Science tells us that what we tell ourselves in challenging moments matters. And we’ve seen this year that arming ourselves with empowering words or phrases can help us stay optimistic and strong. We’ve all had to cope with stressors and challenges in 2020, and as we begin 2021, it’s important that we reflect on the words that have helped us stay resilient and can continue to do so into the new year.

We asked our Thrive community to share one empowering word, affirmation, or quote that’s helping them start the new year on the right foot. Which of these phrases will you tap into this year?

“Nothing is permanent.”

“Whatever comes my way in 2021, I will remind myself of an old quote by English comic actor and filmmaker Charlie Chaplin: ‘Nothing is permanent in this wicked world — not even our troubles.’ We had two lockdowns here in Britain in 2020, and during the first one, I was very anxious about what the future would hold. Tapping into this quote helped me to maintain perspective, and I am taking this mindset with me into the new year.”

—Marcio Delgado, content producer and influencer marketing campaign manager, London, U.K.

“You are exactly where you need to be.” 

“So many of us need to just hear this quote as we start off the new year. We don’t need to spend more time feeling like we should be doing more or that we are wrong because we didn’t reach a goal we set for ourselves. When we sit and worry about all that we didn’t do last year, we can easily head down a low, dark path. Feeling like a victim or having feelings of anger don’t allow for movement or progression in our lives. Reminding ourselves that we are right where we should be can bring  us a much-needed sense of peace.”

—Jen Slagle, executive career change coach, Des Moines, IA

“What got you here won’t get you there.”

“I hear my mentor’s words every new year: ‘What got you here won’t get you there.’ This phrase is a powerful reminder to keep learning, growing and staying relevant for the future we want to live in.”

—Donna Peters, retired senior partner, career coach and podcast host, Atlanta, GA

“This too shall pass.”

“The affirmation I will take into 2021 with me is, ‘This too shall pass.’ 2020 was a rough year, and I found that stopping myself from constantly watching the news really helped me achieve balance and focus on the pandemic recoveries, rather than just the deaths. This small habit shift made me a lot more hopeful, and now that there is a vaccine available for the vulnerable, things are looking up.”

—Amanda Renwick, H.R. and change specialist, Johannesburg, South Africa


“My word for the year is ‘maʻalahi,’ which means ‘simplify’ in Hawaiian. 2020 showed me that I used to make my life more complex and busy than it needed to be. Rushing from one lesson or playdate to another didn’t leave time to simply be present with my daughter or give her the chance to savor the simple joys in life. Since deciding to slow down, my daughter and I have found joy in the simple pursuits of gardening, cooking and reading together. These are joys I’ll take with me into 2021. This word is all about giving myself permission to simplify and let go.”

—Lori Shen, subscription box co-founder, San Jose, CA

“The past doesn’t equal your future unless you live there.” 

“This Tony Robbins quote reminds me that my past has helped me become the person I am today, but it also does not define my future. To progress and achieve my goals, I need to stop looking back on decisions that didn’t produce the required results, and instead focus on what I can do differently now. Being kinder to myself and embracing failure will be my focus for the new year.”

—Renata Gomide, strategy and consulting principal, Bay Area, CA

“Show up and care.”

“This phrase was first introduced to me when volunteers for a youth mentoring program were unsure if they were up for the responsibility the program required. The leader of the group reassured the members that to be an effective mentor, it only takes two things: showing up and caring. I’m reminded of this phrase often as I find that it applies not only to mentoring, but also to almost everything we do in life. Whether it’s following through on a new business, dealing with a challenging life experience, or simply having one of those mornings when the house is a mess and you’re racing the clock to get your kids to the bus stop on time — it works. Just show up and care.”

—Leslie Michel, meditation guide, Cincinnati, OH

“Progress, not perfection.”

“The idea of ‘progress, not perfection’ is my main focus for the new year. While it is great to set ambitious goals, sometimes the baby steps are more meaningful. I will strive to remind myself of this affirmation on a daily basis and apply it to both micro and macro goals in 2021.”

—Marta Rzeszowska Chavent, change and management consultant, France 

“Change your thoughts and you can change your biology.”

“I find that negative thinking and stress affect every system in our bodies, whereas positive thinking supports healing and regeneration. Every moment of every day gives us the chance to consciously try to bring positive energy into our minds and bodies. We can do this with quiet moments of positive thoughts, meditation, exercise, deep breathing, journaling, and reading. This quote reminds me that I have the power to change my thoughts.”

—Jill Shanks, BSN MCEd, writer and researcher, Saskatchewan, Canada

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

“I love this quote from Rumi. When the pandemic began, I was a private practice therapist working one-on-one with individuals. I saw the toll that Covid-19 took on frontline workers , and I decided to start a movement to connect those on the front lines with free and low-cost therapy. The result was an unexpected career shift from private practice psychotherapy to founding and running a national nonprofit with thousands of volunteer therapists. I’ve always been a fan of Rumi, but I will be taking this quote with me as a daily reminder to continue to follow my passion.”

—Jennifer Silacci, LCSW, executive director of Therapy Aid, Boulder, CO

“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”

“This quote from Sean Patrick Flanery is what I’m leaning into this year. I am a wife, mother of two children, and a homeowner for close to twelve years. I feel that I have taken on the role of family chief financial officer, activities director, house manager and organizer all while working full-time. I realized that in order to succeed, I needed to start sharing all of this knowledge with my husband. I started using a tool called ‘My Macro Memoir,’ which helps us stay organized, and quickly updates as anything changes. I know that the peace-of-mind that I will feel by being action-oriented is something I will be thankful for later.”

—Jaclyn Strauss, CPA, Fort Lauderdale, FL

“Five minutes.”

“After reading Shelly Tygielski’s article, ‘Why We Should Focus on Evolution, Not Resolutions,’ I was inspired to focus on the concept of ‘five minutes’ as I continue to evolve in 2021. With my ‘five minutes’ reminder, I’m going to commit to five minutes of stretching, breathing, refilling my water bottle, writing, or simply taking time to put something back in its proper place. We can visualize the outcome like a jigsaw puzzle. Like the pieces that have covered our dining room table over the holidays, it takes time, patience, and a helping hand from others to see it come together.”

 —Siobhan Breton, SAP customer engagement director, Oakville, ON, Canada

“The power of we begins with me.”

“This quote reminds me that 2021 will be a year when we’ll have to cooperate and collaborate more than ever.  There will be big challenges ahead, and meeting them will start with each of us.”

—Leo Bottary, Carlsbad, CA

“Don’t believe everything you think.”

“It is so easy to be influenced by what you think other people might be saying about you. It can feel debilitating to be constantly adjusting who you are based on what you think others think.  But what is more debilitating is what you think about yourself. It is easy for your mind to run away with self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and all other means of self-deprivation. Reminding myself to not believe everything I think helps me pull myself out of a negative thought spiral aand instead move forward. It minimizes my fear and it helps me embrace both failure and success.”

—Vanessa Meikle, executive search management consultant and career coach, Sydney, Australia

Which phrase or word are you leaning into this year? Share it with us in the comments!

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.