2020 has been a tumultuous and emotionally brutal year. Corona has dominated 2020, we have worn emotionally fatigued and despondent as a result of social distancing, social isolation and major lifestyle adjustments. 2020 was also peppered with the bursting of overt racial injustice and trauma; with the brutal killing of George Floyd and the court litigation process of Breonna Taylor there has been a racial uprising in this country. In 2020 there has been much upheaval and upset in politics and in the most recent elections. It has been a traumatizing and anxiety provoking year to say the very least. At the end of 2020 it may feel tiring and jarring to sit in reflection and make new commitments for 2021.
In this article we will focus on intentions vs. goals (resolutions). Goals are focused on how and what, intentions are based on whys and motivations. We set our intentions on action steps that feeds our bigger life desires. We set goals based on 'to do' steps. An example of a goal or resolution is "I will lose 30lbs this year." An intention is: "I value excellent health and I am motivated to do the things that continue to bring about my well-being." Here are a few steps in creating a list of mindful intentions for 2021.
Step 1: Reflect on the year
Think about the things you have accomplished this year. This year has been difficult in general. Focus on the efforts you have made this year in career, academics, relationships, family, finances, personal development health and fitness. Challenge yourself in this reflection to give yourself credit for effort this year, remember to be kind to yourself as you are taking in the context of the many constraints this year brought. For example you may be able to commend yourself this year on paying better attention to your mental health this year. The last part of this step is to write down the motivation for following through on this accomplishment. For example "I recognize that good mental health dictates my overall health I was motivated to re-enroll in therapy to examine my anxieties and depression triggers this year because I would like to experience more consistent joy in my life."
Step 2: Take Inventory
Take inventory of this past year and attempt to be as objective as possible without self judgment. Ask yourself these questions as you are taking inventory:
From this year, in what areas did you operate in fear or how did you hold yourself back?
What would you have done differently?
If you had no fear, doubt, shame or emotional scars what would you have done?
In what areas in your life have you grown? How?
How are you more self aware and more compassionate to yourself this year than last?
What are you most appreciative and grateful for this year?
What lessons have you learned in 2020?
If you were your own best friend what advice would you give yourself?
Step 3: Refine your intentions
Look back at steps 1-2 and examine your accomplishments for this year and your list of inventory. From steps 1 and 2 ask yourself what are the areas in your life that needs revitalization and an injection of joy! Questions to ask yourself as you are refining your intentions are:
What brings me joy?
Who are other joyful people in my life that I would like to share more joy filled moments with?
Who are the people I may need to purge from my life or limit my contact with this year? Why?
What are the things that clutter my physical space and throw my focus, concentration and anxiety off?
What are the thought patterns that I am fixated on that are not helpful to me feeling good about myself?
What areas of my life would I like to grow or focus on more mindfully this year?
What fear or restrictive feeling/emotions would I like to get rid of this year?
What patterns in my life would I like to slowly start to break up with this year?
What would I like to look back in 2022 and be proud of?
Step 4: Write out your intentions
Keep your intentions positive and as if they are already accomplished and real; writing down intentions in this way re-wires your brain to start thinking that your intentions, thoughts, emotions and behaviors are already aligned. After you have written down your intention write down your action steps connected to your intention. Some guidelines for writing your intentions are to:
Avoid thinking in black and white or with perfectionistic lens.
Write down intentions as "I am" or " I expect" or "I am willing to"
Make your action steps realistic and attainable.
Intention: I am healthy inside and outside.
Action Step: I will join Weight Watchers and follow the program with my weight watcher community.
Action Step: I will take 20 minutes per day to meditate to increase my self awareness ad reduce my anxiety
Action Step: I will read body positive affirmations to myself in the mirror once per day to improve my body image.
Intention: I deserve healthy relationships.
Action Step: I will reach out to my friends at least once per week to check in on them. I will make a more concentrated effort to tell them I love them and care about them to strengthen our emotional connection.
Action Step: I will create a list of my core needs in an intimate relationship to get to know my needs a bit better.
Action Step: I will create an online dating profile- setting the filters for the man/woman I desire in order to more seriously dates.
Step 5: Hold yourself Accountable
Think about how you will hold yourself accountable in inhabiting your intentions for 2021. You can certainly share your intentions with close friends and have an intention check in once a month or every three months. These check-ins should be done in the spirit of positive motivation, constructive feedback, encouragement and without shame or criticism. You can also post your intentions by your work space on sticky notes or on mirrors that you will intentionally read every day. You can also consider writing out your intentions in a journal and each week write down the action steps you have taken for the week to reinforce your intentions. This is an important step in keeping in alignment with your intentions- remember out of sight- out of mind. Develop a check in system with yourself so that you are mindfully working on your intention all throughout the year!
As you take this time to reflect and set your intentions for 2021 remember that change happens incrementally and that behavioral and habitual changes happens with relapses and some set backs. Whenever you have a setback you can always become aware and get back on track as many times as it takes to build the habit over time! Remember to give yourself grace and compassion in this exercise!
Declaring Peace, Prosperity and Well-Being For You In the New Years!