Setting New Year’s Intentions
"The number one principle that rules my life is intention.” - Oprah Winfrey
New Year's resolutions are deceptive. At first, setting them feels a lot like rubbing a golden bottle, and expecting a magic genie to grant your wishes, just for the asking. Possibilities take shape as the oncoming year promises excitement. Later on though, those wishes begin to look different in light of a new year. If they fizzle, or become a struggle, they morph into a source of frustration and disappointment. Why didn't you do this, or make that happen? Self-judgement siphons all the fun out of a once beautiful joy-balloon. Realize, it's not your fault resolutions fall flat. It's because the process of making them is backwards. A much more freeing and realistic way to initiate change is by setting intentions.
In a way, a resolution is like being told to get in a convertible, and drive on the highway before you've taken a single driving lesson; and a related intention would be, realizing your desire to be mobile, and exploring how to make that happen. Think of resolutions as being static, fixed, a results-driven laundry list of wants. In contrast, an intention is not attached to an outcome.
Intention is rooted in motivation that spirals into energy. And this energy creates a driving force propelling you forward. Powerful because it’s in constant flowing motion. Intention inspires action and discovery, practical tools to manifest your desires. Examples of intentions are, “I eat in a way that nourishes my body. I devote time to work that satisfies my soul. I bring compassion to all my relationships. I incorporate playfulness into each day. I see others through a lens of kindness.”
While you may be able to scribble off a bunch of resolutions at will, discovering your intentions is not done so fast. In order to determine what will bring you fulfillment, it's necessary to access your inner wisdom. So give yourself enough time to contemplate. Release expectations and any feelings of desperation. While meditation and yoga practice naturally work well, they are not the only ways. You can go for a walk alone in nature. Simply sit and ruminate. Pet your cat or dog, and let your mind wander... Ask yourself to envision how you would like to experience your days. What would balance look like? Notice... Listen. If you like, introduce different areas of life with a single word said aloud: Relationships. Career. Finance. Pleasure.
If you've made unrealized resolutions in the past, you might also examine, and turn them inside out. Determine what mindset you would require for that result to happen naturally. For instance, if you had a resolution to find a new job, think about the attitude that would help you advance your career. Your intention might be “I enjoy learning and acquiring new skills to enrich my work-life. And if you had a resolution to make more friends, your intention might be, “I open myself up to new social activities and experience them fully.”
Less is more when it comes to setting intentions. One is all you need. Try not to come up with more than 3 at a time, since they need focus to flourish, by integrating each one into your conscious and subconscious mind. Remember, you can always generate more intentions later on.
Once you have set your intentions, the next step is to nurture them into being, by integrating them into daily life. Working with intention involves planting seeds in order to embody new ways of thinking. According to bestselling author and teacher, Deepak Chopra,“The best time to plant your intentions is during the period after meditation, while your awareness remains centered in the quiet field of all possibilities.” While this is ideal, repetition at various times throughout the day is also important.
You can write your intention down on a slip of paper, then repeat it aloud. It's best if you are in a relaxed state, but even if you aren't, doing so allows you to involve auditory, visual and tactile senses, in turn engaging multiple areas of your brain. Take this a step further: Carry that slip of paper around, glance at it throughout the day, and you'll be integrating it subliminally as well. And each night before you fall asleep, return to your intention. Repeat it silently, further rooting it into your subconscious.
Always frame your intention as though it has already occurred. Instead of saying, “I intend to...” say, “I...” For instance, if you are choosing to lead a healthier mindful life, you might try, “I enjoy discovering new ways to prepare nutritious plant based foods. Or “Practicing yoga and meditation daily helps me gain clarity.” By telling yourself you are already behaving in a certain way, your brain will create neuro-associations that align in this direction.
Unlike a resolution, an intention manifests through the journey. Helping you gain awareness, it aligns desires with behavior. And like all mindfulness practices, with ongoing dedication the process provides inner guidance. The beauty of working with intentions is, instead of being swept up the windstorm of life, it empowers you to navigate your own destiny.