How One Word Can Change Everything

How One Word Can Change Everything

In 2013, I read, wrote, and shared a LOT of words.

But it was a conscious choice to focus on just ONE…all year long…that changed everything for me.

Let me explain.

Choosing a Word of the Year

As 2012 came to a close, my sister Stacey told me about an idea she’d gotten from a coworker’s email. The idea was to choose a WORD for the new year (as opposed to a resolution).

Fact: I’ve never been big on resolutions.
Evidence: The first “food” I consumed in 2014 was a peanut M&M.

Not surprisingly, I loved the idea of choosing just choosing ONE word to focus on. A theme for the year.

Simple, powerful, effective. I was in.

How It Changed Everything

I told this story in all kinds of interviews and profiles last year, but I shared my fave synopsis in the December issue of This Girl Means Business Magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

At the start of 2013, I was a military wife and toddler mom with a master’s degree, happily earning “paychecks of the heart” as a part-time college professor and park ranger. I knew this year would bring some big changes for our family, so I chose a word as my resolution: FAITH.

I started waking up before my husband and son each morning to take some quiet time. To greet the day before being jolted to consciousness by the sound of the baby monitor. To my surprise, after the first week or so, I started to look forward to getting out of bed each morning. I was inspired.

At that time, I’d been writing and sharing stories over on my personal blog for about a year. Since the start of it, I’d received all kinds of encouraging Facebook posts and comments from friends and family:

“I love everything you write.”
“When are you going to write a book?”
“You’ve really got a gift, Nik.”

I started to see these sweet notes as divine confirmation. Bread crumbs leading to a bigger path I was meant to take.

I realized that throughout my whole life, my friends, family, professors, and colleagues had encouraged me to share my gift for communicating, connecting, and storytelling in a bigger way. And while it was scary to admit, I realized that “going big” wasn’t just an option anymore. It was an inevitability.

[Click here to read the rest – starting on p. 19]

Bottom line: Facing a bunch of unknowns, I decided to store up some spiritual nuts for winter. My word of 2013: FAITH.

The Truth About My Spiritual Nuts

NOTE: In case you’re wondering, my spiritual nuts happen to be of the Jesus-loving variety. And as a result, I love you (in the non-awkward neighborly sense) no matter what kind of spiritual nuts you like to store :)

So here’s what happened.

Even though the whole “waking up early” thing got all kinds of messed up as soon as we crossed the Pacific for a family visit in March, I DID manage to get in a daily devotional or bible study on MOST days of MOST months in 2013, and for me – that’s huge. Really huge.

Til then (or actually, December 2012 when another lovely Stacey invited me to join a Good Morning Girls advent study), I hadn’t had followed through with a daily quiet time for more than a few days in a row. I kicked off 2013 with a solid three-month run, and BOOM: Life changed in a big way.

After a full year of conscious effort to grow my faith, I’ve got a lot of answers, and a lot of questions. Most of all I have a deeper desire to KEEP growing, learning, exploring, talking, sharing, and questioning. And I think God’s totally cool with that.

The Most Unexpected Byproduct

Given my word choice, spiritual growth was to be expected in 2013. But this business…and this long-term path that now seems SUPER-obvious to me? This whole world of possibility wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye this time last year.

(If you wanna make God laugh, tell Him your plans, right?!)

Truly. If you would’ve told me all of THIS – my business and crazy launch story, this post and all those that preceded it, the three Ugandan wells we fundedthe brand new program I’m about to launch, my fancy new brand pants that will premiere in the spring – would’ve happened as a result of choosing to focus on my faith, I would’ve laughed in your beautiful face.

This little gem in particular would’ve REALLY made my head spin:

In my This Girl Means Business piece in December, I also confessed (and admittedly freaked out in doing so) that it’s very possible I could break six figures by the end of my first year in business.

  1. I can’t believe I admitted that “out loud” to over 70,000 people I’ve never met (and now to YOU, which is oddly scarier!).
  2. I can’t believe it’s actually TRUE.

Listen, dude. For the last few years, most of my paychecks didn’t even have commas in ’em. (And to be honest, I was still thankful, because a) working at Pearl Harbor was a dream, and b) being “underemployed” was better than being unemployed.)

But I’m not afraid to admit this:  The fact that I’m very close to busting through the imaginary income ceiling I’d gotten comfy with after grad school is huge. Scary. A bit nauseating, totally affirming, and all possible because I chose ONE meaningful word.

Pretty crazy, right?!

Your Turn

So here we are, friend, with a brand-new year ahead of us. I’m pretttty sure my word of 2014 will be PRESENCE, probably because it’s the one I’m resisting the most. My runners up are boundaries and intuition. (I think they’re all related.)

But what I really want to know is what YOU want to focus on this year. Before you go about your day, take a minute to tell me right here in the comments:

What’s YOUR word of 2014 (and why)?

Can’t wait to hear it. (And as always, if you liked this post, please share with your friends and fans or click here to tweet about it. My Facebook buddies have been LOVING this topic!)

To using YOUR word(s) in 2014,




P.S. In case you haven’t heard yet, I’m cooking up something HUGE over here. Click below to check it out:


P.P.S. Fun fact: Our Buying Hawaii episode is available on iTunes – who knew!? It’s called “Pearl Harbor to Paradise.” Click here to check it out (and PLEASE remember my winky faces. TV magic, friend. TV magic.).

Buying Hawaii: Pearl Harbor to Paradise



  1. Teri

    Hi Nikki, my one word is intentional. I want to be intentional with time this year, it’s slipping away too quickly to not make the most of every possible moment!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Exactly, Teri! That’s one reason why “presence” is my jam.

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Julia

    Isn’t it amazing how powerful our words are? My word for 2014 is abundance. Why? Because it makes me smile with gratitude and I always want to remember that there is plenty of all I need for leading a happy life. To think of abundance calms me down and helps me to be more courageous and focused. I wish all of you a wonderful, happy and healthy New Year!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      “To think of abundance calms me down and helps me to be more courageous and focused.”

      Love that, Julia! So good.

  3. Pam Ahern

    As always, I loved your post. My one word for the 2014 year is VIVACIOUS!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      As always, I loved your comment.

      Watch out, world, Pam’s gettin’ lively and animated! (Yes, you inspired me to google the actual definition.)

  4. Alysa

    I really can’t choose just one…so I’ve settled on two. Abundance and wholeness because they will transform so many interrelated parts of my life. Started out 2014 with more devotions too! Loving 2 Timothy right now.

  5. Lindsey

    IMPACT. Touch the lives of more people.

  6. Kiria

    My word is SELF-LOVE.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      (Self-)LOVE it, Kiria!

      This has gotta be a focus for me too. My bedtimes in 2013 were outta control.

  7. Laurel

    I would have to say CONNECTED. After finishing the book A Course In Miracles I am finally becoming aware of the impact of connecting body and mind with spirit. I also believe we are all somehow connected through that spirit, and once we recognize the connection, inspiration occurs. Together we are a driving force. Together, we create expansion.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      We’re all different parts of one body – I absolutely believe it, Laurel :)

      And as for body-mind-spirit connection, you’ve gotta talk to Dr. Tonia below! She’s teaching me lots about that.

      Thanks for sharing!

  8. Tonia

    Love PRESENCE!! I didn’t know that was in the running. If you have presence then the rest all falls into place. You’ll be able to quickly and astutely hone in on your intuition and your boundaries. Love it. Win win win.

    I chose VISIBILITY. As I was out walking the dog under a beautiful starlit canopy VERY EARLY this morning, (sleep much, Doc? – Yikes… anyhoo…) I played out a head drama of being interviewed on national TV. Visibility. But what I was fantasy explaining to the interviewer was how the external visibility was a by product of my internal visibility.

    I’m willing to look at my gunk, see myself, and commit to fall in love with what ever I see. All. Year. Long.


    Not unlike how your word faith translated into bigger things than you could ever imagine, I can see my word having the same power for me.

    All change comes from within. A choice. A word. A mere shift in awareness or perception.


    (I’ve decided part of this process for me is going to be about letting go of physical stuff. I’ve decided to purge one physical item from my life every day. It happened by fluke on Jan 1. But it felt so good I decided to keep it going. All. Year. Long. It’s not a resolution, it’s part of me being able to look at myself. How is my physical reality reflecting my internal milieu? What do I need to do to change that internal landscape and hence the external one? How can the outside inform the inside? What am I holding on to? But more importantly, why? Visibility. I’m going to write about it. I’m currently head-planning out the guidelines for myself. Should be fun!)

    Woo… that was long! (Sawry readers, and Nikki!)

    PS: I’m really glad you put quotation marks around the word food.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      “I’m willing to look at my gunk, see myself, and commit to fall in love with what ever I see. All. Year. Long.”

      Beautiful, Tonia. And love the idea of letting one physical thing go every day!! Thanks for taking time to think this one out loud with us, friend :)

      P.S. BUSTED!! ;) Yes, those quotation marks were definitely added when I realized, “Oh wait – my health coaches + doctor friends may want to smack me for admitting this…let me show them I’m keenly aware candy is not a food group…”

  9. Hannah

    RADIANCE! Because I want to shine brighter and impact the world around me in a bigger, better, more loving way. 2014, let’s do this! :)

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Love ALL words related to shining, being bright, and radiating, Hannah.

      You’ve totally got this one :)

  10. Molly

    Since I’m just about to have my third baby and I’m both excited and a little bit terrified – I picked TRUST as my word. I want to trust that the Lord will be with me during the challenging times.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Ha! Congratulations, Molly! Trust is a PERFECT word.

  11. Sumbul

    Nikki, I read the book at the end of 2012 “One Word That will Change your life.” By Jon Gordon. I have been a big fan of his books and this one was all about having a word for the year. So I meditated and did not pick my word, it was given to me as the book says. For 2013 it was “RELAX”. All throughout last year I not only learned different meditation and relaxation techniques but any situation where I felt anxiety, the more I relaxed the easily the solutions emerged for me.
    In 2014 I thought my word was “TRUST” but when I really sat and meditated on it I was given “ALLOW”. Both words have the same polarity but are energetically different. Trust gives away your power to something external. Allow tells you that the more I allow things to flow, the more they will flow for me. The power is within me! So now instead of setting intentions everyday, I just say ” I allow xyz to happen today”. And I am done!
    Wishing you a Happy New Year!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      You’re such a smarty pants, Sumbul. That’s exactly IT.

      And I wonder if that book is what inspired the email that inspired my sister’s coworker – then my sister – then me! I’ll have to ask if she remembers.

      That process you described is exactly how/why “presence” bubbled up for me. I was SURE it would be boundaries or intuition, then my…intuition.. said, “DUDE. You just need to be present.”

      And so the adventure begins…

  12. Allison Sharpe

    My 2013 word was CLEAR. Meaning I cleared out clutter (physically), cleared relationships that were causing distress in my life and cleared negative traits that were holding me back. I believe this set me up for 2014 because the word that kept coming to me was ….. ADVENTURE!!

    1. an exciting or very unusual experience.
    2. participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises: the spirit of adventure.
    3. a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.

    I’m ready to get out of my comfort zone and explore all the possibilities God has lined up for me!!

    By the way, being ‘present’ last year was a big life changer for me. I know it will be for you as well. :)

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Thank you so much for sharing this, Allison! I love the encouragement.

      …and can’t wait to hear about your 2014 adventures :)

  13. Christine

    Hi Nikki,

    I chose my ONE word for 2014 on December 31st of 2013. It had been stirring up within me for several weeks prior. So my ONE word is LOVE. Like you, I am a believer in Christ, and I know that everything starts and ends with love because God IS love. This year, I want do do everything from love and feel more love overall. I want more love in my relationships, my marriage, and my business. I’m looking forward to creating from this one word this year. It’s going to be nothing short of extraordinary! ❤️

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Your comment inspired me to google 1 John 4, Christine! I knew I’d recently read one of those passages – and that was it.

      From v16: God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

      What a gem.

      Thank you for inspiring me to do a little digging tonight :)

  14. Rhonda

    Hi Nikki, I picked my word a few weeks ago, you mentioned your word in a previous post. My word is “focus”. God has given me visions and ideas to move my life forward, but I have been lacking in focus and consistency. So no matter what, I’m committed to focusing on those things I need to do to move my self forward. Then God can do his part:) Thanks for sharing this idea, I have also shared it with my friends and family.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      That’s fabulous, Rhonda! Glad to hear you shared it.

      I could absolutely use more focus. Here’s to that!

  15. Melissa Burkheimer

    My word: Go! I was a cheerleader in high school, so it seems fitting.

    I often times finding myself saying this exact to the kids when they’re not staying on task when we have to get out the door. Or sometimes it’s “go get ’em” or “go kick ass today.”

    So for me, it’s go.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Ha! I can totally hear you saying that, Mel ;)

      Goooo, friend, go!

  16. Catherine Cerulli

    Rather than consciously choose a word, I let the word choose me. I want divine intervention to be honored in all I do.

    So….remember Angel Cards? (These are wee cards with single words written upon them.) With eyes closed, I draw a card from the pile.

    I trust that whatever appears is exactly what I need to embody and radiate in the new year. Big leap of faith to let control of that outcome!! :-) My 2014 word is Inspiration. Which, of course, is perfect as I bring forth my work which I pray will inspire many.

    May your presence continue to be a present to all Nikki. Wishing you more miracles and magic (coupled with devotion & dedication) in the new year!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Thank you so much, Catherine!

      Inspiration is a lovely word – to let yourself BE inspired (instead of forcing it), and to aim to inspire others.

      Love it.

  17. Kate @ Our Little Sins

    Your story ROCKS!

    My words for 2014 are ‘SURRENDER’ and ‘LIMITLESS’ (inspired by Natalie!!).

    I need to surrender to everything and stop fighting it. I don’t do the things I should, do way too many things I shouldn’t and although I know the path I keep deviating and ending up miserable. This shall be the way no longer! Surrendering and just going with the flow makes me so much happier and consequently, everyone around me happier!

    Limitless because I need to squash the voice in my head who still pops up and screeches “you can’t do that, you’re not ready/don’t know enough/aren’t experienced enough/fit enough/thin enough/strong enough”. Who am I not to do what I want!?

    Presence is a great word! I can’t wait to hear how it pans out for you.

    Happy 2014 Nikki xo

      1. Tonia Winchester

        Thanks for the shout out! Much appreciated :)

  18. Eunice Vielmas

    My one word for 2014 is determination. I am more determined than ever to seeing my dreams come true! But reading your post reminded me about my faith as well. I have new so focued on other things that my faith has taken a back seat and I hate that. I’m probably sharing too much, but I so appreciate your honesty and sharing about your faith. It renews my spirit knowing that I I hold on God will come through!! Thank you so much!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Absolutely, Eunice!

      Seriously – NONE of this would’ve happened if I hadn’t tuned in and started really paying attention to where I was being guided – subtly AND not-so-subtly.

      Looking back I can see the breadcrumbs that led me to this path SO clearly, but I know that this is all unfolding in divine timing – NOT mine.

      On that note – you might also like my “Ferris Wheel” story if you missed that one – check it out here:

      Gotta look around and enjoy the ride, sister!

      Thanks for the comment :)

  19. Monika Mundell

    Hey Nikki,

    I found your blog through “SheTakesontheWorld” and love your spunk girl. To see you blazing your brilliance across the Interwebs is refreshing + motivating.

    I committed 2013 to my CDFs after reading Danielle LaPorte’s “Desire Map.” And they’ve served me extremely well.

    This year is the year I dedicate to FEARLESS COMMITMENT… to acknowledge my fears, but to jump anyway. And to do so with fearless commitment.

    Loved reading your story of getting mighty close to your first 6 figures in your first year. Turning that milestone is HUGE! So enjoy every tasty morsel of success – you deserve it. From one copywriter to another. xx

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Thank you so very much, Nika! (Yes, I just checked out your about page ;))

      So happy you found me from STOTW – I owe them another guest post soon!

      Can’t wait to see what this fearless commitment produces in 2014. Keep me posted!

  20. Claire Hayes

    Love this Nikki! “Presence”has been a theme for years for me – including running a course – Presence – and using it as an exercise for every single one of my EFT Tapping sessions… (and writing it up in my book, “Everyday Happiness: EFT Tapping for Self Transformation that Really Works”.)
    “Presence” is so incredibly beautiful on every level – I know it will be perfect for you this year.
    And “Adventure” is proving fruitful for me so far as well – plans to put house on market as my life moves on :)

  21. claire stone

    Thank you for this lovely reminder: my word is Professional.

    Not because I need to remind myself to treat my clients in a professional manner, but because I need to remind myself to treat myself (looking after injuries, learning to surf properly), and the back-end of my business (doing my taxes, keeping my books, booking in holidays for myself), and the way that I see myself (not just wearing the same old blah blah blah) and the way that I do other things in my life (keeping my receipts, folding the laundry!), in a professional manner. The minute I realised this was my word, I realised that it was appropriate in about 76.35% of my life. So here I come: my professional 2014 is here.

  22. Teri Johnson

    I’ve been picking a “one-word” + anchor statement for the past 3 years, THIS year is not different, it just works for ME! SO, for 2014 my one-word is FOCUS and my anchor statement/verse is the very common Matthew 6:33, “But seek first HIS kingdom and HIS righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” <– that means FOCUS ON HIM in ALL my ways personally + professionally!

    Love reading your work Nikki, it's been fun seeing you grow into your "pants" — or overgrow them! lol

    2013 was a year of transition and "identity crisis" for me, BUT God is faithful and showing up BIG time in so many ways! Keep Shining your LIGHT!

    Keeping it Personal,
    Teri Johnson

  23. Elizabeth @ Rosalilium

    My word for 2014 is … ABUNDANCE.

    I have faith that there is plenty for everyone in this world and that I am just as deserving to receive and provide abundance in terms of love, business, creativity and income.

    Thanks Nikki for giving me the kick up the butt I needed to think about my word for the year!

  24. Natalia

    Absolutely without a doubt my word for 2014 is gratitude. I am currently reaching The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor which has inspired my word of the year. I am grateful for so many things and its rare that I stop to feel gratitude or share gratitude with others. I want to attract positive outcomes in my life and gratitude is a cause of positive outcomes. So here we go 2014, you will be my year of gratitude for the life I have now and the opportunities I want to attract this year! :-)

  25. Fon James, The Emergency Business Coach

    Love this post Nik! My word for the year is ROCKits. I know, I made it up but I believe that everything that I have been working on in the last several years is about to blast off this year and I will be ROCKing IT in 2014! Let the countdown to every success we want begin….5,4,3,2,1…..ROCKITS!!!!!!! LOL!

  26. Jeana

    It took me a while to commit to just one word! But I finally have chosen the word TODAY for this year. Instead of wondering on, dreaming about, planning and procrastinating whatever I want to accomplish, experience, and be, I must begin TODAY. Thanks for your post, Nikki!

  27. Eva

    My word at the beginning of this year was ACHIEVEMENT and it has served me well.

    But now I feel I need something slightly different. I think that a mid-year shakeup is in order!

    Thank you for this reminder to reconnect with myself and my word, and also for the reminder of how important the spiritual nuts are. I have neglected this part of my life in the whirlwind of things happening around me and I really feel that I’m lacking those nuts.

    I’m going to muse on my word for the rest of this year, and on the best way to recover my spiritual practice. I have a feeling that the two will not be disconnected.

  28. Monica Paradise

    My word would be love, because I have a lack of del-esteem and find it hard to love myself and others. Without it, I wouldn’t exist and I’m ready to love ….

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