Three Words for the New Year

At the beginning of each New Year my step-daughter, Lisa, encourages us to proclaim three words that represent our aspirations for the upcoming year. The catch is that the words need to be alliterative--they all need to begin with the same letter.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.


At the beginning of each New Year my step-daughter, Lisa, encourages us to proclaim three words that represent our aspirations for the upcoming year. The catch is that the words need to be alliterative--they all need to begin with the same letter. For example, my past trios included:

  • Compassion, Courage, and Curiosity
  • Purpose, Passion, and Pluralism
  • Gratitude, Graciousness, and Generosity

Keeping with the theme of trios, here are three reasons I encourage you to embrace this seemingly simple New Year exercise.

1. Begin with one noun that truly reflects your values-based intention for the New Year. If this is as far as you go, it is an important step in declaring an area for focus and improvement. I began with my priority for this year: JOY.

In the process of examining the word JOY, I came across words that were worth considering or just plain interesting:

  • Jeu d'esprit--a witty comment or composition
  • Joie de vivre--a feeling of happiness or excitement about life
  • Jovial--full of happiness and joy
  • Joyance--an archaic word meaning an experience of delight
  • Randomly, I learned that a jolie laide is a good-looking ugly woman; a woman who is attractive though not conventionally pretty (and made me wonder about the origin of Angelina Jolie's name)

Each of these words encouraged me to explore a different aspect of what I wanted JOY to reflect in my life. I didn't want a synonym for happiness. To me, happiness lacks a dimension of quality. Someone might be "happy" that something awful has happened to a rival; that she won and someone else lost; that he got the big promotion or received some other external validation. These reasons for being happy reflect suboptimal forms of motivation that I am eliminating from my life.

I want JOY to signify a deep and profound state of delight that comes from acting on my developed values, fulfilling a noble purpose, and experiencing intentional inherent motivation.

2. Begin exploring other words that begin with the first letter of your primary word. This fascinating process leads you down paths you might never explore if you picked three words that begin with any letter. I almost gave up on JOY because positive "j" words are scarce! But I found words that pushed back on my values and intentions in surprising ways. Juncture took on a symbolic meaning beyond its dictionary definition. I liked the idea that juncture represented "an important point in a process or activity: a place where things join." Could I embody a point where people joined in an important process or activity? Experiencing my JOY was one thing, but sharing it with others was another thing.

This led me to JUBILANCE: expression of joy; rejoicing.

3. One reason most resolutions don't work is because they are too general. (I wrote a blog that you might want to revisit).

But, resolutions fail for a more deadly reason. Most resolutions are statements about "what" you want (to lose weight, or more healthy) or "how" you're going to change your behavior (stop eating empty carbs, work out weekly, drink a green shake every morning).

The most important aspect of a resolution is often the least considered: why. Declaring what you want and how you will do it cannot sustain your efforts without clarity about why you want to do it in the first place.

Why do you want to lose weight, be thinner, or more healthy? The answer to why lies in your values and purpose. Linking your values and connecting your purpose to resolutions elevates your intentions. Expressing your developed values and noble purpose through three compelling words makes you more resolute. (Family, Fitness, and Facile, maybe?)

One word reflects a value connected to my life's purpose to be a catalyst for good and permeates my thinking every time I watch the news, listen to a political candidate, or discuss world events: JUSTICE. I long to be fair, open-minded, loving, compassionate, and to seek harmony between diverse points of view. What a glorious "J" word.

Beginning the year with JOY, JUBILANCE, AND JUSTICE is almost as optimally motivating as ending the year with GRATITUDE, GRACIOUSNESS, AND GENEROSITY. The most thrilling realization from the three-word exercise is that the you give, the more you receive. This has been a year where I received touching expressions of gratitude for my work; where people were gracious in light of my foibles and failings and amazingly generous with their bountiful gifts.

What are your three alliterative words for the New Year? I encourage you to share with us as you embark on a year of living intentionally.

Go To Homepage

Popular in the Community