Skip to content

It is a truth universally acknowledged that resolutions are made to be broken. They’ve got their brittleness built in. But planning is a little different from making resolutions. It’s got flexibility built in.

We’re not taking vows, we’re just trying to get somewhere. And we already know we’ll have to revise the map at some point, so that won’t be a failure.

Some like to go big with their planning. SMART goals, milestones, deadlines, check-ins. If you’re a planning nerd, you’re probably only reading this for an inspo amuse-bouche. You’re probably looking at your giant progress chart right now. (Are you using stickers or gold stars? I hope so. Science confirms: stickers are very motivating.)

But for those who like to go small, a simple plan can be even more successful.

Here are three ideas for uncomplicated, effective planning:

1. Choose a word of the year. Put that word everywhere and ask yourself how you’ll be true to it today. In 2022, my word was “current” and many days it helped me finish incomplete things, tend to the neglected, and undermine my tendency to put things off until “later.” (By the way, if you’ve been doing a word of the year for a while now, it can be fun to consider them as a string. Maybe they have a story to tell? Or maybe they’ll show you exactly what comes next.)

2. Think about something you love to do, that’s also good for you. And make a plan to do more of that. While you’re doing that thing is a great time to dream up your plan. For example, the very best time for me to plan a vacation is on vacation, when I’m soaking in the benefits. Otherwise I get back to real life and start thinking, “This is OK. I’m OK. I had a vacation last year. Everything is fine.”

3. If there’s something you want to stop, think about a way you can start something new instead. For example, classic weight loss advice involves giving up things you love. But I find it’s better to add things we also love, or could learn to love, and let them crowd the bad choices out. For example, we could make a point to start the day with enough fat and protein. This can have the effect of crowding out some donuts, but without deprivation—or friction. It’s the slow but steady approach. All these ideas are either small or simple—or both. All offer clarity, which a list of a dozen separate goals does not. And all are about moving toward something positive. So much easier on the motivation!

In the comments below, tell us something about your hopes for 2023. And may all your dreams come true!

Image: Plattegrond van het eiland Dieuw of Diewij aan de Koromandelkust, India, anonymous, 1675–1725, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

About The Author

Max Daniels is a research-based life coach whose weekly emails make us laugh with recognition and rethink everything we thought we knew. Her new book is Meals at Mealtimes. What a concept!


  • My word for the year is “growth,” and I am setting several goals (professional, personal, etc) related to my word. One important goal is to knit a sweater that fits and that I love to wear!

  • Release- my 2023 word. I can part with the things that are weighing me down. I don’t need to keep all those family treasures. Enjoy and release.

    • “Release”…such a great one that I’ve been working on. When I have things that weigh me down I either find someone who could use the item or, if there are no takers, I take a photo of the item before donating or tossing.

    • This will be my word for the year too.
      It fits perfectly with what I have been doing, in bits and pieces. I will borrow your word.

    • This is Marie Kondo’s philosophy. And no, she never said have only 30 books

    • Inspiring!

    • Also, release and enjoy. Enjoy the benefits of having less clutter, less stuff, less dusting, fewer tethers to a past you were not a part of. Ahhhhh…..

    • I can identify with release, but I like your closing even better.
      Enjoy and release!

      • CLOSING! That is a great one, Kristie.

  • I have chosen the word “Present”. For too many years I was pulled in too many directions at once and the person or thing in front of me did not get the attention deserved which was detrimental to me as well. I want to be present this year whether it is having a conversation/visit with one of my kids or walking the dog through the woods. Less multi tasking and more intentional focus.

    • I love your choice of “present.” It’s so communal and generous–you benefit, and the others around you benefit!

  • This year I want to accomplish something “hard”. I find that as I age, I stick to the things I do well and can complete easily. I’m engaging my growth mindset and starting a pair of socks when I return from vacation. While socks are easy to many of you, I have never been able to get past the first few rows. I can do it!

    • You can!! It’s so good for challenging your brain – use it or lose it

  • My 2023 word is “Bloom”. Open up like a bud to new ideas, creativity, and life in general.

    • I love this and may use this as a secondary word to “strength”!

    • My word of the year is “Strength”. There are 3 big areas of my life where I will need this, and now that our oldest will (hopefully) be graduating college this year and our youngest just started college, I want to find the strength to discover what is next!

    • Deb! That was mine for 2022–and it came through in wonderful ways, like having a new friend/old colleague paint me a daffodil picture–my favorite flower, a fact she didn’t know when she did it–and other wonderful aligned events!

    • Gorgeous word for this year.

    • Love this!

      • My dearest friend started me on the word of the year many years ago. I like the idea of tying them all together. I’ll see what story they tell. This year my word is Live – no more being a bystander as my life goes by. I’m going to intentionally live it everyday!

  • My word for 2023 is “connect” – to connect or reconnect with friends and family, to make connections between my actions and my wellbeing, to connect with the environment, and to reflect mindfully on what connects us all.

    • That was my word last year. I made some new acquaintances and friends putting this word into practice.

    • My word is also “connect”. A reminder to put myself out there and be more present in the world.

  • I love the WOTY…FORWARD. I have a tendency to dwell on the past but it is time to look forward. Thanks for this idea. Need to get my crayons out and start making reminders!

  • I think my word is going to be “go lightly”. I tend to take things too seriously, get stuck too much in a moment and get upset. I see someone has chosen “release” and enjoy–that’s more the way I mean. Don’t get stuck on the moment, let it go and realize it’s just a moment or a little longer. We’ll get through it.

    • This feels connected to my word— gentle. I’m so good at pushing and being harsh and tight with myself and those around me. So I’m working on gentle 🙂

  • The word for 23 is “question”…embrace my inner three-year-old and ask away!

  • My word for 2023 is FINISH. In 2022, I started a lot of things (especially knitting projects), and now that I’m retired!I really want to finish some things that I never seemed to have time for while working full time. One of those things is a full on wardrobe evaluation —surely I don’t need so many closets full of clothes!?!

    • Finish was my WOTY in 2022 . I put it up on my office wall, my studio wall, and it really helped my focus. Best of luck with your FINISHes.

    • I used my MLK weekend to deep clean my clothes closet, and also get rid of old clothes on the basement. Results? 12 bags to Sally!

  • My word is balance. I find that too often I get sucked into work and other things and I don’t spend time on self care. It always seems to be the last item on my list. So this year I am working towards more balance between work and non-work and getting some more self care and making time for the things that bring me joy (like knitting!)

  • My word for 2023 will be “stay” as in stay the course. I’m a good starter of ideas, projects, and fun but often I loose my enthusiasm before I get to the end. So this year I will “stay” engaged, “stay” with my ideas, and “stay” connected.

  • Last week I decided that 2023 was the ‘Year of the Steek’. Almost everything I look at right now has to do with Steeking and it’s not just because I’m teaching a Steeking class right now. Steek is the word!

    • A steek is a bridge. Resonant with other words for the year.

  • My word is be.
    Be present. Be mindful. Be engaged. Be thankful. Be happy…..

  • My word is THRIVE! I will soon be 75, how did that happen? None of us know the number of years we have ahead of us but one thing is clear to me – I have got to make my remaining years be my best years! I need to live my best life starting now by taking care of my body, learning more and loving more. Last year my word was ACHIEVE. On January 1, 2022 I wrote on my calendar that I would learn to knit socks. I gave up many times but suddenly in September, with the help of YouTube and 9” circulars, I completed my first pair of socks and last night I finished my 8th pair. I am, I will, I can!

    • Linda, I love the idea that these years will be your best years! Beautiful!

  • My word is Forward. I have a tendency to look back to much. I plan to look forward and try at least one new thing.

  • Thank you, all who have commented. So many good ideas here! I think, this year, I’m going to latch onto “release”. I think through that I will get “enjoy” as a bonus.

  • At our first church service of the year each member was given the opportunity to pick a word out of bowl. My word is “mercy”. I have not had a theme or word for the year in the past, but I am embracing my word. I am showing mercy to myself for things done wrong or left undone. The hard one for me is showing mercy to my husband!

  • Last year’s WOTY was Recover. I did go alcohol free in October, but did not recover my regular yoga practice and other aspects of my formerly very healthy lifestyle. This year my word is Discipline, inspired by reading The Yoga of Discipline last year. Rather than being a negative word, it is the discipline to pause before saying something, eating something, thinking something… that takes me away from my center and my desire for a healthy life and mindfully choose what I want to take in or put out into the world.

    • So many good ideas! I have never really done concrete resolutions but many of these words speak to me. I’m going to give this some thought and try to nail down one word.

  • I am going to resist the temptation to glue all these words of the year into a paragraph of the year. They’re all so good, relevant, helpful. I also like the fact that we are doing this halfway through January, taking the pressure off a New Year’s resolution. It’s just good stuff to think about: where we are, what’s going to help in the year to come, all that. Happy new year, everybody!

    • Paragraph of the year? Indeed! ONE word only? A challenge. I’m choosing between Balance, Completion, and Focus. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • I think my word is learn……patience, understanding, new things.

    • My word for this year is LESS. Less pressure, less expectations, less stuff I make myself do that isn’t nessesary. Less social media, less watching an listening to the news, and so on. I already feel more at peace.

  • My word for the year is “Learn”. I am a 10- year breast cancer survivor and I have just organized a knitting\support group for fellow survivors. Research has shown the many benefits of knitting for current and past patients. I have also signed up for classes, at my local yarn store, so I can up my knitting game and be a resource for my group members.

    • Thank you, Jenny, for supporting others on their walk to recovery.

      • As I saw above, my word is FINISH. I’m so many ways….close a door that I’ve left open, finish a project that’s almost done. Finish planning my trip so I can check off that box….finish the hoo-hawing about knitting something for myself…. It feels so good to finish something!

  • My WOTY is embrace. I can apply this to my interactions with people, change in my life, and also self-care.

    • Embrace is my word of the year also. Embrace me, embrace the ones I love. Embrace nature, embrace art, all the good things in my life.

  • SINGLE-TASK. If I am multi-tasking, my full attention is not on anything! It leads me to forgetfulness. I am going to focus on one thing at a time and do it excellently.

  • Not sure of hopes and dreams, but love the idea of crowding out the bad eating with something good for you. I guess I like the positive attitude it engenders. So I guess keeping it positive is my plan.

  • as a studio artist, I’ve been using the “word for the year” approach for over a decade — it works so much better for me than resolutions! this year’s word is “Persist” — I have several large projects in progress, and I’m hoping that word will result in some of them becoming finished objects!

  • Live with joy every day! It is not a destination but an attitude.

    • My word is focus. Focus on the present and enjoy

  • Thanks for the help deciding word of the year. ‘Enjoy’ it is. Also a recommendation on the eating advice: check out Dr. David Ludwig and his wife Dawn on the Always Hungry approach (books, including Dawn Ludwig’s Always Delicious cookbook, social media, …). The approach is to eat enough protein, fats, and slow release carbs so that you are NOT always hungry.

  • Intentional is my word of the year. I wish to live with intention.

  • The mention of stickers and gold stars brought a long buried childhood memory to mind. A teacher who put gold stars on our foreheads! A thrill! Everyone can tell! If any of you spot me walking around with a gold star in the middle of my forehead, just applaud..

  • My word for 2023 is “expand” as a reminder to go a little bigger and a little farther in everything I do. The extra stretch is sometimes where the breakthroughs are.

  • My Word of the Year is: Compassion. I feel that if we all see ourselves in other people’s place and try to understand another person’s point of view we would all benefit from it. Only when we all have Compassion for others and stop thinking only of ourselves will we truly have peace in our world.

  • My word is “now”, because that’s all we have.

    • Perfect – I was scrolling, looking for inspiration to condense ‘what are you waiting for?’ A question I need to ask myself often. Thanks Carole – NOW

  • My word for the year is “now.” In other words, I am focusing on just being present with what I can do right now knowing there is an end goal but not worrying about the past or the present. I am much more productive knowing that what I am doing now will resolve uncompleted things from the past and result in my better future.

  • My word is Nourish, as in body, mind, spirit, relationships, bank account, etc. Each week I write it at the top of the page of my planner, on meeting notes, on doodles during Zoom, etc. It’s helping me stay focused on ‘future me’ rather than ‘now me’ who wants instant gratification at all times.

  • The word this year is “recover” that came on the heels of “discover”from 2022. Last year was discovering life with an orthostatic condition and with that came knitting, as I can knit with circulars lying down.

    So maybe it’s a linking of the two words (worlds) “discovering recovery”.
    What I do know is knitting is my life line. The joy and excitement of creating in a snail’s pace lifestyle is life enhancing!

  • I hope to work out 6 days a week this year and for many more. I plan the month in my Evernote. Also, the book Atomic Habits is great for anyone who’s serious.

  • Eliminate worry. It is not productive. Action is.

  • I didn’t think I had one, and then I was reading one and someone grabbed onto “closing” and it terrified me. I hate closing doors, wrapping things up, making things final. But what are the fears? Maybe the biggest one is running away as a scaredy-cat and not doing the living, so… I need to sit with the fears and face them and figure my thru them, so maybe a word of the year for me will be “Terror.”

  • My word last year was “perserverance.” I liked the word so much I had it put on a tiny necklace. It reminded me to just keep going, to stay the course.My life is a work in progress as are all my projects.I found that I didn’t beat myself up over not finishing things, but I just kept going. I lost 75 lbs. and have better health and energy than before. I’m 72 and 2023 looks like a fascinating year just waiting to unfold!

    • So inspiring! And I love the idea of putting the word into a necklace!

  • My word will be Create. I finally made a date to retire so am looking forward to uninterrupted days of creativity and creating. Another inspiring letter, thank you Max!

  • My WOTY is GUTS — pay attention to my intuition, try hard things. I’m having some gallbladder issues, which Chinese medicine considers the seat of courage (and also where we bury anger). Center/source are my supporting words — whatever brings me back to the guts, my true self.

  • My word for the year 2023 is “fortitude “. By definition it is “ a strength of mind that enables a person to encounter adversity with courage”. While this well serves one at any age, it truly seems to be a tremendous asset for the spirit at age 81. There are times when could also lend itself to knitting.

  • Last year my intention was “how can i say yes”. Instead of listing reasons i couldn’t do something….I’ve never done it. I don’t know how. I can’t afford it. I don’t have time….I figured out a plan to make the things i wanted happen. I did a lot of things! So much that i got overwhelmed and burned out. So this year my intention is to be more intentional about what i say yes to; to pause before i commit and ask myself if this is really something i want to do or would it feel like a chore.

  • My word is imagine. Just imagine the possibilities!

  • My word of the year is color! To put more color in my life by planting flowers, colorful yarn, enjoying sunrises and sunsets while walking my dog!

  • Courage is my 2023 word: I kinda/sorta/woulda preferred not to choose that one, but it kept. coming. up. . . . so there we go! My 2022 word was “bloom,” and that *rocked.*

  • I like your Ideas. My word is current. It will take some work but it will be good.

  • My word for 2023 is “gusto”. I will travel with gusto, I will knit with gusto. I will play music with gusto.

  • I managed in 2022 to knit two beautiful sweaters that fit and that I love. This year I hope to knit more beautiful sweaters that fit and that I love. My word is ‘still’ as in quiet and calm.

  • I’ve been id’ing a word each year for several years, thanks to one DIL who got us started. My word this year is ‘renew’ because last year I had an accident & surgery which left me immobile for too many months which resulted in another surgery (knee replacement) which I’m now recoverying from… so I will be RENEWED, returning to movement of such things as dancing & crafting & travel which I couldn’t do this past yr…

  • Just saw this…and I read MDK every day. Hmmm. I like NOW and GUTS. So much is lost in life because of prognostication and/or fear. I would add SIMPLIFY. As in far fewer closets, words, over-thinking and other extraneous “stuff”… Looks like I am looking at THREE words of the year.

  • My word is a phrase: be better. Be better at: relationships, caring for myself, finding joy, knitting, any situation–you name it. I try to think little things I can do, or changes in my behavior, that will be a benefit rather than a detriment. Sometimes, it is just remembering to smile at people!

  • I have never heard of this but love it. It will take a day or two to decide what my word will be. Thanks for the idea.

  • I hadn’t chosen my word of the year but I’m going to say FOCUS. It’s aspirational, since I seem to have lost my focus in the past few years of pandemic and grief for my sister, who died unexpectedly in 2019. I want gain focus in both the little things (remembering where I put my phone and glasses) and big things: sticking with a piece of writing instead of starting to text a friend, etc.

  • My first thought was Present, as in Be Present. But I am pretty good with that already. I know multitasking does me no favours, and I think I am a good listener. So I chose Focus. I feel this encompasses “present” but also takes in things like mapping out my exercise plans and some meals every week, plus getting to those items on the to-do list. Also focussing on life balance: self-care plus community (family and friends).

  • I have been doing this a couple of years, although I often pick a phrase instead of a word. One year I used my college alma mater’s motto “Meliora” which means “better” to remind myself that I was making my life better, even if it was slowly, after some personal challenges. Last year it was “reclaiming my time,” as a reminder to make more time to focus on my self-care. This year I’m using a phrase from Olivia Benson on SVU — “Don’t postpone joy.”

  • What an interesting idea! My word is Trust, which bubbled up before I even took time to look for it. As a person who overthinks, overplans, overworries, and automatically starts to solve problems before I have data, this word feels right for me. Start by trusting the process, the people in my life, reality, whatever level of plan I have (called the next step), myself. Choices have to be changed, plans have to be modified, difficult situations have to be endured, but start with Trust. By next January, it will interesting to see how this works out.

  • My word is a homely (in the original meaning) word, too often ignored today. My word is Contentment. In a world busy consuming itself to extinction, how often do you hear some one say, “Sure, there are things I would like, but I am, over all, content.”

  • My word is SMILE! It’s something that you can give easily, don’t really have to think about, and a smile and a friendly word can change someone’s day, maybe even yours!

  • My word is MOVE. It’s so easy to sit and read and think and plan, and feel like I’ve accomplished something when really….

  • My ‘what’ for the year is ‘joy’. My ‘how’ is by practising gentle curiosity. 2023 is going to be a good year.

  • My word this year is

  • I would say “explore” would describe my developing plans for the year. Of course, it includes the feelings leftover from the pandemic, but stretches to include trying new crafts, new friends, and the exploration of local resources, and perhaps travel.

  • My word is a verb, Evolve, with Evolution as the noun. I’m retiring from my PT job managing someone else’s business, and spending that time doing my own creative work (I’m a fiber artist) and doing more frequent water aerobics.
    I have a lot of clearing out to do, too! Who knows what wonderful activity will fill that space?

  • Due to several events in my life in 2022, I feel adrift in many ways. My word for the year is “foothold.” I’m not expecting huge bounds. I just need a foothold or two.

  • Minimize. I hope to minimize my spending; my clutter; my worry; my attention; and whatever else pops up. Last 2 years I worked on using up stash of yarn–I am down to scraps left from projects and HAD to buy yarn this year to do a cardigan. My paper crafts are my focus this year.

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping