3 Steps to Choose “One Word”

3 steps to choosing one word for 2016

Have you picked one word to focus on? Now is the time!

A lot of people don’t like New Year resolutions. I get that.

  • Resolutions are often too hard (or we would have already done them, right?).
  • They’re usually too many.
  • And they’re easy to forget about.

That’s why I like choosing one word instead. (Well . . . letting one word choose me–that’s usually how it works.)

  • One word is simple.
  • It’s easy to remember.
  • And it’s unpredictable in the directions it can take you.

Only God knows what the year ahead holds for us. So at our invitation, he’ll guide us to a word custom-designed for our year to come.

That’s a good thing.
And a faith-building thing.

For example, when I chose “Breathe” in 2010, I didn’t know it would be the year both my parents would take their last breaths. When I chose “Venture” in 2012, I had no idea I’d be leaving my old religious heritage that year to branch out into something brand new. When 2014 brought “Compassion,” it both totally wrecked and expanded me at the same time.

And in this year of “Now,” God keeps nudging me to new ways of releasing worry and to a greater dependence on faith. (Here are 4 big lessons I learned about how to live in the now.)

For next year? I have ideas rolling around, but nothing is settled.

So I’m using what I learned with my OneWord 2015 “Now” to help me decide. Maybe this will help you, too.


1. N – Notice God’s messages

Pay attention. God is already at work in you, doing new things, preparing you for new things.

Are you hearing repetitive messages on a specific theme lately? Does a particular song touch you deeper than others? Have you been drawn to a certain book or author?

God can work through any of these avenues. Dig out a single word among those messages. Stay present to his wisdom. It’s not something you sweat over, but something you notice and receive. Accept what comes without having to understand it fully. God will reveal more when the time is right.

2. O – Only one thing

Keep your focus narrow. It’s better to give your full attention to one main word or concept than be distracted by a hundred little resolutions. Be most attentive to one thing at a time. This thing. At this time. With this person.

Your one word choice doesn’t have to be profound or complex. Keep it simple and relevant to this season of your life. It’s a step, not the complete journey.

When you welcome whatever comes in this one day—accepting it as your reality and being with it (even if it’s something that needs to change in the next moment)—you stay most in the presence of God. Once you own it now, he’ll guide you what to do with it next.

3. W – Withdraw anticipated outcomes

Release expectations now of where your one word will take you later. Let go of a specific outcome you may have in mind.

When you lay out too detailed a specific future (or conversely, linger too much in times past), you’re less alive for times present. Yes, still plan for the future (thankfully, because I love to plan!), but hold those plans loosely.

There’s no way you can predict how God will use your word. Just know this: God will honor your intentions to honor him through it. Trust that his grace will be enough.

Today is when God moves and where grace lives.

Pray about receiving your word from God, then hand it right back to him.

Let him embed it into your life one relationship at a time, one day at a time, one situation at a time.

He knows what he’s doing. Now.

* * *

Have you chosen One Word in the past? Do you have One Word for this year? Please share in the comments.


37 thoughts on “3 Steps to Choose “One Word”

  1. tiffany

    I’ve never chosen a word for the year, but it seems like a really cool idea. I’ll pray to see if anything comes to me! I am a resolution kind of girl ;0 , but I almost feel like I could do both!

    Great post!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      If you already like resolutions, doing “one word” would be an easy thing for you to tack on. 🙂 It can be as much or as little as you like. Some years I do extensive scheduling with readings and activities for my one word all year; other years I just let it flow. Not sure yet about 2016!

  2. [email protected]

    I love your acronym “NOW”….I’m not sure what word it will be but it seems like God keeps whispering “JOY”….biblical joy….excited & scared….He is already pruning me….Advent blessings to you, my friend 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think you’ve already got a good start if it is “joy” for 2016, Dolly! I would love to read how he works that out. It’s such a beautiful (and yes, exciting and scary!) choice. 🙂

  3. Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours

    In years past, I chose “circle” and “shelter”… and watched in amazement as God unveiled truths. Then, the past couple of years, I didn’t declare a word of the year, but “trust” and “intentional” kept creeping into my thoughts. I’ve actually been wondering if God will reveal a word to me for 2016. I’ll let you know if He does. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Circle and shelter are two fascinating word choices, Susan! I love unusual concepts like that for God to work through. Yes, do let me know if you choose something for 2016.

      I am so enjoying Dirty Faith. You and your husband have had some amazing adventures in your ministries to others! May God continue to bless all you do.

  4. June

    Love your tips and how you tied this all together with your past blog posts, Lisa. What a fab idea! My word for this year was “new” and I need to get my year-end wrap up post written! I haven’t picked a word for 2016 yet. I’ll be taking some time over the holiday to really pray and seek His direction. Looking forward to hearing what He has in mind for us both! Blessings!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ll look forward to reading your wrap-up post about “new,” June. I’m still working on my word for 2016 too. Praying with you as we listen to God’s voice on where he wants to lead us next.

  5. Lois Flowers

    What a helpful post, Lisa! This was the first year I had a One Word, and it was “fruit.” I had a simple goal in choosing it … to pray for the fruit of the Spirit for each person in my house every day. I can’t say I did that EVERY day, but most days I did, and it has made all the difference this year. I still have to write a recap of some sort, but I’m also looking forward to putting into words what I sense God is laying on my heart for 2016. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “Fruit” is such a lovely one word to choose! And how beautiful that you prayed for your family with it this year. That’s an awesome thing to do. Sometimes I cycle through praying for the fruit of the Spirit when we do walking prayers through our sanctuary. I’m glad God honors our prayers. I’ll look forward to your recap post and hearing what you choose for 2016! (Just this morning I think I’ve honed in on a different word. ha)

  6. Positively Alene

    This is great Lisa!!! I sure miss you. I’m praying through for the specific word. Last year at the last moment God impressed upon my heart “family.” I had no idea I’d have a grandbaby, engagement, wedding, and another grandbaby. WOW.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I miss you, too, Alene! Wow–how incredible that God impressed “family” on your heart for 2015 and look at all that happened. Such a fruitful year. 🙂 Looking forward to what he’ll want to do with us in 2016!

  7. Trudy

    This is such helpful advice, Lisa. Thank you. I am especially taken in by #3. To release our expectations and leave the outcome in God’s hands. To “Let him embed it into your life one relationship at a time, one day at a time, one situation at a time.” I started “One Word” in 2014. 2014 was “Trust” and 2015 was “Follow.” I’m still pondering on what I will pick for 2016. I will pay attention and “notice God’s messages.” 🙂 I hope you have a Christmas filled with love, hope, peace, and joy!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That #3 of releasing expectations is hard for me too, Trudy. I tend to want to plan everything out to the bitter end–including the outcomes. ha. But I’m trying to learn to let go of that part, and just take the steps as he leads, regardless of where they take me.

      “Trust” and “follow” sound like they would be good words for me too. Do let me know when you decide your 2016 word! It’s always encouraging to me to hear how God works in the the lives of friends.

  8. Ginger Harrington

    I love the way you brought forth what God has taught you this year, your “now,” with helpful steps for receiving our word for the year. I also love the way you bring out some past posts in the form of things to remember. Very helpful. I’m going to come back to this when I have time to read the other posts. What a joy to share your helpful post with others on my FB page. Linky blessings from Coffee for Your Heart.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate you sharing the link, Ginger. I do love the whole One Word phenomena. 🙂 Just yesterday I did another tweak to what I *think* will be my One Word for 2016, but still not sure enough to say yet.

  9. Tai East

    Great post, Lisa! I’ve never thought to just chose one word, but definitely something I should do. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful message! GOD bless you, beautiful friend! 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, Tai. I’ve found that One Word has been an open door each year for letting God work in fresh ways in my life. It’s not so much to be overwhelming, but enough to be engaging. Blessings to you too!

  10. Larissa

    Love this post as I do choose a word for the year – this was my 2nd year and my word is FOCUS! I haven’t made the time to sit and pray about this year’s word yet but your post, shared by my friend Ginger Harrington, has inspired me for sure! Thanks!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for visiting, Larissa. Focus sounds like a powerful One Word choice! I’m sure God used it wisely in your life in 2015. I’ll look forward to the words God will lead us to in 2016.

  11. Carly

    This is really helpful. I’ve never had a word for the year but I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it lately so I’m considering it for 2016. Your tips are great. I’ll need to start praying about it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      If you’ve never tried one word, I recommend you give it a go! Nothing to lose. 🙂 If it doesn’t work, drop it. But if it does? Great benefits. Blessings to you, Carly!

  12. floyd

    I’ve never narrowed myself down to one word for the year, although I’ve contemplated many of them while you were writing about them. For the last few years I’ve realized more and more how important humility is. There is no being in the presence of God without it. That’s gonna be my word for this year… Thanks for the push, Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Great choice of “humility”, Floyd. It will be interesting to see how God will use that in your life in 2016. You already seem like a very humble man to me. Back in 2005 I informally chose humility to pray over and work through, and wow, I saw how much pride I had in me! But seeing it was/is a good thing because we can’t change what we’re not aware of. I still have a long way to go with humility, so I’ll be watching and learning from you.

  13. Marva -- sunSPARKLEshine

    Hi Lisa, I really appreciate your tips. I’ve done One Word for a few years now and like you, I’m waiting for my word to come to me. I am getting hints of what it could be but through prayer, I know that God will make it clear. I can’t wait to hear what your word will be this year. Wishing you blessings and a whole lot of sparkle for the Christmas holidays.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Marva. Do let me know what you hear from God! I discover he keeps refining my word almost daily this week 😉 Hopefully he’ll help me settle it down to actually one word by the end of 2015.

      Just read your latest post but couldn’t find anywhere to comment, so I’ll just say here that I’m glad you had your Kindle app with you as you had to wait. Aren’t they the best? 😉 I go nowhere without something to read, and usually it’s either my Kindle or the app on my phone. How fun that you tapped into Deb’s book. I read her blog when I can and love the insights she shares there. Blessings to you this Christmas!

  14. Beverley

    yes, you have to wait for the word to settle and chose you. Last year it seemed to takes forever and this year is happened almost instantly and my words changed from ‘Choice’ to ‘Change’. I can envision some change already, but I am sure there are many changes in store which I have no knowledge of – as yet!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m still waiting on the word to settle in deeper. It keeps shifting ever so slightly these past few days, so God has pointed me towards a particular theme for sure; now I just have to listen closely for the specific word. I’m glad your word “change” came so suredly! What an adventure-filled year it will be with you and God. 🙂

  15. Pingback: How to Choose a Word for the Year | Healthy Spirituality

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Such a beautiful choice, Charles! Mindfulness turned out to be an important part of my One Word last year (“Now”), and I hope I’ll carry it forward into 2016 as well. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Pingback: One Word 2016: Home | This Mom's Delight

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