I used to go into the New Year armed with a list of resolutions just like everyone else. I was going to do all the things we’ve all said we were going to do: be healthier, work out five days a week, give up sugar, call my grandma faithfully, save more money and spend less time on social media. And by early February, there I was curled up with ice cream and Facebook wondering where it all went wrong.
Even the word resolution doesn’t feel quite right. It has this finality to it. It is supposed to be the end. But if each year is a journey, why do we declare its end at the beginning? And so, after many years of failed resolutions, I read an article about intentions and decided to do things a little differently. I realized that setting a single intention for the year could help me make the changes I wanted in my life and keep me from feeling like a failure.
So what’s the difference? Whereas resolutions usually focus on behavioral changes, intentions are more changes to your mindset. I think of mine as a guiding principle that I try to live into all year. For example, in 2015 my intention was to create more white space — unscheduled time on my calendar. Rather than being specific about what behaviors that might entail, setting the intention helped me evaluate different opportunities and choices that came my way throughout the year by asking myself “Does this get me closer to my intention of more white space or further?” Decisions got much easier. It was probably my most successful intention ever, and really revolutionized the way I live and work. The nice thing is all that carried over into 2016, and I still have lots more white space in my life, even though it’s not my "official" intention for this year.
Do intentions make me perfect?
Do intentions guarantee you’ll get it all right? Nope! My intention for this year was to increase my impact. While I did achieve this in some areas, the truth is 2016 really did not go the way I thought it would on Jan. 1. However, I consistently weighed decisions in my business and my personal life against my intention, and made the best choices I could, given some pretty tough circumstances. And this allowed me to achieve more than I might have if I had my heart set on a bunch of super specific goals. So, while this year was for sure not a home run for me, I definitely hit at least a double. And without my intention, I might still be standing at home plate.
And that’s one of the reasons that I love intentions — there is room for halfway. There is space for failure, for almost and for get up and try again tomorrow. This allows us to stick with the ideas better, and truly transform ourselves.
I want one too!
Good news, you can have an intention of your very own! Some people prefer a single word, around which they can focus their choices and energy. For example, if you feel like your life has gotten a little ho-hum, you could choose the word "adventure" as your intention for 2017. This doesn’t have to mean you will travel the world, it can just mean you say yes to things that are outside your comfort zone, take the long way home, go to new restaurants, finally pick up ice sailing, or whatever else makes your life feel more adventurous! And at the end of the year, you don’t have to measure up to a laundry list of changes, you can just decide if you lived fully into your intention and, if not, what you could do differently next year.
If a word feels too limiting, go ahead and pick a short phrase — but keep it specific and understand what you’re really trying to achieve! If you keep landing on things that feel more like goals or resolutions, try to understand your WHY behind each one, and you might just discover your intention.
I’d love to hear what your intention is for 2017. And I look forward to helping you live into all your intentions in the new year!