I’m sure the idea existed before but cortex seems to be the chief propagator or the yearly theme idea. The principle: set a word that should direct your year. It can be predictive or aspirational. I’ve done it in the past, but now I feel a bit awkward about the idea. Here’s why.

Many people seem to fail

Perhaps this shouldn’t invalidate the idea but on cortex both Myke and Grey seem to say that they have been unable to meet their themes more than they have achieved them. When two of your key proponents don’t live out the idea, then is it useful?

Too vague

When you set a theme word such as “progress”, then it could mean anything. You’ll start to look at events and force them to fit within your theme. What’s the point in a theme when it could apply to anything?

Too specific

The reverse is setting something so specific it only applies to a few things. In which case, why not set a goal?

Why a yearly theme?

I’ve followed Todd Henry’s practice of setting a word for the week and found that helpful. Yes, it can be guilty of the previous criticisms, but with a week you are reflecting more regularly. An excellent weekly word will be directive or reflective for that week. If you see that a lot is happening this week, you might choose “focus” or “stillness” to either encourage you to get things done or take a much-needed break from the business that is coming. With a years time frame, you can’t possibly know what things will look like in November. Even if you expect the year to be busy, maybe there will be a slow month when your theme is out of place.


At the same time, yearly themes encourage reflection and intention. Neither can be a bad thing. If you find them helpful, then that’s great, but I won’t be spending time thinking of a theme for this year. Perhaps I will next year…we’ll see I guess. (And no, my theme for this year isn’t not having a theme.)