So, 2018 is well under way, and with it the fresh, clean-slate energy of a new year and newly set visions for ourselves — of healthier bodies, more abundant finances, increased career fulfillment, enhanced relationships, greater simplicity, downsizing, more travel, happier lives, a kinder world, and whatever else our hearts desire.
Essentially, retooled hopes, dreams, and plans for newer, better, more.
Resolutions and goals are things we’re familiar with and accustomed to setting. And they do have some value, because they represent a desire to shift, expand, and evolve ourselves in ways that feel meaningful.
The thing with resolutions and goals, though, is that they are rather flimsy if they don’t have the right kind of juice to power them. Just as you can’t put gasoline into a diesel engine and expect it to work, the desires of your heart may not come to fruition without your having a solid connection to the way they feel and why you want to experience them.
Resolutions and goals also tend to focus first on doing rather than being. More on that in a minute.
The ‘Old’ Way
Can you relate to this rather predictable annual cycle?
- Setting resolutions or goals for the new year
- Feeling good about them during the first few days of January
- Sensing the energy around them significantly ebb by mid-January (give or take)
- Feeling disappointed in yourself for not following through with the commitment you made to you, for you
- Revitalizing your efforts toward achieving the resolutions or goals (perhaps multiple times)
- Feeling like you’ve failed (again) when those efforts don’t stick
- Finding it easier to put aside the hopes, dreams, and plans that may or may not come to pass — along with the disappointment — and focus on just getting through the day
- Dusting off those hopes, dreams, and plans again toward the end of the year as you look forward to the clean slate that January 1 will bring
- Dumping yourself back into the cycle all over again at the beginning of the new year
Sound difficult, or even painful? It can be indeed.
The ‘New’ Way
Here’s what I propose instead.
Rather than setting a resolution or a goal, how about focusing on an intention for the year?
Intentions are the feeling-juice I mentioned earlier — the type of fuel that helps power our human engines. They get quite authentically to the root of what we truly desire, rather than having us strive for a goal that, when achieved, may or may not feel fulfilling.
They also help us avoid the self-blame/shame/guilt cycle we can get into when we fail to follow through on a commitment we make to ourselves.
Nearly 20 years ago, I heard master personal development teacher George Zalucki say this:
“Commitment is doing the thing you said you would do
long after the mood you said it in has left you.”
The Truth and power of that statement, along with George’s voice, reverberate in my mind and heart to this day. I believe that intentions are what can help us stay connected — or reconnect — with at least some of the initial “mood” energy and keep taking action when life gets busy, something unexpected or tragic happens, we just don’t feel like it, or another shiny object looks more interesting.
Making the Connection
Here’s a suggestion for how to connect with an intention.
If you started the year with a resolution or goal to, say, go to the gym and work out more often, look beyond the physical aspects you would achieve by that (having a slimmer body, fitting into smaller clothes, building muscle, etc.).
Instead, ask yourself what any of those outcomes would really mean in your life, and why that’s important to you.
For example, you might think I’d like to be healthier.
Great. Why do you want to be healthier? What will that enable you to feel or experience?
Maybe you want to have more energy, feel better in your own skin, or be alive longer to spend time with your spouse or family.
Great. And with every reason that comes up, keep asking why until you feel like you’ve hit on the authentic root of your intention.
At the heart of anything we desire is often a quality we want to feel, like safety, freedom, presence, peace, joy, compassion, abundance, or love.
If it’s helpful, you can go through the preceding steps by writing them down rather than simply thinking through them. Writing has a way of helping us access what lies just below conscious awareness, and also enables us to see the progression of thoughts and emotions as we connect with more deeply with what is true for us.
(By the way, how do you know when you’ve genuinely connected with a heart-based intention? All I can say is you’ll know it when you feel it, which we’ll explore in the next section. Each of us has to engage in an internal exploration process to get to know how we uniquely operate. Other people can only help point the way or offer guideposts for us to do our own internal work. Also, if at first you connect with an intention that is “good” but doesn’t feel like “it,” keep engaging in the exercise and experimenting with it over time. If your heart and mind are open and willing, Life will bring the experiences that will help you find your way to your authentic intention.)
Feeling Your Intention
Just as important as making the connection with your mental awareness is doing so with your feeling nature. Once you’ve identified what you think is your intention, take it inside yourself so you can confirm it and feel it in your body. (Note: If you are highly sensitive or have a strong feeling nature, you may want to start with this part of the exercise. Then, while in the relaxed-connected state, continue with the previously mentioned why questions to help you feel your way all the way through the process until you connect with your authentic intention.)
Put your left hand over your heart, and your right hand on top of your left hand. Close your eyes, inhale as deeply as feels comfortable through your nose, and inhale so that your belly area expands rather than your chest. Exhale through your mouth until your belly area feels comfortably “empty” of air. Inhale and exhale like that at least three times, or until you start to feel your body relax into the present moment.
With your eyes still closed, in the quiet of your mind, repeat your intention to yourself. Hear yourself say it again and again until you start to feel it in your body. Notice what that feels like (warm? tingly? cool? easy? relaxed? gentle?), and where you feel it (if it’s not readily discernible, scan through each part of your body from head to toes, or toes to head).
Acknowledge the feeling, and where it’s located, and let yourself stay in that feeling place for at least 30 seconds (a minute or more if you can or, if you can remain with it, for as long as feels comfortable).
Here are some examples of intentions. Feel free to utilize any that resonate for you.
My intention is to:
- Remain peaceful and calm, regardless of any circumstance happening around me
- Bring myself back to the present moment whenever I feel anxious, doubtful, angry, overwhelmed, irritated, or frustrated
- Know that right here, right now, I am safe and all is well
- Remember that I am not my thoughts, and allow any thought that feels negative or judgmental toward myself or others to pass through my mind without attaching to or identifying with it
- Refrain from making snap judgments, and ask questions so that I may better understand
- Be present with my loved ones, friends, and colleagues, and listen deeply while they are sharing with me
- Remember that I AM the presence of Love, and I choose to see Love wherever I look
You may notice that an intention is in present tense, and it applies to now. It’s not about thinking ahead to what or who or how you want to be down the road, or projecting yourself into a future feeling state. It’s about feeling yourself as currently embodying or being that quality. And, because you already are being it, you create a momentum that makes the what, where, when, why, and how of doing it much easier — like the related actions are simply the next logical steps for you to take.
Remembering, and Reconnecting
Here’s a key piece of all this that connects back with commitment.
As much as we may like or wish it to be otherwise, we often lose touch with even our most heartfelt intentions over time. Life moves forward, day-to-day, and with it all the responsibilities and things that tend to pull at us and divert our attention.
That’s why it’s so important to consciously remember and reconnect with our intentions on a regular basis. I believe that’s how it’s possible to follow through with a commitment to yourself, and what you said you’d do, “…long after the mood you said it in has left you.”
How? You can do it either actively or passively.
Active Suggestion: Put a daily or weekly reminder (whichever works for you) in your mobile phone, or on a paper calendar, to take a few minutes and reconnect with the feeling of your intention from the exercise mentioned above (starting with “Put your left hand over your heart, and your right hand on top of your left hand … ”).
Passive Suggestion: If you are the kind of person who has an ever-present to-do list running through your head, or your intention is so important to your well-being that you know it won’t be too far from your mind and heart, whenever you think about it take a few minutes and reconnect with the feeling of your intention from the exercise mentioned above (starting with “Put your left hand over your heart, and your right hand on top of your left hand … ”).
The bottom line is this: When we consciously remember the intention and reconnect with it in our mind, body, spirit, and emotions, we are more likely to feel that we can keep taking another step toward bringing it to fruition in our lives — regardless of how difficult or challenging the path to doing so may seem along the way.
Continue the Conversation
What intentions feel important for you to connect with this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below and let’s explore more.
I hope you have a wonder-full, intentional year. And remember: You make the world a better place by knowing yourself better, loving yourself more, and sharing from the heart.
Much love to you.