Intention Setting for the Year Ahead

As a new year begins, it’s common to find yourself reflecting on the past year, and maybe even sharing dreams of what you would like to invite and cultivate more of in the year ahead. Instead of focusing on what you did not do or accomplish, focus on what was done, achieved, celebrated, and experienced to gain more from this naturally introspective time.

Intentions and goal setting have been shown to increase mental health, elevate our mood and overall happiness in life. When done from a place of love, it can a very beneficial practice for our futures. Intention setting can challenge us to grow and achieve our greatest dreams and desires, yet also allow us to look at our shortcomings with compassion.

Common themes we tend to hear this time of year are the desire to lose weight, travel more, find our soul mate, and spend more time with friends and family. Sound familiar? While these are exceptionally valuable goals, did you physically write them down and track your progress throughout the year? Will you be setting the same goals as last year, or make revisions based on your new experiences and outlook?

Whether you have the same intentions going into this next year, or have new goals, I want to share some tips that I found helpful when it comes to not only setting intentions but achieving them and holding yourself accountable.

1. Reflect and connect

This is a great time to look back throughout the last year at all the elements in your life. Take a few moments, or day, to look back over all of your successes, achievements, dreams, and even failures. Really try to look at each of these things as they were and without judgment. Observe the thoughts and feelings that come up. This exercise allows you the opportunity to connect back into these moments and see if and where you would like them to fit into your life moving forward.

2. Write it down

Research shows that you are more likely to achieve a goal if you write it down somewhere you can see it regularly. Always write in the present tense, as if you already have achieved that goal. Avoid words that have negative connotations associated with them like “lose, not, don’t” as these words move the subconscious into a more negative state. Instead use positive words such as “fit, stability, am, and have.”

3. Create a mantra or visualization practice

Bring your intention to life by incorporating it into a daily practice like using a mantra or visualization. By revisiting your intention or goal daily you draw focus on it and it becomes more tangible and realistic. Research has shown it’s not enough to think about these things once in awhile. During your visualization practice, SEE yourself accomplishing your goal. Imagine what it would feel like once you have. Observe any smells, colors, or other aspects around it — make it real.

4. Take baby steps

Some goals seem so far away because we are looking at the big picture. The best way to achieve your goal is by breaking it down into smaller steps. For example, if you are wanting to run a marathon, you do not just go out and run 26.2 miles your first time; you break it into smaller more manageable pieces and build from there. Do this with all of your goals.

5. Make it realistic and easy to fit into your life

This is an important one. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, but be mindful that you aren’t setting yourself up for failure. Similar to the step above, identify your goal and work backward on all the baby steps you need to take to help yourself achieve it. It may be something you need to work at a little every day, but if you really want it, you will.

6. Make it time sensitive

Saying you want to do something next year isn’t enough! Commit to a date and put it in your calendar. Visualize yourself achieving your goal or intention by that specific date. Keep it front and center as a reminder.

7. Find love and gratitude for your life today

Sometimes we spend so much time thinking about the future that we forget to appreciate this very moment that can already teach us so much. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Things happen, life gets in the way, and plans change. Let’s just agree to take things one day at a time, inviting more love, gratitude, and compassion for all.

photo credit: Giulia Bertelli