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Tired of crafting New Year’s Resolutions that you’ve dropped by February? Try setting a New Year Intention instead.
I read a terrific book this year called The Year of Yes. It’s by Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and Bridgerton. In the book, Shonda decides that for one year, she’ll say ‘yes’ to all opportunities that come her way.
I loved this book for its humor and its life lessons, and it really got me thinking about the way I usually plan for the New Year.
My Typical New Year’s Routine
Every year as December 31st rolls around, I set a bunch of goals—tasks for myself, really:
- I want to earn ‘x’ dollars in my business.
- I’ll read ‘x’ books this year.
- I will exercise ‘x’ times per week.
I am great at breaking these goals into actionable tasks, and so I often accomplish a lot. Sometimes, though, I feel like I’m missing the forest for the trees.
I’m so busy checking the boxes on the way to the outcome, I miss out on the journey.
Shonda, instead of just setting a bunch of inflexible goals, set an intention for her new year. She didn’t resolve to speak at a graduation, organize a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, or stop working on the weekends, but those were some of the things that did happen as she lived her intention and said ‘yes’ again and again.
Shonda set up something bigger than a series of resolutions. She chose a rule for herself—a guiding star to follow as the year went by.
Why New Year Intentions Might be More Useful Than New Year’s Resolutions
The more I’ve thought about it, I’ve begun to suspect that this approach–the one where we live by an intention rather than a rigid task list, might be more useful than those resolutions I normally make.
We weren’t designed to be just doers. How we walk through life makes a difference.
Intentions fill in that space between wishy-washy dreams and rigid, outcome-focused goals. They help align who we want to be with the stuff we choose to do.
Setting intentions for the new year gives us a chance to live our values and be mindful as we work to accomplish those things that are important to us.
And setting intentions rather than resolutions gives us more flexibility as we move through the year. We leave room for some magic to come in.
Like this idea? Here are six things to keep in mind as you set intentions for the coming year.
Choose your new year intentions wisely
Think about what brings you joy, what fills you with purpose, and what you value. Go ahead—make a list. Now look for the biggest gap where these things that are important to you don’t match up with your current life.
Maybe you really value family but are feeling like you don’t have as much energy for the ones you love as you might like. Setting an intention like “I nurture the connection with my family” can be a touchpoint for the whole year as you decide exactly what you will and won’t do with your time each day.
Get specific about your vision
I love the idea of spending some time visualizing what your intention(s) will look like in action. You can do this through journaling or by creating a vision board to bring your intention to life.
What things might you choose to do or not do this year if you were living in alignment with your intention?
Make your New Year intention a part of your everyday thinking
It will be easy to forget about your intention as life gets busy this year. Choose a simple way to remind yourself.
I love to set alerts in my calendar now for dates months in the future that will remind me to check back in with those intentions I set.
You might also write your intention on a sticky note or make it part of your cell phone’s wallpaper. Or, you could choose to hang that vision board that you created someplace that you will see it every day.
Remember, though, that you might stop seeing these things once they’ve been in the same spot for a while, so be sure to change things up—move that sticky note, redo that wallpaper, or hang the vision board in a new spot.
Share your new year intention with a friend
It can be helpful to share your intention with at least one person that you trust. If we make a commitment just to ourselves, after all, it’s easy to let it fall by the wayside. But when we know someone else is watching, we’re more apt to stick with that thing we intended to do.
You might even commit to checking in with your buddy periodically to let her know how you are living your intention.
You will want to check in daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonally to see how you are living your intention. (Those calendar alerts we set earlier can be a great help with this!) You might ask yourself as you write in your journal each evening, “how did I live my intention today?”
Of course, we all change a lot over the course of a year, and your intention might shift as the year goes on. If you find the direction you chose at the new year no longer works for you, feel free to change it.
Find at least one way to make your new year intention concrete
You’re already well on your way to living your new year’s intention once you’ve chosen something that aligns with your goals, visualized how it will affect your year, made it something you’ll see daily, shared it with a friend, and reevaluated it regularly.
If my intention is to nurture my connection with my family, I might set a goal of one date night with my husband each month. This is something that is easy to quantify/check off a list, and I can add the steps necessary to my monthly to-do list—things like:
- Select an activity to do together
- Clear the date with my husband and add it to our family calendar
- Secure babysitter
I can also nurture that connection with new habits, though. I could resolve to give my husband a 10-second hug every evening when he walks in the door after work. I might think of a reason I love my kids every day when I brush my teeth. I could send a text to my mom every day after I finish my lunch.
Anchoring these habits to something I’m already doing cements them as a new part of my day and ensures that I’m living my intention throughout the year.
My new year intentions
I am setting my personal New Year intentions right now. I came up with several that I liked as I walked myself through this process:
- Create daily
- Be present
- Slow down
But one intention rose above all the others. This year, I intend to BE AUTHENTIC. To me, this means sharing the person I truly am with the world. It means asking for help when I need it–saying what I think rather than what I think someone else wants me to say–sharing as true a representation of myself as I can rather than an extra-polished facade.
So, I’m saying ‘yes’ to authenticity. What will you say ‘yes’ to this year?
Do It Now:
- Choose an intention by making a list of the things that you value–stuff that fills you with joy and gives your life purpose. Are any of these things being neglected right now? That provides a great opportunity to set a valuable intention.
- Journal or create a vision board to flesh out some more details of what your intention might look like in action.
- Find some small ways to remind yourself of your intention–cell phone wallpapers, sticky notes on your mirror, or reminders in your online calendar are a few ideas to try.
- Share your intention with a buddy and consider checking in with that buddy regularly to update her on your progress.
- Find at least one way to put your intention into action. You might do this via a small new habit or by mapping out an inspiring goal and taking the first step.