One word that can change your life

Fareen Wahid

I attended a webinar by in December 2020, where I first heard about the one-word challenge. This challenge asks you to drop the long list of resolutions you make at the end of every year and instead pick one word that both reflects your character and your vision for the future. I thought it was a remarkable idea as I always struggled with my year-end resolutions. I began to look for more information about this challenge and came across the website I decided to try the challenge and began hunting in my head for that one word that would describe me. It wasn’t that simple. There were numerous words that came to mind. I started making a list. After a long battle with my thoughts, I finally chose my one word for the year 2021 – Fortitude. It was a word I started reviving every single minute of the day. It became the answer to my daily chaos.

As an educator, I always believe in sharing my experiences and so I started asking my colleagues and students to try this challenge. The usual answer was the dilemma at the beginning with having a list of words to pick from. But all of them found it quite different and worthy of their time. For them, it was a saviour from the resolution that they never or partly followed.

It requires choosing a particular word to lead learners throughout the year as they make choices, pursue aims, and try to become the human beings they want to be. It’s part compass, part motivator and part mirror. Adopting a guiding word can encourage students to:
• become more purposeful
• be more observant
• make judgments that align with their purposes
• avoid anything that may deter them from their purpose
• find the path to achieve their purpose
• mould their thinking and mindset
• develop model behaviour

The one-word challenge doesn’t have to always be something you do at new year’s, of course. It could be about setting up goals for oneself, in which case they can use one word to describe how they plan to achieve their goal. Or one can simply choose a word and let that shape their everyday choices.

I had an opportunity to implement the challenge with my secondary students. I asked them to choose a word as a focus and motivator for the year 2021. Brainstorm, select and turn that word into a piece of art. I share a few of their artworks here.

The author is a humanities educator based in Mumbai. She is currently a teacher in Garodia International Centre for Learning, Mumbai. She can be reached at

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