Word of the Year
by Ashley Mowrey
Happy New Year, Dancer! Today I’m sharing one of my favorite mindset practices…Word of the Year. Have you heard of it?
Return. That was my one word for 2021. 2020 was chaotic, filled with grief, confusion, and disappointments. Amid a Global Pandemic, while juggling new restrictions, cancelations, child care, collective anxiety and distress, my mom’s cancer was also progressing. After she passed away in May 2020, the rest of that year was full of ups and downs as I navigated grief, the pandemic, my family’s needs, and my business. I spent much of the year learning how to take care of myself. After I lost the person who so beautifully supported and nurtured me my whole life, how could I learn to support and nurture myself? Through lots of space and time, I slowly became better at listening to my needs and knowing how to get them met.
Going into 2021, I felt a bit more equipped to take care of myself. I knew a big part of that was turning inward and listening to myself, which I was still getting used to. I also learned that taking care of myself included being in the present moment instead of sitting in the sadness of the past or the anxiety of the future.
Therein came my word for 2021: return. Return to myself and listen. Return to the present moment. Return to the things that I know take care of my mind, body, and soul. Throughout the year, it was my gentle reminder. In moments of anxiety, or when the kids’ schools closed and I had to upend my work schedule. When I was overwhelmed with grief. I would calmly remind myself to return. It sure wasn’t perfect. Sometimes it didn’t feel like it helped much. But it gave me an anchor—something to tie myself to in moments of chaos and stress.
If you’re not familiar with the idea of Word of the Year, let’s take a look at what it is and how it can help. The concept is simple: pick one word that can serve as your intention for the year. Instead of starting with several New Year’s resolutions, which can be overwhelming and often quickly broken, you can pick one word to be your compass. Then, if you want to set resolutions or goals, you can start with the intention of your one word as inspiration. Here’s a great list of words to look through to get started if you’re having trouble.
While picking your Word of the Year, here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:
- How do I want to feel in 2022?
- What’s my hope for myself in 2022?
- What do I need more of in 2022?
Once you have your word, write it somewhere you can see it every day. Here are some other ways you can use your word throughout the year:
- When setting goals, think about what goals you want to achieve with your word in mind. Then, think about how practicing your word can help you reach your goals.
- During setbacks and disappointments, reflect on your one word and how it can help guide you.
- In moments of self-criticism, use your word by thinking about what you could say to yourself that would be in alignment with your word.
Dance educators, on top of your word helping you this year, it can also really help your dancers. Once your dancers have chosen their individual words of the year, try out these ideas:
- Help your dancers when motivation is low by gently reminding them of their word of the year. This could mean hanging their words on the wall and reading them before class. Or if you see motivation weaning, have them close their eyes, imagine their word, and them dancing with the intention of their word.
- Have your dancers say their word out loud in a circle before competition or performances.
- If disruptive behaviors arise, ask your dancer what they need to get back in alignment with their word. Try to avoid shaming them for getting off course, as we’re all human. Instead, gently explain what you’re noticing and have a conversation with them about it.
There ya have it! I hope you’ll use this simple and effective practice to start your new year with a healthy mindset. And once you’ve picked your word, come share it with me on Instagram! I’d love to cheer you on this year.
Ashley Mowrey is a Mindset Coach and Educator for dancers, helping you calm the mind and body, cultivate self-confidence, and create inner strength. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from The University of Arkansas, is an Associate Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation, a Whole Person Certified Coach through Coach Training World, a trained facilitator in Tara Mohr’s Playing Big Leadership Program, a specialist for Doctors for Dancers, and a blog contributor for Apolla Performance. Ashley has recently joined the faculty for Embody Dance Conference. There she will lead workshops for all age groups, including parents and teachers, on mindset skills. She is also a Team Member of Dancer, 360, and a contributor to their upcoming book. Ashley trained as a competitive dancer out of Dallas, TX, before teaching and eventually directing a company and dance studio in Fayetteville, AR. During those years, she felt drawn towards the dancer’s mindset and the need for training and tools in the dance community to foster mental health and well-being. She sees clients in-person and via Zoom all over the country and travels (in-person and virtually) to studios for customized group workshops. Ashley has also been featured on the Pointe to Rise Podcast, Dance Studio Amplified Podcast (Ep. 14), Dance Boss University Mastermind guest presenter, and episode 58 of Dance Boss Podcast. Head to her website for more information or her Instagram for free tools and resources to help you build a healthy mindset to navigate the dance world at your best.