A phrase I’ve frequently heard is, “I don’t set intentions at New Year anymore. It’s a waste of time. They never happen and I forget about them before the end of January!” While many resolutions go unmet, I argue that there is great value to living your life with well-thought-out intentions.
This is the time of year when I take stock of my experiences and reflect on what brought me joy and what raised challenges. My review is split into three categories: my inner self, family and friends, and business. After spending time journaling about the past year, I start to form my intentions for the year ahead.
The key toward living with intention is committing to a process that seeks out deep inner purpose and brings clarity to what you truly want and how you can get there. Let’s take a look at how to set an intention and get into action so your goals become a reality.
Step 1: Imagine
Every single intention must begin in our imagination. There is just no other way to begin since creating something new within ourselves means looking beyond what already exists. Acknowledging this reality helps us to see the importance of creating time to reflect and dream. There is great value in creating time to allow our minds to wander with curiosity and open-mindedness.
A key ingredient to getting into a creative mindset is feeling safe and relaxed. Spend some time discovering what situation creates a sense of safety and quiet, it may be being out in nature. For me, I carve out some peaceful alone time early in the morning on the weekend and permit myself to daydream as long as I want. I bring a cup of tea to my bed for extra comfort. I lie there dreaming up different ideas, taming my practical critical mind the best I can to see what images arrive in my imagination. I give those random thoughts and images importance and compassion, including ideas that appear too little or too big. I suggest challenging perceived limitations with questions such as “Why not?” What if ….” and testing whether they hold up.
Step 2: Journal
After thinking through your ideas, take out your journal and begin to write down your thoughts, including all the ideas or judgments you have about the intentions. This clears up some false thought patterns or old limiting constructs. Write down as much detail about the intentions by checking in with the five senses, considering how your intention might look, feel, taste, sound, and smell. This helps define the path toward achieving the intention.
Here’s a personal example: last year, I wrote about wanting to own my full feminine power and the wisdom of my ancestors. Because this sounds broad, how will I know that I achieved this? For me, I know that I am moving towards this intention because I have been participating in a weekly writing group where I am writing out scenes from my great-grandmother’s life. After researching her life, I learned enough to start using my imagination to write. Working with a group is a tangible and objective way for me to see my progress.
Step 3: Share
After completing the journaling, find a trusted friend or support group to read out the intention. Initially, the friend or group listens attentively. Then invite them to ask clarifying open-ended questions to help deepen your understanding of your intention. Sharing with others also opens the door for the next step.
Step 4: Commit
Now comes the hard part! It’s about commitment and fully showing up for your intention. Most intentions require a change of habit and that brings growing pains along with it. Resistance, hesitation, challenges, and doubts pop up even amongst magical opportunities. It’s at this point enthusiasm starts to wane.
As I was at the beginning stages of developing the intention of connecting to my feminine power and my ancestors, I saw an advertisement for a writing class in our local paper. As I read about the class I felt excitement brew within me. However, as I sat in front of the signup form, my fingers froze, and my mind started racing: “I don’t think I have time for this. I can’t write. I’m dyslexic, who do I think I am? Why don’t I write by myself when I get the time?”
Recognizing my resistance and applying my mentor’s mantra, accelerate toward embarrassment, I made my fingers press send.
The benefit of the writing class has been built-in accountability. Now the group of 12 expects me to show up to class every week. During each class, we get assigned pieces to write and read out loud for critique. This surfaced another round of resistance with more racing thoughts: “This is crazy. Kate, you can’t do this.” Now the wiser aspect of myself had to be louder. “How will I learn if I don’t open up to vulnerability? What is the worst thing that can happen?” And finally, “Come on Kate this is not a life-threatening situation!”
This is where a good practice of self-compassion is needed. There will always be a point in the creation of intentions when you hit resistance. The parts of us that love the status quo and resist change will get very loud. Having a group that creates accountability in a supportive way is an essential ingredient to achieving intentions. We cannot rely on a once-a-year daydream to accomplish what we want to change; we must get into action. There’s no better way to embark on change than with support and encouragement from others who are also committed to meeting their intentions.
Trusting and letting go are two other elements needed to thrive in intention-setting. I needed to trust that joining a writing group would take me in my desired direction. Now that I have been in a writing group for over a year, I know with certainty that I needed that structure to meet my intention. As I write about my great-grandmother’s life, participating in this group has deepened my connection to my feminine ancestry, especially from the guidance of my honest, talented and committed teacher.
What I’ve learned is sometimes we are required to let go of how we imagined this change to happen. As we begin to change anything in our lives, we hit limits, just a river bursting its banks. When we break down those limits, the river can flood and open us up to a completely new path and outcome. Forging this new path requires trust and surrender. These are the moments when we need to increase our self-compassion and lean into the support of a friend or group. With these four steps in hand, you can bring your intentions to life and open up to the magic that comes along with newfound change.
About the Author
An author, speaker, and alternative healing arts practitioner specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, Kate Mackinnon has been using touch to support her clients in restoring their well-being and in accessing their physical potential for the last 30 years. She is also a licensed physical therapist in California and the UK. Kate offers intention-setting workshops for small groups, as well as coaching for therapeutic business owners.