Choosing a Word for 2021

Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

Each year, in the months of November and December, I take some time to reflect on my year and to think about the word that I want my next year to be defined by. I started this practice of choosing a word for the year about four years ago. It is somewhat different from the new year’s resolutions thing, in particular because it’s not as specific. Although I also make a small list of new year’s resolutions, even if they’re not exactly new things. They are usually extensions of things that I’m already doing (or trying to do) and that need more focus or discipline, that need restructuring, that need direction.

Write more, read more, stop drinking coffee after five in the afternoon, stop biting the toothbrush, take it easy whenever my anxiety goes off.

This year I finally understood that, maybe, it’s better to establish systems instead of goals. (Something that James Clear has also been preaching for a while). I’ve found that it is better to define what I want to do each day or each week in order to accomplish something. Maybe those who establish “complete” goals might say that the system is already part of the goal, but I do believe that giving priority to the system gives everything a different focus. If I’m thinking about the system, I’m not in the same hurry I would be if I were focusing on the goal. That hurry that makes me want to skip over some steps, that makes me want to make everything faster but with the wrong technique because I don’t have the patience to wait till I get to the point where I actually want to be. Systems are hard work, but they are certainly easier than just naming goals.

Dedicate 90 minutes each Wednesday to that language that I already started learning, wake up five minutes earlier every day or every couple of days, read a chapter of whatever book I’m reading before going to sleep.

But the word for the year is different. More than a goal or a system, it is a theme.

What theme do I want my year to have?

To me, it’s important to choose a word because it’s the word that’s supposed to be present in everything that I do, even if it’s barely noticeable, even if it’s just an aroma.

In 2020, I chose the word grow. In 2020 there were a lot of unexpected and sad situations, there were mixed feelings and disappointments, but there were also blessings, joy, and hope.

Something that we all really, really learned this year, is that things don’t always turn out as we hoped they would.

This year I was going to spend Christmas with my family, whom I haven’t seen since March 2019. This year they were going to come to my wedding.

The pandemic stopped uncountable activities, endangered millions of people, their jobs, their health, their plans, and their dreams.

This year I wrote many messages of condolences and I cried on the phone with people that I love and that lost their loved ones.

Thousands of us have struggled to continue what we had started or to start something that we had been waiting to do.

This year I was tired. No matter how many hours I slept, how many naps I took, I was always tired. I’m pretty sure I spent half the summer asleep.

And yet life goes on. Time doesn’t stop to wait for us. Suddenly it’s December.

All in all, 2020 was a good year to grow. And even though growing can be painful, I am thankful for the paths I’ve taken and that I’ve yet to take. Despite everything, here we are.

And with 2021 so close, with just a few days to close this extreme and complicated year, I’ve decided that my word will be “forward”.


This word is to be a reminder that, it doesn’t matter if I have to go slower, if I need to take more breaks than usual to take care of my mental health, I just need to keep moving forward. Slowly, calmly, to my own rythym, but forward.

So, dear reader, my wish for you is that in 2021 you can move forward with what you’ve set out to do, that you have the energies to go on with your plans, that you are flexible enough to stop and breath from time to time. That you have the health and the patience, that everything comes when it’s supposed to. Because life goes on, this year, move forward.

Merry Christmas.



Protestant, PolSci MA student, reader, writer and coffee drinker

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