Listening for My One Word and How Not to Listen for Yours

Listening for My One Word has become a regular occurrence. Pictured above are some of the words that were floating through my mind and appearing to be good candidates, but so often I find God slowly reveals my one word to me over a period of months.  Most often I find it’s not the word I would choose, but it is exactly the word that leads me where I need to go. 


I thought I’d offer you a different approach to finding your One Word for this coming year, assuming you are looking for One Word. If you’re not, and you are still doing the resolution thing, drop your name below and I will say a prayer for you, because resolutions are a lot like the pair of pants tucked away in the corner of your closet for someday. They don’t fit anymore, but you are saving them anyway. Just in case. Do yourself a favor will you? Ditch the pants, jeans, skirt, shirt, whatever it is that no longer fits. Try something new. Because resolutions and clothes that don’t fit are better discarded. Life is short. Trust me on this, will you?

I’ve already written 5 Tips for Finding Your One Word, so I want to share what NOT to do as you go about leaning in and listening to the silence that potentially might greet you in this endeavor. Or the opposite, a grand cacophony of voices which is the equivalent and potentially more dangerous.

Think of your One Word as a camouflaged AND endangered animal you must find in the wild. The thing is, there are two things that can happen when you are on a Safari Drive looking for animals in the wild. The first is nothing. You drive and search, and see …dusty roads and a bird or two. Maybe. The second is when you stumble across a number of beautiful beasts and creatures vying for your attention. Each unique in its own right, each competing for your undivided focus, drawing you in.

Consider me your Guide, just for the moment. I am an expert at distraction, you can bet on that, so I am the one who can tell you exactly what not to do from firsthand experience. You’re welcome. However my disclaimer is, you really do know what you need, but chances are you won’t recognize it. Not if you start with you.

I have learned to let God reveal my One Word for each year to me…and I believe He does. Some might write it off or dismiss this but, I respectfully disagree. The Holy Spirit of God in Christ Jesus (in me) guides me and the beauty of it, I will not deny. You can come to your One Word anyway that suits you, but for me, this is a gift God has been encouraging me with for a number of years now, and the fruit of it is good. If you’d rather pick a word out of a hat, that’s fine too… for me, that would still reveal God’s sovereignty. IMHO.

Now, about what I would suggest NOT to do:

Pick a word, any word that seems good to you- OK, so the thing is this…that’s just dumb! OK, just kidding. BUT, the reason that doesn’t work for me, is – wait for it- exploding-idea-syndrome. It sounds like this, ” The word Still, yes, that’s a good word, I need more stillness in my life.” Later that day, “OH, man, I need to work on self-control, hey, that’s a good word. I need more fruit in my life.” Later the same day, “Hmm, well if I am going for fruit, may as well go for one of the Big Three: Faith, Hope, or Love, that makes sense, right?”


If left to my own devices I’d be going through the dictionary and Bible for the BEST WORD…or just hey, my one word is the dictionary, because. Hello who can pick just one. Maybe I need that Self-Control after all…because gluttony! It just becomes an overwhelming and fleshly proposition. It doesn’t work for me. However if this works for you, have at it. You obviously aren’t blessed with ADHD.

Settle for the first word that shows up- When you believe you have an inkling of what your word might be, wait, pray and mull it over before God…repeatedly. Don’t rush…I start sometime in Fall thinking about my current word and how God has faithfully filtered my experiences and lessons all year through this word lens. Then I usually think I will not have a better word. It’s as if I grow into my word each year, then – like with a new friend one has learned to love, I don’t really want to say goodbye! The first word that shows up for me is usually my conscious mind telling me in it’s best parental voice what is good for me. I ask questions, I look up verses and words, and I sit with the words that do come, because eventually, I will sense the affirmation I need to say confidently – this is THE ONE! I also entertain the idea that maybe I really won’t have One Word for the year…but even as I write- God seems to use this practice to help me hear Him better, so …we continue.

Pick or Stick with a word just because you want one– One point to realize is God hasn’t always delivered my word on my time table…One year in particular, I just had no clear vision for my word. That was the year I said- eh, maybe I’ll skip this year, I’ve got nothing.  Then I debated if I should just stick with my word from last year. That year my One Word flew into my life like a Snowy Owl. I think I had pretty much given up. Which would have been fine. Interestingly last year, I had a word I really thought was THE ONE until I began journaling about the this image I could not stop thinking about, a model wearing a shirt that stated, “I love to be free”. As I journaled, it became obvious to me, that my One Word had arrived and was exactly the word I needed. Ditch prior word! Don’t be afraid to back up and be corrected in the choice. My One Word as God reveals it has never let me down.

Once again through prayer, patience AND journaling God has revealed my One Word for 2020. As I look back in my journal I could see it there all along, even as I considered other words and sought them prayerfully, ultimately leaving each one in God’s hands to do as He pleased… and this morning as I prayed about my inabilities, my limited human understanding, my lack of love…there on my pages He led me right back to Himself, His grace, His mercy and His will.

I stand in awe of this God, who is faithful, to meet me where I am, as I am…and promises not to leave me, NOR leave me unchanged, by His grace for His glory. All praise to Him.

I gratefully and humbly reveal my One Word to you today as I give thanks to my Redeemer- as He calls me to walk with this word, this coming new year.

From one who has been a runaway, a quitter, a failure. From one who has spent most of her life trying to forget the unimaginable …God in His grace and goodness calls me to…



The verses that I have been meditating on the past month or so are Habakkuk 3:2 and 1 Kings 8:56. It wasn’t until this very morning as I was journaling that I was led back to these verses in my journal. I was caught between Hope and Shine as words…and not sure at all…and through the plethora of possibilities staring back at me it became so obvious.

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.

Habakkuk 3:2


“Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.

1 Kings 8:56


This is only the beginning. The beauty of the One Word Journey each year is discovering where it will lead you, what it will teach you and how amazing God is to even give a hoot enough to be bothered. And He is. So I stand on the brink of a new year, my word in hand, and ask you…what is the One Word God has for you? I’d love to know!

If you check out One Word 365 or the My One Word sites – you can find more one word support for your journey!

Published by enthusiasticallydawn

Dawn Paoletta is the author of Journaling for Discovery and Delight. Her writing is included in several anthologies and her poems have been included in the Wickford Poetry and Art Exhibit and Books. Dawn is currently working on her next book. Inquiries at

4 thoughts on “Listening for My One Word and How Not to Listen for Yours

  1. I chose my ONE WORD after having another word in mind. I changed it. I will share it with you later. I usually announce that word in early January.

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