The idea of setting a new year’s resolution (and actually keeping it!) feels like wishing for a unicorn. They’re mystical and I’ve always wanted one I could keep, but its never going to happen. I’m just not that person. I have absolutely no “willpower,” and I’m grateful for that.
Willpower is about forcing things to happen. It may require you to ignore the whispers of your soul, hush your values, and push through the pain just to achieve what you thought you were supposed to have. It’s not for me.
That said, I believe from the top of my red head to the tips of my red toes that the new year is still the perfect time of year for planning what’s to come. For stating your desires and for naming your dreams. The new year feels fresh and sacred and yearning for quiet reflection, hope, and audacity. Definitely audacity.
So if it’s not about resolutions (that word… it makes my whole body shudder like grandma’s liver and onions) then what’s it about?
Intentions. Setting an intention is like casting your fishing pole into the sea with a little note tied to the end proclaiming, “THIS. This is what I want for my life.” A variety of sea creatures may take the bait – the specific one doesn’t matter, but each of the different brightly-colored fish brings a different gift with it and all of them provide what you asked for perfectly. It’s a divine give and take.
Intentions are about the what, not the how. They require you to go deeper and think bigger. They require you to push past the surface reasons for why you want that thing that you want and root yourself in your values and the vision for your life. They sprout from who you are as a person and how you see yourself and they deliver bigger rewards than any resolution or goal could.
Here’s a personal example to demonstrate how resolutions and goals get it wrong. Resolution: I will finish decorating my home before the end of the year. (We recently moved.) Sounds easy enough – buy another couch, get some art for the walls, new curtains for the dinning room, paint the blue room, etc. Let’s say I actually accomplish all of those things within the year. What if I get to the end of the year and my house looks beautiful but something still feels off? Gorgeous home, but something’s missing. What good did my intention do me? Very little. It certainly didn’t provide anything that really matters in the grand scheme of life. (It’s also likely that I would fail to complete everything on my miles-long-list and end the year feeling like a failure. We’ll save that for another discussion.)
Now here’s my intention: My home feels complete. Maybe I start down the decorating path and two rooms in I realize I couldn’t care less about the blue room and even though my living room is coming along there’s still something tugging on my soul. My intention gives me the freedom to pivot and ask some great questions that get to the root of what I really want. What’s missing that would make my home feel like a home? What is it about the idea of “home” that I value the most? And I’ll realize that it’s love. Maybe I get that big dog I’ve dreamed of since I was ten (YES!), throw a few more dinner parties so my home is filled with laughter and friends, and plant that garden in Kate’s memory that I’ve been thinking about. Anything that makes me and my home feel complete is on the table. As long as I keep my intention in mind and weigh each action (goal) I accomplish against it, I succeed. See the difference?
There is still plenty of room for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) goals in your life and your new-year’s planning, but they come later in the process. Set your intentions first. They are the umbrellas under which everything else lives.
Once you are clear on your intentions for the year, some goals will be obvious and others reveal themselves later. Another of my intentions is to, “Build my team” which means I want to feel supported and rely on experts and teachers to support me so I can be freed up to put my energy where I have the most impact. A few goals are immediately obvious (hire a financial planner and an interior decorator) and others will come later as the year evolves.
You don’t have to know how you’re going to get what you want when you set an intention. Being open to how something will happen allows you to grab unanticipated opportunities when they pass by. That’s where the magic begins to unfold and your truth reveals itself exquisitely.
Real life is better than anything you could have planned.