Dec. 26, 2022

Find your word for 2023 with Susannah Conway

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Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, author Susannah Conway chooses a word to represent the intention she wants to bring into the new year. She talks with Ofosu and Leah about how to find your word for 2023, shares the questions to ask yourself as you reflect on 2022, and helps them choose contenders for their words of the year.

▶️ You can watch the latest episode on YouTube here:

📚 More about Susannah: Susannah Conway is an author, photographer, and teacher who’s been sharing her heart online for over a decade. You can download her free workbooks, “Unravel Your Year” and “Find Your Word” here:

🎧 What’s in this episode:

  • (00:24) Meet Susannah Conway
  • (01:18) Susannah’s inspiration to create her workbooks
  • (03:52) Why Susannah doesn’t set new year’s resolutions
  • (04:13) Choosing a word of the year
  • (05:05) Susannah reveals her three words for 2023
  • (06:31) Leah and Ofosu share their words for 2023
  • (07:50) The questions to ask yourself to find your word of the year
  • (10:36) How to incorporate your word while meditating
  • (14:30) Susannah’s tips for choosing your word
  • (17:23) Get 75% off a lifetime of personalized meditation

🧘About Balance: Well Balanced is co-hosted by Ofosu and Leah, Balance’s Co-Heads of Meditation. Balance is a highly personalized meditation and sleep app that's been named Google's App of the Year and Apple's App of the Day. Completely free for the entire first year, Balance is helping 4 million+ people around the world improve their stress, sleep, focus, and mood. Unlock your free year of Balance today by downloading it from the App Store or Play Store:


Ofosu: Hey, what's up y'all? I'm Ofosu Jones Quartey and

Leah: I'm Leah Santa Cruz.

Ofosu: And we are the meditation coaches on the Balance app. And this is our weekly show Well Balanced, where we explore ways to live a healthier, happier life.

Leah: And it's our last show of 2022, and I've invited a guest today who has actually helped me start my new year for about eight years, almost a decade. Her name is Susanna Conway and she's an author, a photographer and teacher, and just a really interesting soul. And I have known her through her free yearly workbooks, which she, uh, calls Unravel Your Year and Find Your Word, and they have lots of really incredible exercises to reflect on.

This past year we've gone through and to plan for the new one and be intentional about it. And they've, they've been really helpful and I'd say even essential for me. So I'm really happy to greet you. Hi, Susanna.

Susannah: Hi. Lovely. So nice to meet you. Oh my goodness. It's an honor to be here. Thank you. And I didn't realize it was the last episode of the year.

Leah: Yes. Well, thank you for being here with us, Susanna. How did you get started with uh, with doing these, what was like your motivation?

Susannah: Um, so the idea of the workbook is to look backwards and put the year to bed if you like, put it to rest, and then think ahead. So I've been doing them for about 14 years now. The first one I made was just a four page PDF that I put together. I didn't have any intention to put it online or anything like that. I made this PDF to take away on a retreat with a bunch of friends, and my plan was just to work through the questions together, you know, with hot chocolate or with some food and just talk together and reflect, add, and have a bit of structure around it. So we did that and of course I got home and I thought, well, I should just share this with everyone else, cause that was, that was actually really fun and really useful. So I shared it online with my blog audience. Um, everyone downloaded it and enjoyed it.

So of course the next year I did it again. And then as the years have gone on, I've added more questions, added different sections. Just to be that little bit more realistic. Um, cause I don't wanna set, well, I never set goals. I've just been recently diagnosed with ADHD so now I know why I don't like doing stuff like that like, it's been this huge revelation. But, but I can't do goals because I, I never accomplished them because it's too far away in the future and my brain likes to be here now. And likes to be, you know, getting excited about the now. Um, so yeah, so I wanted smaller reflecting and smaller intention setting that feels nourishing.

Leah: What you just said. You said, uh, you know, goals don't really work for me, and I think this is a time of the year where a lot of people have traditionally set resolutions or goals, and, uh, most people I know find, oh, it doesn't, doesn't last very long, or it doesn't work, or they, they don't succeed at it. And I'm curious if you could speak a little bit more to that, like the difference for you between setting a goal and this kind of journaling practice.

What are the impacts that you've seen.

Susannah: Well, I do two things. So I have the Unravel Your Year Work, work, so that's journaling, prompt answering, visioning, lots of writing and light planning. Um, and then the other thing I do is I choose a word for the year that's coming. So I call it Find Your Word process. And in my experience, new resolutions don't work for me because they always sound like they have this failure built in. You know, if it's like, well gonna get fit, you know, I'm gonna go to the gym three times a week, and if you don't, you failed. And there's no, there's no room to maneuver. You know, it sounds like this instruction or this prescription.

And actually I like to choose a word that kind of wraps around me and, and feels supportive or inspiring or just has more to it than you've got to do this, you've got to do that. That, I mean, that doesn't work for me. So for example, in 2015, my word was nourish. For me, that was about nourishing my body.

And I knew I had surgery coming up that year and I wanted to look after myself. But rather than have a word like healthy, you know, healed or just they didn't, they didn't inspire, but nourish felt like a hug. It felt like a hug around my heart. The word choosing process has, has really stuck with me to the point where I'm now doing it for the 15th time and I it, it, it means something.

And this year I've chosen three words and I kind of like that. And there are no rules.

Ofosu: Could you share what your, what your words?

Susannah: I can absolutely share. I I'm in love with them. This is what I mean. So my three words, so core word is simplicity. And that feels really healing. I've got ease. Just in love with this word at the moment.

And then my little comedy word is imperfect. And for me, that's all about, oh my God, it does not have to be perfect. My amazing example of imperfect happened just last week when I sent out the Unravel Your Year workbook. Spent weeks on it, had my designer help me. Oh my God, I'm doing all the corrections, making it as perfect as I can.

And I sent it out and sent it to my, on my email list and shared it on Instagram. And one of my lovely readers sent me a, a screenshot and she said, Did you know that you know the year? Cause there's a calendar at the back. Did you know the year is, still says 2022 and it's like, no oh my God, I've just sent it out to 30,000 people imperfectly. And then it was, oh, there you go. Thank you. Amazing. And there was no stress. I didn't feel stupid. I just went, oh, I'm so human. So I want a bit more of that in this next 12 months.

Leah: I have an idea for this. I've not a hundred percent settled on it yet, but

Susannah: Can you tell us what, what, what are the contenders?

Leah: Flow?

I think of the flow state. It's like that nice amount where I, not bored. I'm feeling like I'm working at something and I'm having fun, but I'm not overwhelmed. Things are flowing. And then also something about release. Like letting, like, I would say the word delegate. Oh, that's too structured. I know. But I was like, eh, it's not that, it's not that fun of a word, but like releasing things.

Like I don't have to be the one to do everything, you know, I can like let go. And then also just something around family. What about you, Ofosu? What would you pick?

Ofosu: Well, so there have been three words that have really shown up for me as the year comes to a close, um, just in how I relate to myself. So loving kindness, patience, and confidence.

Those are, those have been my three like North stars for, for this period right now. Since we were getting ready for this interview, I started thinking about what would my words for 2023 be? But I'm curious, Susanna, could you like walk us through the find your word exercise? Like could we kind of like live scaffold it right now?

Susannah: We can touch on it. Yeah. When I put the little course together, it's like a five day process. I mean, you can do it in an hour, of course you can, but what I like having is a bit of space around it, because often mm-hmm. , the word comes to you when you're in the shower, you know, when you are making dinner or, or in those in between moments.

Um, but I brought out a few questions from the pdf that might be something to think about. So I always like to start with, okay, looking back at the year, what do I need more of? And what do I need less of? This is the kind of thing where you wanna get your journal page, get a pen, or do it on your notes app.

Start putting some contenders down so you're not finding it's got to be the one word. Yeah. Just feel it out. Um, so look at what your, what would your ideal day in the new year look and feel like? Just an actual, everyday, how do you wanna feel? You know, what's, what's happening? Are you calm? Are you, I'm not gonna put words into.

but how would you feel? Then we move on to actually writing down what's coming up in the new year. And again, this isn't a goal, you know, it's not restricting, it's expanding. So what do I need there? So what's definitely happening? What are you hoping will happen? Um, what dreams are you wanting to nurture in the new year?

So is this gonna be a year of our family or my friendships, or you know, what area? Has been, you know, tapping on your shoulder in 2022. And then lastly, what qualities do you wanna develop in yourself? So hopefully by now got a mind map of words. It doesn't have to be a list just a few words jotted down.

And think about like an I am statement. I am happy. How about I feel happy? Where does the word fit into those soft sentences?

Leah: Joy popped up for me when you asked that question. I was like, this is not the, the words I thought before. Now new words are coming up for me and it's like expanding into joy.

I still like flow, but joy and expansion.

Susannah: Flow. Flow is is, yeah. Flow is tasty. Yeah. But joy, you can't go wrong with joy, but expand. Yeah.

Ofosu: I really like expand.

Susannah: If it's something you wanna chew on, You're getting towards the right word. You know, if it's something you wanna wrap around you, you're getting closer.

And then I just ask you to sit with your words. Look at different definitions. It could be you chose a word like love, you're like, oh my words love. And maybe, maybe it's another definition for that. Maybe the word you are actually looking for, feeling for is like connection or safe. You know? Yeah. So love sounds good, but maybe there's something underneath there.

Leah: As you're talking, I'm thinking about how, how much of a meditative practice this feels like to me. Because one of the ways that we can meditate is to ask ourselves, what is that feeling? How does it show up for me in my body? You know? Cause we're talking about feeling words a lot such as nourish or joy or expansion.

I think one of the cool things to do is to, once we land on a word or a couple of words, is to spend a little time going, whoa, how does that actually show up for me and my body? Like how will I know it when it's there? How can I cultivate more of that and to. To feel like, where does joy show up in my body?

Does it feel like tingly bubbles everywhere? Does it feel like my heart is, you know, overflowing with energy coming up this way and that way, and is warm or just to be with that interstate for a little while.

Susannah: I think it would make a perfect daily practice if you have something, even if it's cup of coffee in the morning, close your eyes for one minute.

Feel into your word is powerful. Absolutely. But yeah. How does the word feel in your body is Oh. Delicious. Yeah. Amazing. I love that. Thank you for sharing that.

Leah: I kind of like having a word that can be a sort of guiding light because it's like, of course we all wanna embody love or joy all the time, but I've, we're all human being, so it's not possible.

But if patience is the word I'm trying to cultivate and I find myself standing in line for coffee somewhere and getting really impatient with the person in front of me being slow, I can remind myself, oh yeah, what's my value? Like, that was my word, and how, yeah, maybe I need to tap into that more, like I need to be that patient person.

Susannah: Well, I mean, how are you gonna learn patience? You're obviously gonna be thrown into situations where you have to, you gotta practice it. Yeah. Yeah. Looking at this list, I'm looking down at it. Uh, on my table, this list, and I can see, oh yeah, that year I chose that word. That was why it's like a little autobiography of the last 15 years.

Just looking at my words and how they've helped, and also seeing which word I completely forgot, , and got to the end of the year. It was like, oh yeah, I chose, huh, that word, that was a, that was a dud. So it's, it's - don't take it too seriously. Yeah. is my best advice.

Ofosu: I'm really connecting with the, with the word growth.

Like personally in my own practice. In my in, yeah just as a, as a human being, but then also, growth professionally and et cetera. Yeah, it's, it's a bit of a mundane word when I think of, cause I'm a person who really loves words. So, of all the words, you know, for it to be growth feels like, oh, come on.

Where's a better word? But when I put it in my body, it feels like, yeah, that's exactly what I'm looking for right now.

Susannah: That's a really important point there, that if a word comes up and you're like, it's not very sexy. Yeah. But if it feels true, It's even stronger because if the word finds you, which makes it sound very mystical, but there's something in it.

If the word finds you in the shower and you're like, oh my God, it's, it's that. Then follow, listen. Listen to that.

Ofosu: Yeah. I'm having that experience right now. Definitely not the not the hot, sexy word I was thinking was gonna come down from the gods, but, uh, I'm, I'm, I'm actually really happy with growth. So growth feels really deeply rooted.

Susannah: Which feels sexy to me. I really love that. Do you know the shittest word I ever chose, which I thought was the sparkliest most magical word, was miracle. And that was the year, I totally forgot what the word I'd chosen was, cause that did not work. All the miracles I thought were gonna come no, did not happen.

So that, and that was me pushing it a little bit. Oh yeah. Miracles. Oh my God. It's gonna be so special. It wasn't .

Leah: So that's a good point. I mean, you mentioned like, don't take it too seriously, don't push it too much, you know, but can you give any other maybe advice for someone who might be unfamiliar with journaling or this kind of introspection, like how they can approach, um, this kind of activity?

Susannah: Well, if you drink, I'd say have a lovely glass of wine. I don't, so for me, what I like to do is hot chocolate, my cat, my journal. It can be, it could be a piece of paper or the back of a receipt, so it doesn't have to be special, but writing down, if you can hand write does, there's something to it.

It's a bit alchemical. Um, having that slow movement, you know, writing the words down, it kind of slows you down and that's really nice. Um, make your list of words, work through the pdf. Like I said, it's free, it's fun. Note them down and then put them to one side for a bit and then just go about your day.

Come back to it the next day. Look at it while you are having your coffee in the morning. Oh yeah, that word, that's quite nice. Don't be surprised if as you're going about your week, you hear the word on TV or it's in a book, or you read it on Instagram or you know, the words kind of will catch your eye, and it feels like that's kind of cosmically intentional because it's like when you are, you are looking for a red car and you see them everywhere. Yeah. You know, it's, it's that kind of thing. We find them, we have this sort of heat seeking. Things happening . So just pay attention to what you hear and what you see and what you feel, and then just keep writing your list and cross out the ones you're not sure about and then see what you can whittle it down to. So just trust yourself.

Leah: I mean, I definitely am gonna be doing this this year. Uh, yeah, instead of resolutions, this is like a, looking forward to this activity.

Ofosu: My wife and I are probably gonna do the last staycation of the year this weekend. So this will be a fun thing to like kind of kick off while we're on staycation and then just work through for the, for the rest of the week.

So, yeah, I'm looking forward to it.

Susannah: You could choose a word together. You could have a word for each of you, and then a word for your relationship or a word for your intentions of what you want this year.

Leah: Good activity to do with a partner. Yeah. Good thinking. Well, thank you so much for your time, Susanna.

This has been an awesome conversation and really has been, uh, inspiring and, um, I appreciate you being here with us.

Susannah: Thank you for inviting me. It's lovely to see your faces.

Leah: And for you listening, we'll be listening to some of your words of the year for 2023 on this show next week. So be sure to come back for that.

And if you wanna stay up to date with Susanna or get her unravel your year and find your word workbooks, you can go to her website, susanna and scroll down on the main homepage to.

Ofosu: And hey, speaking of making changes in the new year, if you are ready to make a deeper commitment to your mental health and wellbeing, we are super excited to let you know that the Balance app is running the biggest sale ever.

You can get 75% off lifetime access to Balance's, award-winning program of personalized meditation and sleep guidance now. For a limited time, and you just might hear some familiar voices on there too. There's no code needed. Just check out the Balance app at the link in the show notes for more information.

Leah: Yeah, I mean, meditation's really a journey that we take throughout our lifetime. It evolves and changes with us. And so it makes sense to have a lifetime pass to something that is going to continue, be evolving and changing with.

Ofosu: Yeah, and I feel like there's, there's like a sense of security that you get that like, you know, you've got a companion with you for life on this journey and knowing that you're not going to have to go it alone that you've always got us with you.

Leah: So, yeah. And I like that we're always adding more meditations and we're always adding more variations and making it new and, and every time you meditate it's a new experience cause you're bringing a new you every time. Exactly. Well, uh, we'll be back next year.

Ofosu: Next year. I was just gonna say that .

Leah: Uh, but until then, have a beautiful holiday week. Yes.

Ofosu: Yes. Don't forget to be kind to yourself. Take care and peace.