By: Elizabeth A. Sautter
If you are in the habit of setting goal based resolutions for the new year that feel more like a “have to” than a “get to”, here are some things to consider:
- A goal is focused on the future with a specific outcome or external "achievement" in mind. Setting goals for a new year can feel overwhelming and, more often than not, vaguely set goals fail to last, leading us to feel discouraged about ourselves.
An intention, on the other hand, relates to a larger purpose involving our relationships with both ourselves and others. Unlike future-oriented goals, intentions have the power to shape the way we show up in the world now. For example, "I am kind", "I am powerful", "I ask for what I want and need" - these statements are powerfully stated in the present tense, bringing our minds to the current moment where they can increase our self-awareness.
- Setting parenting goals can set us up for a sense of failure or feeling “not good enough”. But when we set parenting intentions instead, we can come back to them, day after day, or even hour after hour, to remind ourselves how we want to live in the present moment.
- Setting intentions rather than resolutions allows you and your family to approach life through the lens of your values and your life purpose, but how do you begin?
Below we have created a free three page intention setting download to help you map your intensions for the new year out:
All of these steps can be done by yourself, with one child at a time, or as a family.
Your word of the year can be placed in a prominent place as a reminder (e.g. the refrigerator or on a bathroom mirror); or if you prefer, you can place your word in a private place just for you.
Let’s break intention-setting into 5 simple steps:
STEP 1: Reflect Journal, go for a walk, or meditate, taking time to review the accumulation of moments that shaped your year. You can do this alone and/or with your family. Think about what went well and which life experiences lifted you this past year. What feelings were attached to those experiences? Joy? Excitement? Pride? Do you want more of those feelings?
And which moments felt uncomfortable? What feelings come along with these memories? Uncertainty? Overwhelm? Disconnection? Do you want less of these feelings? Don’t judge, just notice and observe. Share these memories and feelings or keep them to yourself.
STEP 2: Cultivate Once you are clear on what you want more of, hone in on these feelings, actions, experiences, and describe them. Write down the words that resonate with you. Connection? Collaboration? Clarity? Joy and ease? Allow that which you want to attract come to you in the form of a simple word, maybe two, and write them down.
STEP 3: Let Go After thinking about some of the hard times and/or the things you want to create less of, write down the feelings that come with these memories. Confusion? Overwhelm? Frustration? Take a deep breath as you read each word to yourself. Thank each of these more challenging feelings for the lessons they brought and then let them go.
STEP 4: Anchor Once you are clear with what you want to cultivate and what you want to let go of, anchor your intentions by boiling it all down to just one or two words that lift you. This will be your "word of the year", something you can reflect on and revisit daily, bringing both your attention and your intentions to sourcing more of this life-giving vibration into your life. What is your word for the new year?
STEP 5: Say YES! Now that you have your intention for the new year, tune into this single word or short phrase daily. One powerful visual reminder is to add your intention as an image on your phone's home screen. By keeping your word or phrase "alive" in this way, you will be more apt to notice when it shows up in your life. I already know that some of the things that bring me closer to my intentions are journaling, walks in nature, dancing in the kitchen, and snuggles. These are a daily YES in my life!
Remember, mindful living is a journey, not a destination. Go slow, be gentle with yourself, and celebrate the gift that you are to the world every step of the way.
Elizabeth A. Sautter, MA, CCC, is a licensed speech and language pathologist, blogger, author, presenter, certified mindfulness teacher, and founder of Make Social Learning Stick and co-founder of Communication Works, a private practice providing speech and language services to school districts in the San Francisco Bay Area. | See expert's full bio >>
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