At the start of the new year, a lot of us find ourselves thinking about how we live our lives. This reflective habit is ingrained in our culture: how many times have you been asked what your New Year’s Resolutions are? How many commercials have you seen trying to sell you something related to New Year’s Resolutions? For some of us, the concept of New Year’s Resolutions has become oppressive in itself - almost like a mandate: change your life now, or else. Well, what if you aren’t ready? What happens if you try and fail? The cultural conversation around New Year’s Resolutions also usually uses a deficit model: how are you deficient? In what ways are you doing it wrong? A lot of factors come together to set us up for feeling like we aren’t enough.
So instead, I propose taking a different approach to this time of reflection: instead of making New Year’s Resolutions, focus on setting intentions. Let’s take the gold from the concept of New Year’s Resolutions and leave the rock behind. Reflecting on your life - asking yourself if you are living the life you want to live - is healthy. Setting intentions rather than resolutions acknowledges the limits of our control. A resolution suggests that you will without a doubt do the thing you’ve said you’ll do -- okay, well what if you don’t? Things happen, energetic demands come up. The danger is that your word to yourself might start to mean less, and perhaps you feel like a failure. This is how resolutions can end up undermining themselves, leading to a self-worth-killing cycle of deficiency thinking. An intention, on the other hand, says “I’m going to do what is within my power to live in alignment with my values. I acknowledge there are factors that will influence this effort that are out of my control.”
How do you set an intention? Begin by considering your values. What is important to you about how you live your life? When do you feel most like yourself? How do you act when you are at your most resourced? Common categories in which people have values include: relationships, achievements, pleasure, independence, security, and self-development. What do you think is valuable to invest energy in? Most importantly, what is your relationship and responsibility to yourself, other people, and the world?
Once you’ve identified some major values, the next step in setting an intention is to identify behaviors that reflect those values. Take a look at your life and ask yourself: when am I most embodying the values I’ve identified? When am I furthest from these values? Notice the behaviors that are most, or least, associated with your values. Take time and consider whether there are any behaviors in which you might want to invest more energy.
When I reflect on my own values and behaviors, I notice thoughts about this blog coming up.
I value this as a space to provide information to anyone seeking it and to open up lines of communication around meaningful topics. I think of it often and, yet, I struggle to consistently turn these thoughts into words on a screen. Blogging is fairly new to me; the more experience I have with it, the better, but I have engaged with it less frequently than I would like. In the past, when I have managed to write on this blog, I’ve felt proud of myself.
Contributing to the larger community and developing my own skill set are important values to me; writing regular blog entries is a behavior that would embody both of those values. Up until this point, my behavior has been intermittently in line with my own values.
So, with that in mind, as the year begins I am setting an intention to consistently invest energy in writing for this blog space. If I published something a minimum of once per month, my behavior would feel more in line with my values. Publishing more frequently than once per month is something that I hope to work toward in the long term, but for now I’m invested in developing a consistent relationship with blogging. You are currently reading my January entry - my first step toward embodying my intention.
What are your intentions for yourself? What values are important to you? How do you want to behave in relationship to your own values?
(The above image is a sigil representing the concept of intentions. Shout out to the person who introduced me to the concept.)