Set an Intention (Not a Resolution) for 2019

The New Year - the time to reflect on the previous 365 days and start to think about the next - is coming. I am on a list-serve for people who are looking for sources to write articles for them, and I have seen so many requests for ‘attainable goals’ and ‘resolutions people should actually set’ for next year. I have a different idea: set an intention not a goal or resolution. 

What is an intention? An intention is a guiding principle, something that we have purposefully chosen to try to incorporate into our lives. In my mind, an intention is set to grow something (often within ourselves) rather than obtain something (like a slimmer body or a fancy new car). Our intention drives where our will goes, and where our will goes, so does our action. More simply: our intention is the purpose behind our action. 

Why set an intention rather than a goal or resolution? If you read this last paragraph and your eyebrows raised and you thought about just hitting the back button right now, look, I get it. When I first started hearing people talk about intentions and desires and manifesting, I was ready to quietly back towards the door, too. I was all about checking things off of my list. If I could set a goal, I could accomplish it by paritalizing and knocking off those to-dos one by one. I either succeeded or I failed. It was black and white. An intention isn’t like that. An intention isn’t so cut and dry, and it is isn’t so tangible. That is a little weird and scary when you’re not used to it, so stay with me here. 

So, why trade the check boxes for something more abstract? I’ll tell you why. Where your mind goes, your actions will follow. What is the quote - you become what you think about all day long - right? So, if you wake up and you set an intention for your day, that thought is cemented in your mind. With that thought in mind, you may catch yourself acting in line with your intention during the day. You may also catch yourself acting in ways that do not align with your intention, too, but my guess is that you may have not noticed those actions had you not set your intention, and now that you notice them, you can choose what to do about them. Make sense? 

If you set an intention for your year, then you have 365 days to focus on what you are growing inside of you. And maybe you find 10 days into 2019 that this not the intention for you, well it’s not quite a fail like a goal, you would just set a new intention and carry on.

How to set an intention? Okay, so now that you are (hopefully) considering setting an intention, let’s talk about how. The same way you would imagine a goal for your future, think about how you would like your life to look in 2020. Focus on how you would like to feel, rather than what you would like to accomplish. Maybe you choose to sit and meditate or maybe you would rather journal, or just imagine for a while and don’t call it anything formal. Once you imagine the details of your future life, think about what you could grow inside of you to help you become the way you want to be.

To put your intention into words, try an affirmative statement, and set your intention. You can use the words “I will,” “I intend to” or “I am,” to help guide your intention, or maybe something more authentic to you. Stay away from “I can” or “I might be (able to)” statements that question if you can or cannot follow through on your intention. When you affirm to yourself that you will, or that you already are partially what you are trying to become more of, then there is more likelihood that you will doubt yourself less, causing you to succeed more in fulfilling your intention. 

Once you set your intention, you may find that your perspective begins to change. The limitations that you sensed around you may start to fade into the background as you begin to believe in yourself and your own abilities more. 

What next? Once you have an intention set, remind yourself of it daily. At the beginning of the day, repeat your intention to yourself (out loud or in your head) or write it down. At the end of the day, take a few moments to reflect or jot in your journal how you feel about how you kept your intention during the day. Reflect with self-compassion, knowing that some days will be better than others and that unlike a goal, just because you stray doesn’t mean you “fail.” When you are reflecting, think about how you could remind yourself more of your intention throughout the day, maybe you write it somewhere you can see in your office (or your car) or make it your phone screen background. You will find what works for you to cement your intention in your life, just keep reflecting and restarting daily on working on your intention. 

You can do this! The more practice you have setting an intention, the more connected you will feel to the process. The first time may feel awkward, maybe you will feel like it is hard to listen to your true inner self or hard to step away from the tangible goals and ideas you have for your life. Practice, and it will come. 

If you are wanting to set an intention, but are not sure where to begin, borrow an intention for now, until one comes along that really sticks out to you. 

Here are some ideas: 

  • Self-Care: I will take care of myself so that I may take care of others. 

  • Patience: I am patient with myself and others. 

  • Prescence: I will be more present in my own life.

  • Compassion: I intend to be more compassionate with myself and others. 

  • Gratitude: I will practice more gratitude for my life. 

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones, what intention will you be setting? What ideas do you have to remind yourself of your intention?