Do you have a word of the year (WOTY)? WOTY is a word or a short phrase that serves as an intention for the year to come. 

For me, WOTY is 1000% more helpful than New Year’s resolutions. It’s serve as my compass for how I want to live my life for the next 12 months. 

Here are some of the words I’ve chosen in the past:

2020: Deliberate
2019: n/a
2018: Ease and Receive
2017: Joyful Responsibility
2016: Full
2015: Integrate

Looking back on 2020, DELIBERATE turned out to be a tough, but helpful WOTY. I started off the year making very intentional, non-reactive choices about how I spent my time.

Enter COVID.

The pandemic slammed me into reactive mode, busy in the extreme, struggling to be deliberate and consistent in caring for myself.

But it turned out that just knowing my WOTY was DELIBERATE helped, because it kept me honest about how unintentional I was being each day.

That awareness helped me to re-assess and, eventually, to pump the brakes on the runaway car that was my work life. I was able to end the year with a return to a more deliberate approach.

Some of you may remember that I took 30 days off of social media in January 2020.

This January, I left completely (more on that coming soon!).

The choice to leave social media personally and professionally was the result of my WOTY – my intention to live a more deliberate life.

Which brings us to 2021.

I was looking for a word that would capture my desire to be fully present with and grateful for the animals and people I love, to feel satisfied with what I have and what I can do, to care deeply for my body and the land I live on, and to not miss out on the beauty of being alive because of my tendency towards perpetual busy-ness.

That’s a lot to ask of one word!

It took me a week and then, on New Year’s Day REVERENCE popped into my head.

Reverence means to have profound respect, mingled with love, devotion, or awe.

Yep, that’s the one. 

So I asked myself: What does reverence look like in daily life?

I think it may come down to this: to be reverent is to have radical respect and gratitude for all aspects of life. 

Approaching daily life with reverence requires a certain degree of slowness, simplicity, and openness.

It takes the word DELIBERATE and adds heaps of gratitude and mystery and love.

Some of you may be familiar with Albert Schweitzer’s work with animals and his philosophy of Reverence for Life.

He wrote, “Reverence for Life says that the only thing we are really sure of is that we live and want to go on living. This is something that we share with everything else that lives, from elephants to blades of grass – and of course, every human being. So we are brothers and sisters to all living things, and owe to all of them the same care and respect that we wish for ourselves.”

Rabbi Abraham Heschel gets right to it: “Reverence is a salute of the soul, an awareness of the inherent value of all beings.”

Many of you work with animals and already have a deep reverence for their lives.

But what about your own life?

Do you believe in your own inherent value, apart from what you can produce?

And do you offer yourself the same care and respect you generously give to animals?

I struggle with this and I know that many of you do as well.

That’s why I chose REVERENCE for 2021.

Reverence is my intention to stay connected to what is most meaningful for me, approaching all areas of my life with radical respect, so that I am present with what is sacred.

“Living in a sacred manner means looking upon the ordinary with a mystical eyesight. When seen differently, the common things are soon handled in a different way – with reverence.” – Edward Hays

What would be different if I looked at the everyday parts of my life with reverence? How would I relate differently to:

  • My body, mind, and spirit?
  • My family and friends, human and animal, past and present?
  • The people I have the privilege to work with and care for?
  • The animals, plants, minerals, and water in my yard and around the world?
  • What I consume – from food to information?

How would life be different if I moved at the speed of radical respect and awe?

I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to finding out in 2021!

Because reverence is such a BIG word, I chose a 2nd, more earth-bound, support word for 2021: CONSISTENCY.

For me to live with reverence I need structure, routine, and ritual.

Like many of us, when things are very stressful I tend to drop my most supportive structures – just when I need them most. This immediately takes me out of living with a deep respect for myself (not to mention others), so this year consistency is married to reverence.

What about you? What’s your WOTY?

Whatever word you chose (or don’t!), I’m wishing you a year filled with laughter, health, happiness, and safety.

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