What One Word Would You Be Willing to Tattoo?

by Alli Polin on January 24, 2017

Since I was a teenager, I thought about getting a tattoo. My father, a physician, would not so subtly leave articles around the house about people having terrible allergic reactions to tattoos and with a raised eyebrow and commanding voice suggested that could be me.

Over the years, I’ve thought about my potential tattoo and even spent some time on Google checking out designs. The problem was, everything I that caught my eye was someone else’s, and none felt like a perfect reflection of something that I was willing to wear for a lifetime.
Recently, my interest in tattoos has come to the surface again. (Sorry, Dad). I began to wonder if there was an image, word or phrase that I wouldn’t grow tired of in a few months or even a few years.

What One Word is Your Tattoo Word?

It’s powerful to have a word or phrase to set your intention for the year ahead… or an event or any moment in your life. In the past month, I’ve read some impactful pieces from Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter on her three words for the year and Jon Mertz of Thin Difference on his words of intention and action

Do you have a word for the year ahead?

What if there was a single word for your life and leadership that could transcend the next 12 months and guide you on your path?

Moreover, how would it help you or change you in powerfully positive ways?

Finding Your Forever Word – Your “Tattoo Word” for Your Life and Leadership

The concept of forever feels impossible in a world where everything is temporary. Our average human attention span is somewhere around 8 seconds. The average marriage length in the USA is somewhere between 8 – 12 years. The lifespan of your next tweet? It’s around 18 minutes. A tattoo? Till death do you part (or laser).
Don’t worry. I’m not going to come to your house and drive you to go get your tattoo. But what if…

Ask Yourself:

What do you love?
Who do you love?
What part of me do you need to honor?
What do you need to call forth in your life and leadership?
What part of you do you want to share with the world?
Who are you?
What drives you?
What do you need to remember and you too easily forget?
If you sit with these questions, ideas will start to swirl and take form. I promise. 
You may be thinking, “I get a word for the year, but could there really be one for the next 50? Come on.”
I’ve been coaching long enough to know that what people need today, and who they are, evolves over time and well, ink certainly doesn’t. The concept of a forever word or tattoo worthy word is a big one. 
In 2014, my word was play. I wanted to let go of stress and have more playful experiences. Am I glad I don’t have the word “play” tattooed on my butt or anywhere else? You bet.
In the last few months I accepted that my ‘forever’ word was within me and not on Google or in the plethora of cool tattoos on Pinterest like a needle in an enormous haystack. Instead of looking endlessly at designs, I closed my laptop and sat with the questions to discover the one word I needed with me 24/7 365 and beyond.
It hit me. I had my answer.


It’s what I have needed to do my whole life (even when I’ve resisted) and will continue to do for the rest of my days.
To me “embrace” simultaneously accepts where I am today and gives faith and courage for the journey ahead. It lets me mindfully love what’s present while still pushing me to change and grow. Moreover, it is the perfect reminder to embrace others for who they are and where they are in this moment too instead of getting annoyed or frustrated that they’re not meeting my subjective bar.
Truthfully, embracing is not something I’ve always done well but know, that to live a life of meaning, and not only of longing or regret, it’s also what I most need to do.
Yup, my word, my forever word, my tattoo word: Embrace.

What one word do you believe in so strongly you’d be willing to get a tattoo?

Let’s freeze for a moment – I have not gotten inked. Still, I’ve started carrying that word with me everywhere I go – in my wallet on a piece of paper. Yeah, I totally get that’s not permanent, but it’s a start.
You don’t need to jump onto the chair and get inked tomorrow either but knowing that word that you need to and want to carry with you for all of your days is powerful.
So… what’s your tattoo word?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula Kiger January 24, 2017 at 6:57 am

Hi Alli. I don’t have any ink either and probably won’t ever (although I think about getting a semi colon). BUT I heard a talk once which has stuck with me for YEARS, which is saying a lot because, as you note, our attention spans are tiny. But this priest gave such a great talk and jokingly told us to “tattoo” the principles on our bodies. That led me to somewhat whimsically create “the AUA” tattoo. That AUA model is so easy to remember and such a logical application to life. http://biggreenpen.com/2011/10/17/the-a-u-a-tattoo/


Alli Polin January 25, 2017 at 5:20 am

Beautiful! Thanks for sharing, Paula. Awareness, Understanding and Action are three things I can definitely get behind.



Gary Gruber January 24, 2017 at 7:24 am

Thanks a lot! One word! Are you kidding? No, you’re not. The words start flowing like a stream of consciousness, some of them not nearly so attractive and appealing as others. I watch them go by, picking one out now and then to examine it, turn it over and consider keeping. But, like catch and release, I let it go. One word forever, however long that may be. “Love” comes to the surface and floats gently on. “Change” keeps bobbing up and down, repeating itself. “Plan” slows in an eddy. “Live” appears in different shapes with more than one dimension. Wait, there went a Greek word, “psyche” which means spirit. I like it but is the tattoo for me or others? I will dip back into the stream later. For now, I’m “content” to let the water flow.


Alli Polin January 24, 2017 at 7:51 am

Yes, yes and yes!!!

I choose to embrace them all. Maybe I’m cheating 😉

As far as who the tattoo is for, all I know is that from where I sit, it’s for you. Choosing to mark yourself to please someone else is a no-win situation.

Truly grateful, Gary. Thank you.



Terri Klass January 24, 2017 at 9:16 am

Fantastic and thought-provoking to come up with one word to be a “forever guide” as a tatoo!

I love your challenges and I would say my word is: empowered. I live it in both my personal and professional life and think being empowered is how we make sure we hit our marks, make our discoveries and show compassion to the people around us.

Thanks Alli and will share today!


Alli Polin January 25, 2017 at 7:57 am

Empowered. YES. It’s easy to give our power away… here’s to a reminder that we truly are empowered.



Jon Mertz January 24, 2017 at 9:38 am


Well done. It would be challenging to pick that one word but, as you point out, it may already be present. We just need to “embrace” it. And you are.

Being centered throughout our lives make a big difference. You are.



Gary Gruber January 24, 2017 at 9:59 am

I’m gathering a list of “one-word” suitable for consideration for the tattoo.
Centering is certainly one of them. Right now I’m focusing on the possibility of choosing “breathe” and after creating my list, I will then go through the process of prioritizing and narrowing down to top five, then choose. For me it’s a “process” and a work in “progress.” Thanks and thanks, Alli, for provoking such a great discussion.


Alli Polin January 25, 2017 at 5:22 am

Thanks so much, Jon. Who knows if I’ll actually get the tattoo but it has made an impact having that word with me. When I’m stressed, undecided, it’s there with me.

I dance left and right of center too but doing my best to remain centered and take things from there.




Bob McInnis January 24, 2017 at 5:21 pm


I did a similar exercise last June and emblazoned my skin with “Strengthen” as a reminder to lift others up.



Alli Polin January 25, 2017 at 5:23 am

Fantastic! Love that, Bob. You’re definitely leading the way for me. 🙂


TerriP January 24, 2017 at 6:24 pm

Hey Allli!
Funny you should ask… I currently have three (yes, three) and am ready for my next one. This one will be one word, and completely sums up my life, future, etc. I’ll be getting “blessed” It reminds me to be grateful and remember that even though I may not see it at the time, there is positive in every negative. It’s also a reminder that in life, and in business, I am truly blessed.
BTW, I didn’t get my fist one until I was 45 and had thought about it for a really long time. Love that you’re taking time to decide…. they’re permanent! 🙂


Alli Polin January 25, 2017 at 5:27 am


Three! Now I’m totally curious 😉

“Blessed” is such a powerful choice. When I read your word, I felt a sense of peace and smiled. It’s a word that creates a positive physical response and at times, that’s exactly what’s needed.

By the way, I think the mid 40’s are the perfect time to start… I’m right there too.

Thanks so much for sharing!



LaRae Quy January 24, 2017 at 6:46 pm

Love this: To me “embrace” simultaneously accepts where I am today and gives faith and courage for the journey ahead. It lets me mindfully love what’s present while still pushing me to change and grow.

What a beautiful and powerful statement!

I, too, have always wanted a tatoo but it’s taken me years to figure out what would not only represent who I am now, but who I plan to be in the future (I bet your dad told you that you’d be stuck for life with a tatoo?)

I’ve decided on a Celtic Cross because it is enduring, loving, and compassionate. Now, where I’m going to put it is another matter!


Alli Polin January 25, 2017 at 5:31 am

It has taken me forever to feel a sense of peace about the right word or image. I think I know where I want to get it too but will have plenty of chances to change my mind before I head in to get it done. I plan to do it in the USA this summer when we travel home.

And you’re right – my dad was incredibly clear that it lasts forever. Some things are worth it.

Good luck with yours! Enduring, loving and compassionate… sounds like someone I know.


Jessica Polin Moseley January 25, 2017 at 9:52 am

My word is “Today”. I need to remember to live in the moment. Thoughtful article Alli!


Alli Polin January 25, 2017 at 11:51 pm

Get it the day before I do so Dad can go after you and won’t notice mine. Love “Today”, Jessie. So important.


Lori Gosselin January 26, 2017 at 8:46 am

Hi Alli
Wow – I’m impressed that anyone could choose to tattoo one word to their body with faith that it will be the word for all time. I’m too fickle for that. I’m intensely dedicated to what I’m dedicated to, until the time comes to move to something else. This used to bother me about me, as if it was a flaw in my character, but I’m learning to accept it and to go with the flow. If anything, FLOW could be my word. You got me thinking here! 🙂


Alli Polin January 31, 2017 at 6:54 am

Flow fits! It’s something I could do more… I guess that’s why I landed on embrace. Your journey has actually inspired me. Who would have predicted where you started and where you’re headed?



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