This is my ninth time choosing a word to help guide me through the year ahead. I love this practice: it is intentional, it is simple, and it is meaningful. Every time I think of my word, it connects me back to my values and my hopes for myself. It helps guide my decisions! It can literally affect my mood, because it helps me think about things differently and reframe my negative experiences. In short, it’s a way to add more whimsy and intentionality into my daily life! (I am looking forward to being 90 and having 69 words to look back on with fondness and gratitude.)
As you may recall, my word for 2020 was Devoted, and it was the perfect word for the moment we were living through. You can read more of my reflections on it in this post, but the short version is that 2020 asked a lot from all of us, and the word Devoted really helped me to stay connected to myself and continue to show up for my physical and mental health, my budding romantic relationship, and my amazing clients, despite everything else going on.
As we move into 2021, I actually want to keep up the fierceness and deep love that Devoted reminds me to embody. It is not done with me! (My words never are.) And, I want to embrace a new energy for myself, one of softening. One of pleasure, of enjoyment, of inner calm.
This year, my word of the year is Soften. I chose the verb, rather than the noun “Soft”, because it will remind me that to soften is a choice. Over the past couple years as I’ve moved to running my own business full-time, I’ve had to take on a lot of responsibility. It’s become harder to relax after work, or take breaks throughout the day, because I know that everything rests on my shoulders. Throw in a global pandemic, and you have a perfect recipe for anxiety, overstimulation, and dissatisfaction.
No thanks! In 2021, I choose to soften. To give in, when my wonderful partner lures me back to bed for a long cuddly nap, even though I have “so much to do”. To let go of my arbitrary timeline of launching my group program, because it just feels too forced and crunchy. To relax in the evening, rather than cramming in yet another online course, podcast, or some other such opportunity for personal development. To take more baths.
Already I know this will not be an easy word for me. As I’ve learned over the past few years, choosing a word instantly shows you all the places where you are struggling with its opposite. This word is bound to show me where I am hard, rigid, unyielding, unpleasant. That’s not going to be nice, but it will be nice to have more softness calm, and lightness in my days. Heck, as I write this I have taken the morning off of work to ease into my day! It’s working already.
So here’s to 2021! May it soften me.
- to become less hard, to become softer
- to become, or to make something seem, less severe or unpleasant
- to make something less forceful, less harsh
- to become much more gentle and friendly
- to make something smooth and pleasant to touch
Synonyms: ease, relieve, soothe, assuage, cushion, allay, mellow, lighten, relax, relent, thaw, melt, tenderize, calm, gentle, loosen, sweeten
Goals & Intentions
As you can imagine, the word Soften does not really inspire me to set a whole bunch of rigid metrics to meet for the year ahead! Still, there are some things I’m thinking about trying to incorporate more of. So in true Soften fashion, I’m thinking of these ideas as mere suggestions, fun things to try if I feel like it, and to let fall away if I don’t.
Soft mornings, soft nights
I’m tired of feeling like I’m rushing into my days without having time to myself to pause, or reflect, or enjoy myself. In 2020 I also developed a bad habit of bringing my phone to bed and getting sucked down the rabbit hole of YouTube, or TikTok or phone games instead of truly unwinding.
So in 2021, I would like to have softer mornings and softer nights. I am still figuring out what this means for me, but so far I’ve added in morning pages and meditation, both of which I do in bed. That feels very soft and cozy! More to come, but this has been a great start.
To me, softer mornings also mean feeling rested, so finding a good, consistent sleep schedule this year is also a priority.
Towards the end of last year, I suddenly realized that I was suffering from perfectionism in a few areas of my life. I’ve obviously known about the concept of perfectionism for years, but never resonated with it – I’ve always been good at shipping imperfect work and not making perfect the enemy of the good. But last year, I noticed that perfectionism was creeping in around the edges in weird ways. I was over-planning fun excursions, overthinking simple decisions, and wanting everything to work out perfectly. If it didn’t, I felt anxious or unsatisfied with my choices. NO! No.
This year, I want to embrace more spontaneity. I want to remember that life is long, and there is so much time to have all the experiences I want to have. I don’t have to cram things in, or force them if they’re not flowing. On the whole, I want to plan less and live more.
I mean this both literally and metaphorically. I love the idea of softening my shoulders – not getting my hackles up! – over small things. Relaxing into the moment & accepting what is. Lightening up.
I also want to find ways to literally soften my shoulders and back. I carry so much tension in my back and it has been giving me pain for y
ears. I’d love to do more stretching and strengthening to reduce that pain, and maybe get more massages to loosen up the tense muscles there. And as always, I want to work on my posture, especially when sitting or standing at my desk!
This one is simple, but not easy. I want to look upon others with love, softness, compassion and affection. I want to be more gentle in my relationships. I want to be less judgemental.
I’ll be honest: watching the actions of the world and the people around me during the pandemic was hard. I felt stressed and upset to see people flouting the rules and carrying on like everything was normal. But here’s the thing: judging them doesn’t hurt them, it only hurts me.
So in ways big and small this year, I want to have soft eyes: for my partner, for my friends, for my family, for myself.
This is a fun one! I want to literally be surrounded by soft things this year. Cozy, soft, gentle fabrics in the form of clothes, blankets, sheets, pyjamas, pillows. Comfier furniture: my couch especially is so uncomfortable and hard. Spending lots of time around super-soft cats and dogs, and hopefully getting a very soft, fluffy pet of my own. Softness in all things! I want to be comfortable & cozy in 2021.
I can’t be the only one who struggles with my feet, right? It seems like no matter what I do, I can’t seem to make my heels as baby soft as I might want them to be! I hope that 2021 is the year that will change. When I can safely go in person again for a pedicure, I will, and until then I’ll do my research and do my best at home. This also extends to my hands, lips, and body. I want to use lovely lotions and potions that smell good and make my skin nice and soft.
Last but not least, I want to be softer with myself. My self-talk can get pretty brutal sometimes, especially when it comes to my body, and my choices. I want that to soften. I want to learn to speak to myself with positivity and kindness and love. This may also mean finding a good therapist who can teach me more tools for self-compassion & self-love!
Being softer with myself also means scheduling in way more self-care. Over the past few years I have not been great about scheduling vacations or taking time off, so that changes this year. I’d love to give myself more time away from the computer and doing what I love: being creative, writing, taking photos, cooking delicious meals, and reading great books.
Ironically, I know that having Soften as my word might be hard for me. But that’s okay! It’s a growth edge, and I know that this word has a lot to teach me. I’m looking forward to taking more opportunities to relax, breathe, and trust that everything is going to be okay.
If you choose a word for the year, I would love to hear about it! And if you see any resources, books or posts about the idea of softening, send them my way. Happy 2021, everyone!
You can read more about my words from the last few years below: