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Make the Most of the New Year through Intention Setting

Updated: Dec 31, 2022


The holiday season is officially in our rear view mirror and 2022 is coming to a close.


What’s on your mind? How are you feeling? While the difference between this year and next year seems nothing more than the flip of a calendar page, rich symbolism is present this time of year. Many of us feel deep internal shifts with the change of the seasons and forthcoming close of the year.


The days shorten following the autumn equinox, signaling a time to turn inwards. As temperatures drop and we become cold, our bodies curl inward to stay warm. We spend more time indoors than outdoors and our focus tends to shift inwards as well. Some of us become contemplative; called to recollect and inventory our experience with the past year including significant milestones. We reflect on our wins and losses, the events that tore us apart and those that lifted us up, the different ways we grew, who we spent time with, what seemed most important, what we healed, gained and lost. And then there’s the new year, sitting on the horizon, waiting to break dawn, symbolizing new beginnings. As we cross the threshold between the years, we envision we're able to wipe the slate clean and start anew, with fresh intentions, hopes, wishes and dreams. What is an intention? An intention is an idea or plan you intend to carry out; an act of making an agreement with yourself or to others where you commit to making changes in your behaviors, actions or advance towards a hard goal. Intentions may be said aloud, meditated on, whispered internally or written into the private pages of your journal — and some folks choose to practice all of these!

How can intention setting be useful? The process of setting intentions involves examining the areas of your life that you want to nurture and make changes in (e.g., health and wellness, work/career, recreation, romance/sex, personal development, finances, spirituality, relationships, etc.). Setting intentions helps us identify where the target is and what it looks like, and subsequently where to point our arrow; influencing the choices and decisions we make. When we know what our intentions are, we live with a clearer sense of purpose and experience greater fulfillment. Our internal compass and the lens in which we view our life through become calibrated to support us in obtaining our goals. We begin to recognize and seize opportunities that support our intentions, and become more present and aware of the progress we’re making.


Below are examples of intentions. Notice how there are specifics. 2023 I will

  • complete the ______________________ (school or personal/professional development program, house or work project) by X-date..

  • generate $X additional revenue by X-date.

  • get involved in the community by _____, _____ and ______.

  • put work aside by X-time and not work on weekends.

  • meet myself more compassionately by avoiding negative self-talk. When I start feeling judgy or the victim, I will take deep breaths to help me recenter and send loving, compassionate thoughts to myself.

  • practice asking for what I need by cultivating a better understanding of what my needs are, and embodying the belief that my needs are as important as others'.

  • strive for X full hours of sleep per night so I wake more refreshed, rested and energetic.

  • commit to a yoga or meditation practice X-times per ______.

  • better maintain my car by ______________ .

  • re-imagine dessert in a healthier format and replace unhealthier dessert selections with healthier ones X nights per week.

  • eat whole, healthy, nutrient-rich foods XX% of the time, allowing for some exceptions.

  • connect with friends for social time X-times per ______. Some of the things we'll do include (as example) hiking, dancing, meeting for a book club, Zooming.

  • limit my intake of alcohol and mood altering drugs by XX%.

  • prioritize uninterrupted romantic time with my partner so we're spending quality time X times per ______.

  • set better boundaries with others and myself by first getting clear on what my needs are and where my comfort zones lie. Secondly, I will better cultivate my voice and practice saying no or better defining my limitations.

  • buy almost all of my produce from the farmer’s market.

  • prioritize alone time X-times per ______. Ways I'll spend my alone time include ______, _______ and ______.

  • block off X weekend days per month to keep my schedule from getting over-programmed and preserve down-time.

Ready to Get Started? Below you will find a series of journal prompts, starting with reflections on the past year, followed by journal prompts that are forward oriented. Near the bottom, I've included another favorite intention setting exercise (Write a Letter to Yourself) that has proven to be deeply powerful for me.

Journal Exercise: Reflections and New Year Intentions Looking Back at the Past Year

It's recommended you set aside at least an hour for this journal exercise. I literally left my home and family for two nights and worked on these journal prompts alone! I recommend finding a quite space with few interruptions and turning your notifications to "off." Light a candle or engaging in another ritual that supports you getting to a more present state of mind; meditate a few minutes or do some gentle stretching. The more embodied /present with yourself you are when you work through these, the more "juice" (insights and discoveries) you'll receive. Challenge yourself to address all of the questions. Give yourself permission to take breaks, walk away from the exercise and resume when you're refreshed. Any efforts invested in reflecting on the past year and setting intentions for the new year will deeply support you.

Following the reflection-focused journal prompts immediately below, we'll move on to forward-thinking New Year intentions! This past year

  1. what strengthened in you?

  2. what softened in you?

  3. what ways have you grown?

  4. what captured your attention and inspired you?

  5. what challenged you?

  6. what was surprising?

  7. when did you feel most at peace?

  8. what was a valuable lesson you learned?

  9. what were you most grateful for?

  10. what did fun look like?

  11. what did romance look like?

Looking Forward to Next Year In the New Year

  1. how will you grow?

  2. how will you ensure greater mental, spiritual and physical well-being?

  3. what passions will you lean into?

  4. what will you heal and let go of?

  5. what will happiness look like?

  6. what relationships will you cultivate, nurture or let go of?

  7. what will fun and recreation look like?

  8. how will you bring more romance into your life?

  9. how will you make work more fulfilling?

Exercise: Write A letter to Yourself In this powerful intention-setting exercise (and one of my favorites) you are invited to draft a letter to yourself dated January 1, 20XX (a year away). In this letter you fold in answers to the second set of journal prompts in letter-format as if you were writing to a friend, outlining everything that happened (next year) written in past tense as if you already met your goals and your intentions were actualized. In addition to writing what changed (e.g., wellness) in various categories of your life, describe what actions you took to make these changes (such as cardio 4X/week, sleeping more each night, etc.) and how these changes impacted your life for the better (e.g., worked more efficiently, became more resilient when faced with life's twists and turns). You can even take it a step further and outline how the people in your life reacted to these new changes (e.g., my daughter delighted in greater amounts of engagement resulting in more time shared harmoniously).

 

An excerpt from my personal example: "January 1, 2024 Dear Suzanna, While 2022 was the year of burning the candle at both ends, full of rich personal development and skills-gathering (and much more), 2023 proved to move at a much slower-paced and you were able to integrate your new knowledge base and skills while being of service of others. You managed your overall state of well being through a better mix of exercise and mindfulness activities including: cardio 4x/week, yoga 3x/week, meditation 10 minutes per day, blocking weekend dates off in advance to preserve dedicated down time, putting your phone away after dinner, eating dinner by 7 pm and ensuring nine hours of sleep per night. By taking better care of yourself in these ways, you had more energy, were more resilient to life's turns and twists, were able to "show up" more fully and with greater presence for others in your life and worked more efficiently. Your daughter was delighted in your greater sense of presence as you were able to more fully engage her. This resulted in a more harmonious connection between the two of you. - Suzanna"

 

Go slow and savor the experience, feel into what you’re writing about; ride the waves of achievement/success, sadness, fear or whatever else comes up. Give yourself permission to smile, cry, laugh out loud, curl into a tiny ball or simply feel deeply as you recount the events and achievements of the coming year (as if they've already transpired). Make the recount detailed. For achievements that carry a heavier load, describe any doubts you carried and how you supported yourself through them. Set a deadline to complete your letter earlier in the new year. For folks heading to the January 29th Yoga + Self Care + Intention Setting Retreat aim to do these exercises before the event.

How can I make my intentions potent?

  • Put them down in writing. Create a ritual around your journal time by setting the mood.

  • Read them aloud to yourself.

  • Share your intentions with a confidant. Meet in person, hope on a call or meet via video and read or state your intentions to one another. Being witnessed is a powerful act. If it’s too hard to find a time to meet, record yourself reading your intentions (audio or selfie-video) and share the recording with a friend. Save the recording and watch it a year later to observe how you’ve grown and changed.

  • Set a recurring calendar reminder (weekly, twice monthly or once monthly) that links to your intention setting document so it stays top of mind. Feel free to edit it throughout the year, updating it with real-life accomplishments. You will be amazed by how much you achieve when you set your mind to meeting goals!

Enjoy this post? Let me know! Send me an email and let me know what what your experience was working through these exercises. I'd love to hear from you.

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