by Dr. Elliott Kronenfeld

I hate New Year’s resolutions. We break them by February and then we feel awful about ourselves. They really are not an effective way to create change in our lives. I have a different practice I started about 20 years ago. Instead of trying to set a resolution, which by its very definition means a solution to a problem rather than setting an aspirational goal, I name a Word Of The Year.

This word is intended to keep me focused on my goals, desires, and the reality of my life authentically. In the past I have used words such as intention, curiosity, frame, firm, flight, courage, and over the years these words have become the lexicon of my life. They continue to guide me and girder my forward movement in all aspects of my being. Last year my word was recalibrate. I was facing enormous change and had some anxiety about how I was going to manage and be productive. I moved my home to a new state where I didn’t have a social support system, changed my clinical practice, had one child graduate college while my last was preparing to leave home for university. Recalibrate was a wonderful word to keep me focused on all the change without having a definitive goal of what it needed to look like – because if I did and missed the mark, I would have failed in the goal. Having a framework of what my mindset should be allowed me to be flexible in all things and remain focused on the task at hand for success.

This year, my word is malleable. It means to hammer something into a new shape without it breaking. Now that I am in my new settings at home and work, I have to start adapting and changing how I work, live, and socialize. How do I engage my family when my children no longer live at home? How do I focus more on my interests and health? How do I make new social contacts and create healthy work/life balance? I must be malleable and change the shape of my existence that I have had for so many years without feeling like it is broken. Some of this change will feel like I am being ‘hammered’ and shaped by outside forces and I must remember that can be a great thing. I have returned to yoga (talk about malleable!), signed up for a wood turning class, and am learning how to start an apiary (honey anyone?).

I have several clients that pick a word each year with me and we hold each other accountable and reflective on our words as we learn and grow together through the year. It has become some of the most effective clinical work I do as clients get to pick their own word and how they integrate it into their life.

If you are looking for a way to use your curiosity for personal growth, try naming your word of the year. When you think you have found it, think about all the meanings of that word. Share it with others and get their reactions to the word and see if they understand the value of the word. Integrate it into passwords, screensavers, etc. so that you are engaging it every day!

Learn to use the power of language to help you set and reach your goals! If this is a goal you are working on contact Elliott at or check out his book Couples by Intention: Creating and Cultivating Relationships that Matter! at

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