson. For instance, if your word is “rest,” remember that before you commit to something that may interfere with your intention, she says.
  • Find joy in the wins. “Take a moment each night to ask: ‘How did I live out my intention today?’” says Dr. Johnson. Celebrate even the smallest success because any momentum is an achievement, she says. Didn’t do as well as you hoped? Refocus and start fresh tomorrow.

Is there a word or phrase you like to use for focus or intention? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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