A Word About “The Word"

In January 2013, I chose an inspirational word as my guide for life throughout the coming year. It was the first time I had engaged in that practice, and it came about through working with my friend Deb Smouse, who puts together a yearly workbook to help guide you toward the word (or words) most meaningful to you. Working through the exercises in that little workbook was so enlightening to me then, and put me in touch with my feelings in a very surprising way. My word for 2013 (“Settled”) helped me get my new house in order, literally and figuratively. 

I repeated the process again in 2014, and came up with the word that not only helped me complete Life in General, but gave me a new way of thinking about the things I do for my family: Devotion.

 I was eager to discover my “touchstone” word for 2015, so once the holiday hustle was over I spent an afternoon in my comfy chair with a pot of tea and began the process. Part of the exercises involve scanning lists of words and marking those that “speak" to you. This is easier than it sounds, especially if you’re a word person. Reading through those words, I get a definite feeling about them. Most of the time it’s kind of neutral - nothing really happens. Sometimes it’s an averse feeling, like you’ve smelled a unpleasant odor. 

Then there are the words that “pop,” that give you a definite pleasurable sensation. My lists of those usually include lots of words like attentive, calm, disciplined, productive, generous, peaceful, wise, tender. 

This year’s words were so surprising. They were words that generally don’t show up on my lists at all: words like elegant and festive; fearless and feisty. Impact, insightful, luxurious. Proficient, resolute, revitalized. Strength, successful. Unsinkable.

At one point I found myself saying out loud, “Where did that come from?” (I think that was “feisty”).

As I worked my way to the end of the book, and came up with the final words that meant the most, I was enthusiastic. These were magic words that could enable a new way of looking at myself and my life. 

Excited. Confident. Elegant. 


I always think of myself as a very low-key, understated kind person. I like to fly under the radar most of the time. I don’t want to make a big splash or draw attention to myself.

To my mind, those are all antithetical to someone who would be considered Vibrant. That person is outgoing, vivacious, bright, adventurous.

But I think the way I gravitated toward this word indicates a need to bring some elements of vibrancy into my life. Looking back over the past year, I can see myself coming to this point. We’re settled in our home now and I feel like it’s ours. I’ve finished my book, a long time goal and one that I completed successfully and with gratifying results. I feel more confident than I have in a long time, more sure of what it is I need to be happy. And I’m excited about new creative projects and partnerships for the future. I’ve started to feel an urge to get out more, do new things. And while I’ll always be a homebody, I’m feeling ready to see other places once again. I’ve felt a need to take better care of myself, not just on the inside but the outside. Lavish some extra care on my body, get some new clothes, ditch the blacks and greys for brighter colors. 

There is vibrancy in all of that.

Just because I didn’t fit my pre-conceived perceptions of a vibrant self-confident person doesn’t mean I can’t alter my ideas about vibrancy in a way that makes it congruent with my personal nature. By limiting myself to this idea of myself as quiet, self-effacing, and understated, I am limiting my ability to be and do in the world. Just as there are self-fulfilling prophecies, there are self-limiting ones as well.

You are as you think you are. 

This notion of a word (or words) to guide us is, admittedly, sort of self-indulgent. But in a world where the focus is often on injustice, violence, anger, and hopelessness, maybe it’s important to look inward sometimes to make sure we don’t slip into that kind of despair. 

I definitely feel like the world could use more vibrant, confident, excited, and elegant people. 

This year, I hope to be one of them.


(*If you’re interested in choosing your own word, try Deb Smouse’s workbook, Choosing Your 2015 Touchstones. You can get one free by subscribing to her newsletter (which also has some great ideas for creating a life you’ll love.)