Word of 2020 - Hearth

Word of 2020 - Hearth

Backstory: What is Choose One Word?

  • Choose One Word is a self-guided annual ritual taught by the Dr. Jason Fox. Dr. Fox is a metamodern wizard on a quest to create a world more curious and kind (with a PhD in motivational sciences.) The premise of the program is simple--choose one word that will guide behaviors, decisions, and goals for the year (or however long you wish.)
  • Unlike most goal-setting programs, the witty Dr. Fox recommends against choosing certain types of words like happiness! Success! Etc., This is because it frees oneself from judging against what seems to be an objective metric at first glance, but is more-often-than-not an arbitrary one. (What is happiness? Success?) My word last year, which I had chosen before learning about the program, was "mastery." It served its purpose in that I spent the year honing 5 areas of my life (for which I will provide a retrospective) but there was a Sisyphean facet to the word that made it less useful.
  • Instead, active, aspect, or archetypal words are preferred because they carry less of an inherent measuring-stick quality. In short, the chosen word is a beacon of light that guides along pathways to future relevance.

Why does Dr. Fox recommend heralding one's word on a page like this?

In his words,

"In a nutshell: cultivated dissonance.
The Ritual of Becoming is an act of manifesting*—of ‘telling the truth in advance’, so that you might live into it, make believe, and become it.
Rational friends: don’t be dissuaded by my employment of magical realism. I have not descended into irrationality—merely sidestepped into para-rationality. Join in the programme and you’ll see. Sound reasonableness cloaked in glamour, ‘pon my Word.
Thus, after deep work in Reflecting, Introspecting and Projecting (RIP)* upon ‘who you are’ and ‘who you might be’—and after finding the most exquisite and apt Word to serve you in the next chapter of your unfurling story—you then must pave the way for Actualisation. This is the phase in which you begin to adopt and an integrate new Principles, Patterns and Projects in actuality.
Yes, this is like an elegy for your past self—so that parts of you might die and rest in peace, so that new elements of ‘selfness’ might emerge.
Your ‘/word page’ helps you do this. It’s a living space for you to enshrine the insights from your Quest to find a Word for the year."

So without further ado...

2020 is The Year of The Hearth for me. 🔥

For me, the word "hearth" evokes:

  • Warmth, illumination, and comfort
  • Stability from its ancient etymology
  • A place of gathering and community


If the chosen word is the North Star, then principles are the surrounding constellations.

  1. Safety: An invocation bring myself more financial, physical, and emotional safety, so I can offer it to others.
  2. Space: An invitation to honor my capacity in building community, yet ensuring personal space for regenerating energy. Be a hearth, not a furnace:
  3. “When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of stress and anxiety; If I sit in my own place of patience, What I need flows to me, and without pain."
    ~ Shams-i Tabrizi
  4. Substantiate: An incantation to create works of substance instead of subsuming works of others.


Dr. Fox recommended that behavioral patterns should be doable when motivation is waning.

  1. Be curious: Use my natural novelty-seeking behavior to overcome show-stoppers and distractors.
  2. Be companionable: Encourage oneself to reach out to others even when it feels awkward to do so.
  3. Be cumulative: A little bit of work done is ok. Pile it up. Avoid the urge to delete.


In a counter-intuitive fashion, Dr. Fox advised against well-defined projects, but instead offer directionality and aspirations.

  1. Channel the energy of Andrew Yang in my vocational pursuits: if anything, I'm going to have the most fun!
  2. Continue to build micro-communities through meditation, listening, and helping others connect.
  3. Put up more writing online: treat this website as my fridge door, not my magnum opus.

Enclothed Cognition

Dr. Fox encouraged giving ourselves symbolic reminders of our chosen word.

  • Phone wallpaper: since I stare at my glowing rectangle too much anyway, might as well make it really glow:
  • image
  • Bic mini lighter: A portable flame (also useful for camping trips)
  • image
  • Website logo: Hopefully you have noticed by now :) (now in transition to 2021's word!)

How you can help

My overt impeding pattern is perfectionism (which Dr. Fox calls "the prettiest of the self-sabotages.") I possess dragon hoards of unshared notes and half-written essays. You can help by prodding me to share a bit more of myself on this website, or co-creating something with me.

What is your chosen word?

  • I hope this page led to inquisitiveness about a word of your own. (Or bafflement--a pre-requisite to investigation!)
  • If you are interested, here is an affiliate link to the Choose One Word program. AUD$50.00 will go toward charities for the Australian bushfires, and I will receive AUD$50.00 along with an enchanted wizard enamel pin.
  • The program is flexible and self-directed, and can take anywhere from 3 mins/3 hours/3 weeks/3 months/as long as you want. Just the chapter on "hidden commitments" is well worth the price alone. If concepts such as "infinite games," "seminal invocations," and "why personal branding is yucky" are intriguing, then Dr. Fox is a fine companion for exploring a ritual of becoming. Check out Kevin's word and Dr. Fox's word to see their take. Share yours with me and I'll link it here too!

🃏 A Fool's Reflection

What is A Fool's Reflection?

This year I had chosen "Hearth" as my Word for 2020 (read more about it here.) It is recommended that one conducts A Fool's Reflection around April 1st, as an arbitrarily-timed check-in for one adherence to the herald set forth. So like what a lot of habit-building books advise, reviewing one's actions after ~3 months and adjust as necessary.

How's embodying a "Hearth" going so far in 2020?

I sometimes wonder if I had subconsciously anticipated a lot of this year's dramatic happenings, and chose to focus on providing stability and community as a result.


  • Safety: Welp, what fiery grounds we find ourselves! I am taking this day-by-day, but I find that my ability to let go in this regard has increased this year despite comically harrowing circumstances.
  • Space: Through the powers of Zoom, Discord, and other digital hearths, I find that physical distancing has brought about more social connectedness in new ways.
  • Substantiate: So far, I have shared more of myself than I ever have online.


  • Be curious: Developing internal games for tedious tasks have helped to get things done.
  • Be companionable: I have reached out to people that I daren't not before. It got easier.
  • Be cumulative: I would like to do a better job gathering the bits and pieces of digital kindling (i.e. creative projects) together on this site.


  • Channel the energy of Andrew Yang in my vocational pursuits: if anything, I’m going to have the most fun! I still need to frequently remind myself of this aspiration, but I did manage to pull it off in several hard occasions.
  • Continue to build micro-communities through meditation, listening, and helping others connect. Yes, I am doing so now.
  • Put up more writing online: treat this website as my fridge door, not my magnum opus. I wrote something roughly once a month here. With minimal editing.

So overall, yes, yes, and yes! I am quite pleased with my adherence to my word, and hope to take it further in the coming months.

What about 2019?

In 2019, I had chosen the word "Mastery," though this was before I was aware of Dr. Jason Fox's advice on the pitfalls of such a word. (He explains it much more eloquently than I do, but in essence, these aspirational lofty words tend to be harder to embody, especially with visual imagery.) I had chosen "Mastery" at the time because I find myself admiring those who continue to hone their craft and become the foremost expert. For example, I frequently re-watch this video featuring a day in the life of Chef Nozumu Abe from Sushi Noz. This is because his dedication to every sensory input related to the dining experience ignites how I feel I should conduct my life. (Where this sense comes from, isn't as clear--I suspect it's actually because the Hong Kong TV channels I grew up watching often showed clips about Japan's craftspeople!)

I then set out to divide Mastery into 5 categories:

  • Cultivation: all concerns with liberation of the mind, and on a meta-level, adherence to this system
  • Connection: friends and family
  • Constitution: physical health
  • Creativity: work and projects
  • Currency: finances

All to say, similar to Benjamin Franklin's system of 13 virtues. I reduced it to 5 items for myself because we have five fingers on each hand. Yup, that's the arbitrary reason. It also seemed to cover the revolving 5 aspects of my life I tend to think about anyway.

Each month I had set out a goal or two related to each category, and reviewed at the end of each month whether I had met them or not. If I didn't, then I would set a goal that is 50% easier, until I can meet the goal. (I had learned this tip from Break The Twitch.) In a future entries I'll share more details about this process--turns out I have a lot of notes to go through!

Integrating the past, the present, and the future

While I feel I am stoking the fire quite well with "Hearth," I find that having some sort of mental organization is still helpful for me to make sure that I lead a life of composure, both to avoid burning the candle at both ends, and accidentally extinguishing efforts due to neglect. Hence, I have returned to using the 5 categories (e.g. on this site), while still keeping "Hearth" in mind as a beacon. I ultimately realized that having just mastery/5 categories did not feel satisfying because they are un-maximizable attributes that can go on forever and ever. Having a Word such as "Hearth" remedies this issue by providing a mental model that is flexible yet tangible (and one might even dare say, meaningful!)