All too often, our New Years resolutions or goals are centered around demands on ourselves. We jot down lists of things we need to improve about our bodies, personality, or lifestyle. We say we have to do this, quit that, or stop something else. And each time we do something that contradicts a bullet point on our list, we deem ourselves a failure.
What if we instead wrote a list of intentions.
Using the word intention creates a completely different way of thinking. Instead of forming demands or pressures on ourselves, we’re saying “This is what I would like to do” or “This is what I intend to do“.
By choosing to set intentions rather than goals or resolutions, we are also opening up to contemplation of a bigger picture. For example, an intention can entail a way of being: “I intend to be compassionate and kind towards other people”.
Setting intentions, rather than resolutions, doesn’t eliminate the possibility for self improvement. On the contrary, it’s a way of sketching your goals out in a kinder and more achievable way.
This year, try something new instead of formulating your goals in a tone that’ll make you feel like a failure if you don’t achieve every row on your list. Here’s how to set your intentions for the coming year.
How to Set Your Intentions for the Coming Year
1. How do you want to feel?
Take a moment to see yourself in the coming months or year. How do you want to feel? Perhaps you are craving more excitement? More calm? Or more happiness in your life. Look at how the past couple of months have been, what has been burdening you or making you unhappy? What feeling is coupled with that, and what is the opposite of that feeling? Write down that feeling and draw a circle around it.
Example: You have been stressed out and anxious at work these past months. You’ve had very little time to rest and recover and can’t remember the last time you felt calm. The opposite of what you have been feeling would be relaxed and calm.
2. What are some activities you would like to do more?
With the feeling(s) you outlined in the previous step, what are some activities you could do that would help you achieve that feeling? Next to each of the feelings, draw a line out from the circle or bubble, and write down all the activities you can think of that would promote that feeling.
Example: You want to feel more calm and relaxed. Yoga, meditation, taking a bath, going for a walk, or drawing are some activities that promote serenity.
3. What steps do you need to take in order to do these activities?
Look at the activities you wrote down in the previous step. What actions are necessary for you to start the activity? Perhaps there’s a course or class you can sign up for? Maybe you need to buy some supplies that’ll allow you to work on your new project. Is there someone you can ask to teach you more about your new venture? Write these things down below each of the feelings and activities.
Example: To do yoga you want to sign up for online classes and buy a yoga mat. For your drawing you want to buy a mindfulness coloring book. And you want to call your friend to ask if they would like to go for a walk with you.
4. String it all together
Now that you’ve got the feeling you want to achieve, the activities you can pursue to achieve that feeling, and the steps necessary to do the activities, you’re able to string each one together to create an intention. Form intentions of each of the feelings, activities and steps you’ve written down.
Example: My intention: “I intend to sign up for online yoga classes and buy a yoga mat so that I can start practicing yoga to feel relaxed and calm.”