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Why Melinda Gates selects a 'word of the year' and not a New Year's resolution

Emma Newburger
Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Chris Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, doesn't make New Year's resolutions. She does resolve to change, however, choosing a single word to bring her guidance.

In a LinkedIn post Wednesday, Gates explained that the tradition "encapsulates her aspirations for the year ahead." Past words have included "gentle," helping her fight perfectionism, and "spacious," prompting her to make room for the things in life that truly matter.

In 2018, she picked "grace." For Gates, "grace" alludes to a transcendent or beautiful moment that shows we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

"It's a word that has served me well. I've called on it during difficult conversations, long days at the office, busy trips with our foundation—and especially during a jam-packed December as we worked to close out the year at home and at work," Gates said.

"It even helped me find a beam of peace through the sadness of a friend's funeral. When I was upset or distressed, I whispered it to myself: 'Grace.'"

Gates has spent the last few days searching for her word for 2019, but plans to use "grace" for a little while longer.

"What I love about grace, at least the way I define it, is that by pulling us up out of ourselves and onto a higher plane, it makes us more open to the world, to new experiences, to each other. It creates connections and encourages empathy," she said.

This empathy, she wrote, was key to better understanding the tough realities of poverty and inequality her foundation work exposed her to while providing her the sense of urgency needed to make positive change.

"A broken heart gives me urgency. A moment of grace gives me hope. And both are essential to being the person I want to be and doing the work I believe in."

"That's the power of a well-chosen word of the year. It makes the year better—and it helps me be better, too," she added.

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