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My Word of the Year—And Why I’m Already Changing It

Normally at this time of year, I’d be writing a post about my new year resolutions. These posts never really accomplish much other than to give me some sense of accountability. You know, that whole, “tell someone you’re going to do something and you’re more likely to do it,” thing. The jury is still out on whether it works or not… (Although, I must say I was pretty pleased with the results of my resolutions last year. They weren’t perfect, but they weren’t bad, either.) And truth be told, I did plan on doing exactly that. I have a lovely list of resolutions and a word of the year all written out in pretty colors in my journal, and I was feeling pretty excited to share them with you.

But even though I had prayed about what to focus on this year, that fancy Word of the Year doodle at the top of my resolutions list didn’t feel quite right. I knew what I wanted it to mean—I knew what God wanted it to mean, too—but the word I had picked to embody my goals didn’t seem to fit.

My word?


I meant it in the sense of “Do more of what brings you true joy,” but my brain seemed to stop after the “Do more…” part every time.

And folks, I am buuuuuusy. I run a business. I have a church calling. I have a kitchen to clean, bills to pay, friends and family to keep in touch with, trash to empty, laundry to do, and a husband who would like some attention sometimes, please. Oh, and I have to sleep, too, and exercise (because, lessbereal, my glamorous work-from-home, set-your-own-hours job still has me sitting at a desk all day…). About the only thing I don’t have is time to do anything else.

Yesterday, a friend posted a link to this long-but-worth-it article[1], How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen. Buzzfeed isn’t my favorite site, but since I have an interest in the Millennial generation, I read it—and found myself nodding my head and muttering, “Yas, girl, yaaaassss,” as I did so. The biggest takeaway for me was this: most of us live in a constant state of burnout because we’ve be programmed since childhood to believe that if we aren’t working our little patooties off every minute of every day, we aren’t going to succeed in life. We have become a generation of list-makers who majored in How to Be Efficient. Even self-care has become something to be optimized (riding your bike to work or treadmill desks, anyone?) and checked off your daily to-do list. Every unscheduled minute threatens to brand us a lazy and entitled if we don’t find some way to fill it up, STAT.

It is no wonder we’re all burned out.

Carest Thou Not That We Perish?

In the New Testament, we read about how the Lord and his Disciples took a boat across the Sea of Galilee.[2] Along the way, a storm arose that was so fierce, even such experienced boatmen as Peter and the Sons of Zebedee feared that all was lost. Apparently amazed that Jesus could sleep through such a tempest, they roused him and asked, “Carest thou not that we perish?” Jesus stood up, faced the storm, and said, “Peace, be still.” The storm ceased, and there was “great calm.”

The constant drive to do more, earn more, post more, say more, spend more, eat more, do more do more do more can leave us wondering how we’ll ever stay afloat. But like the Savior calming the tempestuous sea, I recently had an experience in which the Savior calmed my tempestuous to-do list. That day, it was well into the afternoon before I sat down to take stock of my goals for the day and see what was next on my list. To my horror, I realized I hadn’t done a single thing I had hoped to do, and I felt like an absolute failure. I wrote the following in my journal:

I felt like I had wasted my day—but on what, I couldn’t say. I’m doing a 10-day social media fast[3], so it’s not like I had just been scrolling Facebook all morning. So of course it just means I’m slow and dawdly, right?

But then the Spirit reminded me of what I’ve done today:

  • I wrote to a friend who needed a pep talk.
  • I called two loved ones who had asked for advice.
  • I texted several friends because the Spirit told me they needed someone to reach out to them today.
  • I enjoyed a nice breakfast with Brett, then studied scriptures with him.
  • I helped him study for a test.
  • I made him a lunch to take to school.
  • I did laundry, and “cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
  • I learned something new.
  • I had a meeting with one of my clients, which allowed me to help support my family.

I was overcome by the feeling that I had not wasted my day because my time was spent serving others and doing good things. I felt like the Lord was approving my use of time and telling me to be gentler to myself, because I am enough. 

Setting Righteous Goals

We have been told to “be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many good things.”[4] We know that “faith without works is dead.”[5] We’ve also been taught that setting goals is good and righteous.

Set your own goals. Make them high enough to challenge your very best efforts, and work to achieve them.

But we’ve also been given this counsel:

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

I believe that one of the reasons that most New Year Resolutions are abandoned is because our already stuffed to-do lists can’t take one more thing. And yet we try to cram it in there anyways and then wonder why it didn’t stick.

But when the Savior calmed the raging storm on the Sea of Galilee, He didn’t tell the waves what to do. He told them what to be. Be still, He said. Be calm.

My New Word

I’m sure you can guess what my new Word of the Year is, but I’ll tell you just in case:


My original intent was to do more of the things that bring me true joy. But by reframing those goals as attributes I want to develop—not tasks—I can focus on becoming more like my Savior, the source of all joy.

After all, when the Savior visited the Nephites, He didn’t ask them “What manner of things ought ye to do?” He asked them, “What manner of men ought ye to be?”[6]

And His answer?

“Even as I am.”

Do you have a word for the year? I’d love to hear what you’ve picked and how you picked it. Share in the comments below!


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Sailboat by Ireland's Blasket Islands, overlaid with the text How to pic a word of the year that doesn't overwhelm you

[1] This article does contain some strong language, so consider yourself warned.

[2] Mark 4:37-41

[3] Sisters’ Participation in the Gathering of Israel

[4] Doctrine and Covenants 58:27

[5] James 2:26

[6] 3 Ne. 27:27

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Jess Friedman
Jess is a Canadian-American who’s always ready for the next adventure. She loves all things living, always has a million creative projects in progress, and polishes her nerd badge daily. She is passionate about helping families make and preserve treasured memories that strengthen bonds across generations. You can read more posts by Jess here.

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