Diamonds And Insight: Mindfully Setting Intentions In The New Year.
2020 was a year like none other. It’s so easy to want to put a big red X through the whole year and move on as quickly as we can. Time Magazine did just that, in fact, on its cover in mid-December. But hang on for a moment! That would be such a tragedy! Yes. A lot of terrible things happened this year. So much injustice and unnecessary damage was done. But I bet if you look deeply enough, you can also identify moments where you showed up for yourself, your loved ones, or your core values in ways you can be proud of. These are moments perhaps only you might know about, where you pushed yourself to keep going or follow through with something that was enormously hard.
I was once taught that the Chinese character for the word “crisis” is a combination of the characters symbolizing “danger” and “opportunity.” (I recently learned there is debate about the translation’s accuracy, but I still find the concept to be mind-blowingly accurate). In every crisis there is always, danger, of course, but it also offers a crucible for opportunity and growth. Great things can come from periods of great pressure, such as diamonds and insight. And 2020 certainly brought some pressure. This exercise is about slowing down and identifying positive things that emerged. Before we leave the rest of it behind.
I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. In both my private practice and at home, I’ve found New Year’s resolutions to often do more harm than good. All too often we enter the year with lofty expectations of ourselves, setting unrealistic goals that in the end leave us feeling like we just don’t measure up. Instead of being motivating and inspiring, these resolutions often end up being opportunities to beat ourselves up throughout the year. There’s also the question about why change seems only possible one day out of the year when, in reality, every moment holds within at the opportunity for change in a profound way that is not limited by the transition into a new year. So instead of resolutions, I am a fan of mindfully setting intentions and creating intentional transitions.
The first step is identifying the good stuff you want to bring forward. Once you have done this you are empowered to mindfully set intentions for the year to come. Intentions are different than resolutions. Intentions simply describe what you are aiming for in the New Year, not what you plan to accomplish. Perhaps they’re less about to-do’s and more about to-be’s, such as being more compassionate with yourself or allowing yourself to be more bold in speaking up about injustice when you witness it.
Over the years I have often guided clients through a specific exercise for mindfully setting intentions around the New Year (most people complete it sometime in early January, but there’s no deadline). For many of them, this has become an annual tradition that they look forward to, sometimes even gathering their friends to do it together year after year. The activity can also be useful to try around your birthday or even around relationship anniversaries. To try the exercise yourself, click here to read through the steps in the article, adapting the practice for whatever year you are stepping out of/in to. May you find greater ways to thrive this year than you previously thought possible!