I took some time in January to revisit my priorities and to create intentions for the year.
I don’t do New Year Resolutions anymore, but when I did, some of the most common resolutions I used to set were things like: lose weight, eat better, exercise more. But by whose standards? And for what purpose? After setting such surface-level resolutions, I’d be excited to work on them – for the first week or two. Then, the excitement wore off as I started to feel deprived, resentful, or otherwise resistant to the goal. I’d get frustrated with myself for not sticking to it and soon, the resolution was forgotten altogether and I was just left with a bad feeling about the experience.
For the most part, I think I’ve approached my past resolutions from the perspective of trying to appease others in some way, trying to earn approval or acceptance.
I was focused on what I “should be” doing to become some idealized version of myself based on what others expected me to do, or who they expected me to be. Resolutions seemed to be something I either achieved or didn’t achieve. I passed or I failed. I felt good about myself when I accomplished it or bad about myself when I didn’t. So, no. I don’t do resolutions anymore.
One year, I decided to get out of the resolution game, for good. That year, I set intentions instead and I’ve done that every year since. My intentions are broader, heart-centered concepts that support my continual learning and personal growth. They pull me forward, toward a better version of myself. They set my course, direct my path, and motivate me to keep practicing even when it gets hard. The intentions that I set for myself address deeper beliefs, choices, and behaviors that are attached to old stories I carry about who I am (or who I am not). My intentions are not based on what *others* say I should do or how I should be.
Instead, the intentions I create each year are chosen from my heart.
They are the result of self-observation, self-reflection, and self-inquiry, through which I’ve come to see what’s not working in my life and how I am holding myself back. I make a conscious choice about something that I want to be different and I make a commitment to invest in my own personal growth. For example, the intentions I created for this year are:
- I trust life, I trust myself, and I am open to possibilities.
- I embrace my inner fire: I follow my heart and my passions.
- I radiate love and joy as I nurture myself and others.
- I enjoy deep, meaningful connections with others.
- I create beauty all around me.
- I receive abundance with gratitude and love.
These intentions are applicable to all areas of my life – personal, relational, spiritual, and professional. Over the course of this year, they will help me continue to detach from old stories I’ve believed about myself for too long, and from old fears that are still hanging on. They will support me in continuing to grow my self-esteem, self-confidence, self-trust, and self-love. They will support me in continuing to follow my heart, even when it’s scary to do so. They will help me stay focused on my own wellbeing and self-care as I take big leaps toward my life purpose and the mission of my business.
Now that my intentions have been set, I begin practicing. My practice involves reviewing them, along with my priorities, every morning. Together these serve as a compass for my choices and actions each day. My practice also involves self-observation and paying really close attention to how well I’m living in accordance with these intentions . By noticing what I’m doing and what I’m thinking throughout the day, I catch myself in the act when my behavior is not aligned with my intentions. When this happens, I move into some self-inquiry and self-reflection, seeking to understand what is going on and why I’m reacting the way I am. I’ll explore what lesson I need to learn from the situation, and then I’ll try again.
These kinds of intentions are challenging. Anytime we are seeking to transform a core belief about our self, or even make a significant change to our patterns of thinking or behavior, it takes time and commitment. There is no instantaneous change, there are no quick fixes. What’s required is a willingness to experiment, a desire to learn and grow, and a commitment to ongoing practice.
Putting It Into Practice
It’s not too late to set your own intentions for this year. Generally, I don’t recommend setting as many as I have when you are just getting started. The last thing we want to do it to take on too many priorities for our personal growth at once; that could just lead to chaos, overwhelm, or frustration. So choose the most important ones to start with and you may make some adjustments as you continue working with them. I generally recommend choosing somewhere between 1 and 3 intentions to start with – this helps you hone in on what’s most important and helps you stay focused throughout the year.
You might start by spending some time reflecting on what your biggest challenges have been over the past year. In what ways have you felt most “stuck” in your life? What issues keep showing up time and again? What fears are getting in your way? How have you been holding yourself back from your dreams or from living the way you want to live? What do you want your life to look life? How do you want to be, or “show up” in your life (for example, do you want to be more courageous, trusting, open, loving, generous, or grateful?)? If you are unsure where to start, download this FREE tool, the PSR Wellbeing Assessment for some ideas. Reflect on which factors you are the least satisfied with, and you may find some inspiration for which ones you’d like to bring more attention to.
As you start to hone in on what’s most important to you, start drafting your intentions, writing them in present-tense fashion, as if you are already practicing it regularly. Notice how I wrote mine: Not “I will trust,” but, “I trust.” Not “I will embrace,” but, “I embrace.” This approach brings these intentions into the now rather than something you will get around to “someday.”
Continue working with your intentions until they feel right. Allow yourself some time, don’t feel like you have to rush the process. Once you have narrowed it down to your top 1-3 intentions, put them where you can easily read them every day. Make this a part of your morning ritual to help you set the tone and your focus for the day.
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