Personal Stories

A Yearly Mantra for Writing, Travel & Life in 2020

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Every year on New Year’s Day, Mr. V and I make our way to the coast, and go for a walk. We spend that time discussing our personal and professional goals – and this year we’ve added marriage goals to the list since we’ll be tying the knot in July 2020.

I love using January 1st as a chance to look back on the year that has passed, and to reset my intentions and goals for the coming year. 2019 is officially over, and 2020 is off to its start. Heck, it’s the start of a new decade – that surely imbues the new year with extra meaning! What will it hold?

Each year, one of my favorite traditions is setting a yearly mantra. I publish a new post on January 1st of the new year to share the mantra I’ve chosen and what I think it means. Read on to learn about these mantras from the past five years – and which word I’ve chosen as my yearly mantra for 2020.

The History of Yearly Mantras

Mantra for 2018

In the past four years, I’ve joined my friend Malia from Shoyu Sugar in choosing a ‘word of the year’ or yearly mantra to guide my efforts and intentions. It’s hard to believe it’s been five years of choosing a word to focus my intentions for the year!

Here are my past mantras:

  • In 2016, my word was ‘minimize
  • For 2017, I chose the word ‘muse
  • In 2018, the word I picked was ‘balance
  • Last year, in 2019, my word was ‘reach

While each year, my yearly mantra hasn’t exactly taken the form I’d expect, it’s been an interesting hallmark of the year. For example, in 2017, I thought muse would guide my creative efforts and endeavors; in reality, I learned to surrender to my creative curiosity and accept more structured projects (like my job) when they presented themselves to me. Sometimes, I was in control of the muse, and sometimes she exerted more control me.

I like to set my word even if I know my life won’t flow exactly as I predict on January 1st; it allows me to check in throughout the year and look back at years end to see how far I’ve come and how wonderfully meandering my life has been.

Looking Back on My Yearly Mantra to ‘Reach’

2019 Mantra: Reach

Last year, I made some hypotheses for what reach might look like in a concrete way:

  • I will reach for the stars, literally and figuratively.

    This one absolutely came to pass as envisioned. I spent more days researching and writing about space experiences on earth this year – and more nights stargazing.

  • I will reach further in my fitness journey.

    While I did practice yoga throughout the year and restarted swimming for a few months before we moved away from the pool I was practicing at… There is so much more I could have done – and want to do in 2020. My 2020 mantra will hopefully help me remember this!

  • I will reach outside my comfort zone to advance my career.

    This statement is a great example of how lacking specificity can kill one’s goals. I wasn’t very clear about where I wanted to reach in my career, and while I passed some major milestones this year, I don’t really feel as though I ‘reached.’ It’s my plan to come up with more specific professional goals over the course of 2020.

  • I will reach out to those around me to continue connecting.

    As in many years past, I didn’t do as well at this goal of reconnecting with friends and family. It’s my hope that my 2020 yearly mantra will help me remember how important this goal is.

  • I will reach across the globe to continue telling stories here.

    In addition to the trips I had planned for 2019 before the year began, I traveled to others I had never envisioned: Chile, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan were new to the list; Ireland and England are old favorites.

As is usually the case, some of my hypotheses were accurate, and some were not!

Deciding on my 2020 Mantra

I started thinking about my yearly mantra in late October or early November this year. I considered a few different options, but they all seemed related to a single concept: an acute awareness that I will be 33 years old in 2020 and I’m probably about 1/3 of the way through this crazy wonderful life I’ve got. Keeping that in mind as I considered different words and mantras, it became clear that was the core of what I should focus on this year. Which leads me to…

My Yearly Mantra for 2020: ‘Time’

For my professional and personal life, my 2020 mantra will be: Time

I know, I know, I’m the space girl – but there’s no way to make sense of space or our place in it without time. Also, time has a wide range of meanings:


  1. the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole
  2. a point of time as measured in hours and minutes past midnight or noon


  1. plan, schedule, or arrange when (something) should happen or be done
  2. measure the time taken by (a process or activity, or a person doing it)

But all these meanings are only different ways to interpret a complex concept. In 2020, it is my focus to become aware of and maximize my time.

What I Predict ‘Time’ Will Mean in 2020

As part of setting a yearly mantra, I like to set a few predictions for what I think the mantra might mean in my life. I’m almost always wrong about these but it’s a really helpful way to focus my thoughts and check in throughout the year.

  • I will spend my time more conscientiously.

    It’s so easy to waste time because it feels limitless. I want to spend less time on my phone, my computer, and social media, and more time in nature, being active, meditating, and considering the big problems in life and the world.

  • I will remember and live by the practice that time is a fixed resource.

    I’ve dabbled in the practice of stoicism over the past few years; I’d like to continue embracing this philosophy and memento mori as a motivator to accomplish what good I can with the time I have.

  • I will respect that time is everyone’s most precious resource.

    In addition to remembering that my time is the most valuable thing I can give others, I will do my best to remember the same for others too. I’ll be timely in communications and email, not waste people’s time with problems and issues I can solve myself, and honor when others need their own time.

  • I will take stock of my past, present, and future to ensure that my life and my time is spent the way I want it to be.

    As I have my Third Life ‘Crisis’ this year, as I get married this year, as I try and craft a career path for my next decade as a professional – I want to consider what I’ve learned from my past and what I want to carry into my future.

We’ll see if and how these come to pass in the coming year!

Want to Set Your Own Yearly Mantra for 2020?

If you want to set a 2020 mantra, it’s easy! Here are the steps I follow each year:

  1. Make a list of words or phrases you might think will represent and inspire you this year.
  2. Pin the list up or add it somewhere you’ll see it at least once a day.
  3. Give yourself 1-2 weeks to consider all of the words on your list. You might also try asking friends or family for their opinion on which word seems to ‘fit’ you and your goals for the coming year.
  4. Choose one word that stands out to you, and give yourself 1-2 days to see if it feels “right.”
  5. Once you’ve chosen your word, share it with me in the comments. I can’t wait to hear what mantra you have chosen for the coming year!

Happy New Year, friends!

Help others discover this post too!

I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.


  • Rebecca

    Ooh I like this choice! Time really is so precious (something I’ve discussed recently with a friend who lost her sister), in so many ways.

    My word for 2020 is “freedom”. I want to be more free in how I spend my days, what I choose to do with my time, to feel that I’m in control of my own life.

    Happy new year!

    • Valerie

      Ugh, that’s heartbreaking – and part of the reason I chose “time” for this year, to remember how important and limited it is.

      I love your word for 2020, and I really hope it comes to pass for you!! Happy New Year!

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