With the new year comes a chance to start anew. There’s a powerful sense of change in the air, and tapping into this collective energy is a wonderful way to infuse new energy into our own lives. As the year comes to a close and we unwind in the delightful shapelessness of the holiday season, why not take some time to look at the year that’s passed and plan for the year ahead? Specifically, let’s look at intentions.
Intentions aren’t quantifiable goals, think of them as a zoomed out, big picture perspective of our approach to life. They’re statements that help us identify and align with what’s important to us, reminders of the values we want to embody, helping us stay connected to our purpose in the face of turbulence. So if you’d like to enter the new year with intention, keep reading for suggestions on how to do so.
Reflecting on 2021’s lessons
Before we jump into setting intentions for the new year, it’s helpful to reflect on the year we’ve had as a way to make peace with everything that has happened. So take half an hour to sit down in a quiet space that inspires you and use some or all of these guiding questions to take stock of 2021. Writing down your responses is ideal, but you could also take mental notes if you prefer.
- When did I feel most alive?
- How have I filled my own tank this year?
- What are the conditions that enable me to rest deeply?
- What did I learn about myself this year?
- Did I take on any new habits?
- How has this changed my day-to-day experience of the world?
- What have I been consistent about this year?
- What motivated me to stay the course?
- What experiences have left me feeling depleted, and why?
- When have I felt most connected to my purpose?
- When did I experience deep joy?
- In what ways have I given back to the communities I’m a part of?
- How has this made me feel?
- In what aspect(s) have I grown this year?
- How have I nurtured the relationships that matter to me?
- What/who am I grateful for, and why?
- What are two-three words that come to mind when I think about the year that’s passed?
- What do I want to do differently/spend less time on? What have I outgrown?
Stepping into 2022 with intention
When water is still, you’re able to see through it with clarity. It becomes transparent, a mirror. Similarly, a still mind will allow you to tap into your truest self, unmuddied by thoughts and distractions. So take a few moments to clear your mind and enter a state of stillness in whichever way feels right for you. That might look like a walk out in nature, a 10-minute meditation, or you could just lie down, set a timer for 10 minutes, and breathe deeply in and out through your nose at equal intervals – in for 6 counts, out for 6.
With a clearer mind, let’s begin.
First, come up with a guiding statement or vision for your year. Think of this as the North Star. The year ahead will invariably come with its highs and lows, but this guiding statement will be one that you can return to. As long as you’re moving towards this vision, you’ll know that you’re heading in the right direction. How you phrase this statement also matters. Instead of saying “I will…” which speaks to a future version of yourself, say “I am” – as if you’re already experiencing the vision.
Suggestion: Consider making your statement a reflection of your process, not an outcome. Pick an empowering phrase that you can repeat to yourself every day, one that is a reflection of your “why” and “how” instead of just your “what.” You could also just choose personal values that you’d like to commit to this year as well.
An example: I am honest with myself and others, I walk towards my dreams with faith, courage, and dedication, I am balanced, I am at peace.
Next, you can look at various aspects of your life and set intentions for each individual area. Some categories to consider:
- Health & Wellness
- Community & Relationships
- Personal Development
For each of the areas you choose, pick an intention that will guide your approach. You can set quantifiable goals as well, but keep those separate from your intentions. Here are some guiding questions to help you.
What do I want to lean into this year?
What are my values around this area?
What do I want to do differently?
What are my limiting beliefs in this area, and how can I address them?
For instance, if you’d like to develop a better relationship with your job, you might choose a statement that helps you address why you’re stressed out and how you can feel more at peace: I am not afraid to try new things, I set healthy boundaries and honour my need to rest, I am respectful of my own time and that of others.
Set similar intentions for every aspect of your life that matters to you, thinking of them as mission statements that form the basis of your more specific goals.
Importantly, remember that this isn’t just an exercise to do at the start of the new year and then forget about. Intentions are most powerful when they’re integrated into your daily life, helping you live life with purpose instead of being carried around by currents.
Schedule check-ins with yourself on your calendar every month (or quarterly) and reflect honestly on how the month has gone. Which intentions have served you more than others? What have you learnt about yourself? What has challenged you, and how do you want to do things differently?
And don’t worry if you slip up. Life happens, you won’t always be consistent, you might contradict yourself at times. But that’s only natural. Intentions aren’t meant to be directives that stress you out and make you feel bad about yourself. They’re guides that help you find your way back home to yourself when you’re lost in the ebbs and flows of the times.
Hope this practice helps you live a more connected, intentional 2022. Wishing you all peace, joy, and growth in the new year.