Choosing a Word to Guide Us Through 2022

Can you think of a word that captures how you’d like to move through the coming year? We’re sharing a few that will be our mantras.

Author: Convene Editors       

What word or phrase will motivate you as we begin the first chapter of 2022?

What word or phrase will motivate you as we begin the first chapter of 2022?

Can you think of a word that captures how you’d like to move through the coming year? We’re sharing a few that will be our mantras.


I learned about the concept of choosing a one-word theme for the year at the end of 2020 from a podcast I listen to, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. The podcast shares tips and tricks on how to live a happier and more productive life, and choosing a word of the year, the podcast hosts reasoned, is the perfect way for people to crystalize their future goals. As someone who loves organizing and tracking my goals, I love this idea. My one-word theme for 2022 is “light.” As a noun, an adjective, and a verb, the word is unique in how malleable it is. But the connotation is always positive — light brightens dark spaces, illuminates ideas, lifts heavy emotions, and ignites a fire in us. After two dark and heavy years of living through a pandemic, I think a bit of light — in every sense of the word — is something we will all need in 2022.  — Casey Gale

Madison Butler

Madison Butler


My word for 2022 is “gumption.” I’m inspired by those emboldened to speak up or forge a new path, even when it feels risky or uncomfortable. I loved that Adrian Segar publicly called out our industry for focusing too much on cleaning when public-health experts have made it clear that surface transmission isn’t a real risk and ventilation is what matters in making venues safer. I also admire leaders like Destination DC CEO and president Elliot Ferguson, a Groundbreaker who spoke so honestly about the most challenging moments of his career journey during our interview. And Madison Butler, founder of HR and DEI consultancy Blue Haired Unicorn, who saw a problem (lack of representation in public speakers) and created a new resource to help fix it in just days. Looking ahead to 2022, I think it’s exactly this kind of unapologetic, unabashed pluckiness that the world needs. — Jennifer N. Dienst


Since 2018, when I interviewed science journalist Catherine Price about her book, How to Break Up With Your Phone, I’ve used a phone screensaver created by Price that asks: “WHAT DO YOU WANT TO PAY ATTENTION TO?” I downloaded it to help break the habit of scrolling through Twitter and it worked — until we were hit with the tsunami of news about the pandemic in 2020. Twitter was my best friend last winter when I was trying to find a vaccination appointment in New York City, and over the last two years, I’ve picked up my phone more times than I care to count, looking for the latest from around the world about the pandemic’s spread. I sometimes felt like a compulsive gambler rerolling the dice — maybe if I check on Twitter just one more time, there will be some good news.

My word for 2022 is “attention,” which, as Price writes in her book, is the most valuable thing we have. “We experience only what we pay attention to,” she points out. “When we decide what to pay attention to in the moment, we are making a broader decision about how we want to spend our lives.” One of the biggest lessons to come out of the pandemic’s uncertainty has been the mental space that opens up when I tune out the noise. I need to stay informed, but luckily, good news — when it comes — spreads fast. — Barbara Palmer

No Muss, No Fuss

Just one word for 2022? If you saw my embarrassingly large plant and yarn collections, you’d understand my “Why just stop at one?” philosophy. My four words are the old-fashioned expression “no muss, no fuss.” It’s true that I like things to be orderly in my surroundings, but I often get mired in mental muss — questioning myself, expecting perfection, and second-guessing whether my work on something is good enough.

As more is being expected of us — whether it’s figuring out our path forward in an uncertain world, managing with fewer resources, being flexible and inventive, or handling all the complications COVID has brought to our everyday lives — I know I could do without adding unnecessary internal drama. I’m pushing myself — or actually, giving myself permission — to be expedient whenever it just makes good sense, to stop over-deliberating, to get right to it, and then move on to what’s next. — Michelle Russell


Not long before Christmas, I was shopping for a few elusive gifts and my patience had pretty much been broken, when the store I was in played a song that lifted my spirits and energy. The song, “Treat People With Kindness” from Harry Styles, isn’t new, but its message and infectious beat are perfect for these stressful times. The song is now an earworm in my head, and has inspired “kindness” as my word for 2022.

Harry sings, “Maybe we can / Find a place to feel good / And we can treat people with kindness” with a chorus of happy voices. After the challenges of the past two years and those hurdles we no doubt still have to jump, it is advice we should all strive to follow. It won’t be easy with the continuous contention over just about everything in everyday life — I lose empathy for those refusing to wear masks or get the COVID-19 vaccine, for example — but it’s worth the effort. In her book The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness, Kelli Harding writes that kindness is good for the health of both people in any relationship, whether they are showing or receiving kindness. (Treating yourself with kindness also is good for you.)

Learning how to listen to people and empathize with their emotions, fears, past experiences, and demands on their time is a critical leadership skill, as Visit Oakland CEO Peter Gamez told Convene. And it creates more trusting and powerful relationships. So for 2022, let’s all treat people with kindness.  — Curt Wagner

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