Choose a Focus Word For The Year

Twenty-twenty was the first year I chose a focus word for the year. Because it was a particularly arduous year, having the focus of the year became more important than I could have imagined.

What is a Focus Word?

Schedules, goals, “New Year, New Me” – The New Year is always riddled with key words for self improvement. One specific but really true lesson we have all learned from 2020 is that planning for your entire year on January 1 is difficult, frustrating and futile.

A focus word can help to steer your year in the direction you want your life to go without keeping a stranglehold on your every move. It doesn’t dictate what you do every day. It is a word or idea that you can come back to whenever you need courage, or have a difficult decision to make, or when you are trying to plan your next move.

How is it different from resolutions?

A resolution is a firm decision to do or not do something. They are more concrete, especially if you make your goals S.M.A.R.T.


Resolutions are often approached like goals. There is a general idea that people’s goals should be SMART. SMART goals are

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant and
  • Time-bound

There are other ways to assign these letters, but these are the ideas – goals are easiest and best when they are not too general, you can track how they are going, they are within reach, they relate to your life, and there is a limit to when you can do it by.

I had both this year. I thought my goals would be more prominent, but I think I only achieved some of my goals because I had my focus word there to help.

Purple prose on the Focus

If goals and resolutions are the body, your focus is the soul. If resolutions are spoken word, focus is thought. If goals are the structure of the house, the focus is the family that lives inside.

If Goals and Resolutions are the “What” and ‘How” Focus is the “Why.”

How to Choose a Focus Word

Pray, meditate, unplug, free write, discuss with your family and friends – whatever it is you do to self reflect, do it. Think about why you need what you need and why you want what you want.

Reflect on the year that is coming to an end. Your focus shouldn’t be a completely new concept for you. It should be something that you have had the taste of that you want more of.

If you try something too new, you won’t know if you actually want it or not.

What happened to you this year? What are you proud of that you accomplished? What about that accomplishment is new to you? How do you want to continue that and bring it forward?

How have you been effectively taking care of yourself? What about this past year makes you say, “Wow, I’m so glad I did that for myself.” What do you want yourself at the end of this next year to be thankful for?

Still not sure on a word? Look to your chakras.

I have been learning a little bit about chakras, and I recently came across this essay that goes into the developmental life cycles.

Click here to enlarge

You can find your age, or the age you are turning on this chart, and see what is developing. See what you might want to pay a little bit more attention to.

What was my 2020 Focus Word?

Candor and Truth. Candor was my specific word. Being candid was something I was missing in my life, and it was holding me back from realizing truths that were in my life, and asking for support when I needed it. There was a better life out there for me. I didn’t know what that life was; I couldn’t even fathom it, but I knew I was blocking myself from getting to it. I included “truth” as a supporting focus word, as it is more versatile and appropriate in more situations.

Find Some Quotes and a Mantra

I’ll be honest – I did not use this mantra much throughout the year. I might say if you asked me at any time during the year what my focus word mantra was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. But because I had it written on my start of the year splash page, I read it whenever I flipped to that page. And that helped me to be reminded of the importance of it, and why I chose truth as my focus for the year.

The quotes section is mostly to get things going in the beginning of the year. It is a good way to see that other people found inspiration from this word, and how they expressed it. Like the mantra, I didn’t think about the quotes throughout the year very much but I did read them every time I flipped to this splash page, so the ideas seeped into my mind.

How Candor and Truth Impacted My Year and My Future

The Pandemic and our specific needs

When I chose this focus word, I had no idea a global pandemic was just around the corner. I had no idea what the year was going to look like. I wouldn’t have chosen candor for a year where I basically only saw my husband for most of it. But it was so, so important to be honest, and I’m grateful I chose it.

Having this focus word in the back of my mind made me stronger in my resolve. I realized very early that “the powers that be” were encouraging behaviors that I did not agree with. Because I had this focus word in my mind, I knew I had to listen to myself before I listened to anyone else. I noticed a lot of emphasis on support of small business and the economy. One of the first things I said to Kbel was “We are going to swayed to support local small businesses, but our local small business is going to close, and we are going to have to support ourselves first and foremost.”

I was right. Even though I was encouraged by most people to go back to work, I closed my practice. I knew I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror if I encouraged people to leave their houses to come see me. I am hopeful that my message was heard.

I also knew I was scared. If I went into work, I would be scared every day, and I didn’t want to feel that way. I knew I would end up hating my job if I caved, and I might not be able to have a long career in it. I knew if I took a break, I could still go back to it later. I found strength in feeling scared, and I found power in my fear being valuable. I knew it was true.

Kbel and I worked together – we knew that we were lucky enough to be responsible for only each other, and we did what we needed to get ourselves through. Even if it was different from what other people were doing.


Candor very much involves other people. Learning to be more open and honest was bound to have an impact on my relationships. It had a bigger ripple effect than I could have imagined.

Our Marriage

Part of the reason I chose this word was to continue strengthening my marriage. In my first OCD Awareness week post, I mentioned that our relationship benefited tremendously by us having “OCD” in our regular vocabulary. This tidbit inspired me to find more words, sentences, thoughts, and ideas that we could incorporate into our vocabulary. I’m still learning, of course, but this exercise of having a focus word was a jumping off point for better things.

In addition, I felt like I was hiding a lot about our marriage from friends and family. It seemed like what I was supposed to do – I like our privacy, I didn’t want to be a bother, and I never want to have a reason to feel shame, or like I’m failing. I think we’ve been conditioned to keep a lot “behind closed doors” when it comes to marriage. We are taught that it’s not proper to talk about problems, and even that it is not proper to have problems. So we ignore them, and we all know what happens when we ignore our problems.

My Relationships with Others

I have been a better friend this year. Some of that is circumstantial – I have had more time to talk to my friends, and because of the pandemic, I was more compelled to check on them. Because I was more candid with how I felt about them, I said a lot of nice things to them.

Because I was more accepting of my own choices, I was more accepting of other people’s choices, too. Just like I understood Kbel and I had to do things in our own way, everyone else had to, too. I made my friends feel better about their choices, because choices are not easy to make. It made them feel better and it made me feel great. More than one of my friends said I should become a life coach, and that was a cool thing to hear.

Of course, I was lonelier, too, so I also needed to be checked on. I felt much more open about how I was feeling, and the things I was going through. This was new to me – I almost never tell people about my struggles as I’m going through them.

My relationship with myself and what makes me happy

Like everyone this year, I had to make decisions I had completely no experience for. The only things I could rely on were my core values, my moral compass, and my intuition. All three of those things requires an enormous about of honesty with myself. I don’t think it made my decision-making any easier, but it made me feel much more confident in my decisions in the end.

I was able to assess my needs, and be firm about them. My personality makes me very easily swayed by other people, especially in my family. This is reinforced by being the youngest of seven, and also by marrying someone I’ve known since I was a child, (which means my family has also known him since he was a child). It’s a thing, trust me.

A photo essay on being the youngest of seven.

This year, for the first time ever, Kbel and I viewed ourselves as equal pieces of the pie and we realized that the things we wanted were just as valid as what other people wanted. This was a huge step for us, even though we still have a lot of work to perfect the execution.

Escaping Abuse and asking for help.

I don’t want to go too far into detail, but long story short, we escaped a toxic relationship. I want to use this space to talk about how choosing this focus word at the beginning of the year gave me more strength than I ever thought I would need. But the most important way candor impacted us this year was it lit the way for us to admit we needed help.

Our Future

This was all an experiment for me, choosing a focus word. I was hopeful it would make a difference, but I also thought it might be something that came up a few times in January, then I would forget about it. It is December 27 – there is less than a week is left in the year, and I am still thinking about it.

Reevaluating Our Future

The silver lining to this year for me was I had a lot of time to think about myself, and reflect on what my life is about. i am more in tune with the things that I find valuable, and the specific formula of what makes me happy. I found that if life starts to look a little different, or a lot different, I can still fall back on those values.

The steps Kbel and I took towards candor certainly opened up some doors to help us go in different directions than we had been on. We did a lot of work when it came to shedding our “ideals” “shoulds” and “time lines.”

It was like we were living in a fog of lies, and actively keeping truth in mind helped us to clear it out. Having candor as my word this year is a catalyst. It will make it easier to choose my word for next year, and the year after that.

When you make a new habit, you have to think about it a lot in the beginning. After you successfully form the habit, you don’t have to think about it a lot anymore, but you still have it with you. That is how I think candor and truth will be for me going forward. I won’t have to remind myself to speak up or find truth anymore because I will have already done it.

What is my Focus Word for 2021?


Although it may be a little bit on the nose, I think it is exactly what I need. I don’t need or want things to go “back to normal.” I think the healing process will be a longer process for me. It will be more like rehabilitation or even a renaissance than a quick fix.

I chose this word without even thinking that this word is mentioned in my mantra from 2020 (My soul heals through honesty and truth). Like I said, I’ve been learning more about chakras this year, and how they are connected. Candor lines up very nicely with the throat chakra, and “Healing” lines up well with the heart chakra. I also want to learn how to be more intuitive with my healing and growth, and that lines up with the third-eye chakra.

Perhaps going through 2020, getting more in tune with my truth, and being able to speak it more easily, was the “learning what to do” phase. I know what I need now. Hopefully, 2021, will be a year of allowing myself to go after those things. Healing will ensue.

Keep it With You All Year

You are already telling yourself a word that you need to heed. If you really understand why you want certain things, and why you have certain goals, you will hear it. Listen closely, and you will hear it. If you carefully choose your word, keeping it with you all year should be easy. If your word helps you to obtain the things you crave in life, it should come up naturally without much effort.

Having a focus word only has a purpose if your behaviors change. This is up to you. Depending on what word you choose, you may find yourself thinking about it daily. It can be the reason you get up in the morning, or the reason you remember to go to bed on time. It is okay if you don’t think about your word every day, though. It may be a word that comes to you in certain situations, such as making difficult decisions, building good habits, or interpreting your feelings.

Tips for remembering your word all year
  • Write it down in your journal, of course
  • Post it up somewhere you look every day (Bathroom Mirror, Desk, Kettle)
  • Get a candle that inspires your word and light it frequently
  • Tell your friends
  • Tell your Google Assistant
  • Make a Playlist that has that word in it, or reminds you of the idea
  • Find a cluster of words that relate to your focus word (the supporting cast) to strengthen your ability to relate it to your life
  • Be proud

Please share

Are you going to try choosing a focus word for the first time this year? Are you already seasoned in focus words? Are you still skeptical? Whatever your experience, please share with us. We would love to hear it, and we are always curious what people’s words are.

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