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“Moxie” is my word for 2022.

Every year since 2010, I have chosen a word for the year, one that helps me live my values and center my actions. Perhaps it is like a mission statement for the year, a guiding principle, a North Star of sorts. I don’t hold rigidly to it, but it does help to have a theme. Sometimes it just describes my current mood, and sometimes it is aspirational.

I must admit, “moxie” was not my first choice. I was initially drawn to “ease” and then to “awe.” However, while the first felt too relaxed a state to describe my current head space, the second felt too passive. To be in awe is not the same as inspiring awe.

I realized that I wanted something more. I wanted a word that was less low-key, less passive, a word full of life and movement. This year, my word is meant to inspire me to take more risks and to be bolder. I chose “moxie” because courage, determination, energy and know-how describe how I want to face 2022. As we enter year three of the pandemic, I know that I will need to have the energy to do more and to keep justice and equity front and center in my work. “Moxie” is a motivation, an aspiration and a goal. I want to make it an approach to my life in work and play.

I know that it takes courage and determination to do work that centers justice, eliminates false choice paradigms and lives with polarities. When we live with polarities, it is not one or the other. It is both. Living with both is messy. But justice work demands that we live in the mess. Too often, we fear conflict and avoid taking risks. I know I do. Research on gender in the workplace highlights that women are more likely to avoid conflict. While I don’t avoid conflict, I definitely don’t seek it out, and I try not to create it.

Justice work demands that we bring the moxie. It is not just courage, but it is also determination and the drive to keep going and to not give up. The work can be exhausting and requires that we resource ourselves so that we have the energy to show up day in and day out.

At first, I thought that “moxie” might be a bit too much. I was going to dial it down a bit and go with “verve” or something less bold and memorable. However, one of my biggest lessons from 2021 was that taking risks and saying yes to the seemingly impossible can pay off in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine.

Spending the better part of 2021 working in Boston’s city hall has pushed me to choose a word like “moxie” for 2022 when a safer choice might have been something closer to “reflection,” “ease” or “kindness”—a more internally focused word that would have led me to focus on resourcing myself for the third year of the pandemic.

Instead, I chose to go with a word filled with action—to go bolder, to do more, to take more risks, to grab more of life, to use my voice in a stronger and bolder and more urgent way, to meet the moment and the demands that it places on us.

With moxie, I commit to speaking up, saying more, writing more, doing more and to enjoying the dance of life even more than before.

Mary Churchill is the former chief of policy and planning for Mayor Kim Janey in the city of Boston and current associate dean for strategic initiatives and community engagement at Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University. She is co-author of When Colleges Close: Leading in a Time of Crisis and an ICF certified leadership coach.

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