Words To Live By In 2024

Judith Valente
4 min readJan 14, 2024
Collage of various words such as imagine, balance, dazzle, etc on magnet strips.
What word would you choose as your guiding star in 2024?

This past week I had a wonderful experience guiding a spiritual retreat called “Writing The Prologue To Your New Year.” During the retreat, each person shares a word they’ve selected to be their guiding light in the coming year. Hearing these words is always a moving experience. In sharing them, we learn about each other and what each of us believes is important to aim for in life.

The idea harkens back to an ancient practice in which pilgrims would visit monks and monastic sisters living as hermits in the Egyptian desert, seeking from them a word they could carry home on which to meditate and pray.

Many of the words that emerged from this year’s retreat were quite surprising. I’d like to pass on some of them. Perhaps you will find one (or more) of them speak to you and will become your “north star” for the coming year.

One woman chose as her word “Invitation” — not as in accepting invitations to do this or that, but invitation in the sense of listening to what the deepest part of our inner self is inviting us to do. As someone who is often too quick to say ‘yes’ to every request, I found the idea of listening more deeply to myself to better discern my priorities quite appealing.

One of the men came up with a word of his making, “Eleganting.” He described “Eleganting” as “removing all that gets in the way of living life fully and deeply,” remembering that what is simple is often also elegant.

I see in “Eleganting” a way of seeking beauty wherever we are. With all the chaos and ugliness in our world — wars, rampant gun violence, political division — can we aim to create beauty and offer it to those we encounter?

Another woman settled on the word “Reservoir,” as in being willing to take the plunge into the unknown, to challenge ourselves and grow, knowing that within each of us is a deep reservoir of strength we can draw from.

Someone who had retired recently chose “Emergence” in two separate senses of the word. First, to discern what is emerging as possible new paths and roles for her as she enters the next phase of her life. Secondly, keeping a watchful eye on words spoken and events that happen so that truth rather than rhetoric or false narratives can emerge.

Still another selected “Effortless” as a way to remember we don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to stress over everything we do. We can be “good enough.”

A child holds out a clay bowl whose broken places have been repaired with gold lacquer to make a lovely new design by filling the cracks.
“Kintsugi” is a word that refers to the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, silver or platinum lacquer to create something lovely. As a metaphor, it is a reminder we can heal and gain strength from the broken places in our lives.

“Understanding” was one of the more popular words this year, largely because there is so much division in our country and conflict in the world. The war in Gaza and our own political tumult in the U.S. show how essential it is to understand the root causes of conflicts and divisions and what can be done to mitigate them. It has become increasingly important too to better understand the people with whom we disagree.

One of the more unique choices was “Vibrations,” as in listening to the vibrations of the earth and the invisible vibrations we ourselves send out into the world by our actions.

And yet another: “Paradox.” As the person who chose this word explained, paradox involves an understanding that life will be a mixture of light and darkness. She found wisdom in the words a child once spoke, “If you find you are lost, go somewhere else.”

A good philosophy to live by.

Other words people chose: Patience, Hope, Gratefulness, Compassion, Forgive, Freedom, Celebrate, Acceptance, Serenity, Desire, Rock, Healing, Enjoy, Contentment and Perspective.

I didn’t have one word for this year, but really two. One word is for my personal aims, the other reflects my wish for the world.

It might seem a strange choice at first, but one of my words is “Pudding.” It emerged for me after hearing a sermon by Father Vincent Pizzuto, the Anglican pastor of St. Columba’s Church in Inverness, CA. Father Vincent told of reviewing the events of his life — the happiest moments along with the disappointments and struggles. The word that kept coming to him was “Pudding.” He said he meant it in the sense of “grace abundant.”

“I realize I have been making pudding for a long time,” Father Vincent explained, “only I didn’t always see it.”

Making pudding of our lives — living with an eye toward grace abundant — doesn’t mean we won’t encounter setbacks. Sometimes the pudding will be lemon instead of chocolate. But we look for the grace that is there.

My other word (chosen by another retreatant as well) is “Kintsugi,” a Japanese form of art that includes repairing broken pottery with gold, silver or platinum lacquer to create something different, but also beautiful. As a metaphor, “Kintsugi” reminds us that we can embrace our imperfections, overcome adversity, heal our wounds and become stronger. We can find a way to reframe and repair what wounds us.

My aim this year is to be a bearer of Kintsugi to the extent possible wherever I encounter suffering or conflict.

With each new year, we have a fresh story to create with our lives. What story will you aim to write in 2024?

What will be your guiding word for this new year?

A woman leaps for joy between the numbers for the year 2024.
Choosing a word to guide us in the coming year harkens back to an ancient tradition in which pilgrims would visit monks and monastic sisters living in the desert seeking a word they could take home with them on which to pray and meditate.



Judith Valente

Author of 4 spirituality books & 2 poetry collections. Award-winning reporter for Wall Street Journal, PBS-TV, Washington Post & 2 IL public radio stations.