Food for thought – The case for setting New Year intentions

Greetings, friends! I am genuinely astounded that 2018 is upon us– and not in the small talk-y way– many of you who know me know that I’m a real sucker for reflection, and absolutely love reminiscing about where we were last year, marveling at how much can happen in X amount of time.

2017 was a big year for yours truly, including a lot of unexpected news, many bursts of joy, a fair amount of priority shifts, exhilarating and fun adventure, and above all, feeling so very grateful for my surroundings and the people who make my world what it is. It was the year we went to Utah, a trip that fostered a profound, revitalized passion for the great outdoors. It was the year when I FINALLY got to seal the deal with my dream profession for the very first time, after what felt like eons of training, studying, and improving. It was the year that my boyfriend-and-partner-in-all-things made the move from DC to here in San Francisco. It was the year when every single day I thanked the stars above for family time and the wonders of modern medicine. And it was the year that I made a pledge to develop a much more proactive relationship with my frequently high levels of anxiety. I’m ending the year feeling optimistic, grateful, and reflective, with an appetite for the ambitions and adventures that 2018 will hold.

2018

While we may all have had very different 2017s, there’s one thing we have in common no matter what: the opportunity to make 2018 our best year yet, and the opportunity to take our dreams and aspirations to a whole new level in the new year.

For many of us, this invitation comes in the form of a very familiar question: “What are your New Year’s resolutions?” This question, however, also comes with a fair amount of baggage for some folks, making us cringe or get anxious at the perceived challenge for self-improvement. It’s easy to hear this question and interpret it as “What are you going to change about yourself this year?” or “What are you going to add to your list of to-do’s this year?” For some, it’s an unwanted reminder of how our previous year’s resolutions didn’t exactly pan out the way we’d imagined they would (which, by the way, doesn’t constitute as failure. Some of the greatest successes are the product of zillions of detours.) And then some folks say, “What’s so special about January 1? It’s an arbitrary date, why don’t we set resolutions or goals during other times of the year?”

The way I sometimes like to look at it is: resolutions are kind of like internet memes. If they help you find meaning, great. If they add entertainment and variety to your life, wonderful. But if you roll your eyes at them, there are millions of other tools out there to express yourself. (I personally happen to be so-so re: resolutions and a huge fan of internet memes)

new years resolutions
Image from “New Year, New Resolutions” by Kathleen Borg. Appeared on Dynadot.com, Dec. 2013. Original URL: https://www.dynadot.com/community/blog/2013/12/brace-yourselves-for-new-years-resolutions.html 

So today, friends, I have an alternate (or supplemental, if you’re like me and get goals-happy this time of year) proposal to the (in)famous resolution: Setting a New Year’s Intention. What’s an intention? My patched-together definition goes a little something like this:

An approach or theme used to guide and support the way you approach your life; a lens and mantra through which to view new scenarios, navigate decisions, and day-to-day happenings; an agreement with oneself to remain loyal to a purposeful perspective

For the Instagram fans out there, selecting an intention for the new year is sort of like picking out a specific filter you want your year to have (Are you going to go bold and slap on an X Pro II, or are you going for a warmer, gentler theme this year like Hefe or Valencia?) Sorry. I had to go there.

What I like about intentions is that they serve as a nice nudge towards the perspective that you envision yourself cultivating, which has the power to directly influence the way you experience your year. Would you like to be more fearless? Would you like to seek relaxation more frequently? Would you like to encounter more points of views than the ones in your inner circle more frequently? Would you like to be more in control of your own decisions? Would you like to lead a year of increased curiosity? Do you want to slow down more? Would you like to work on being kinder to yourself? (I sound like one of those low-budget commercials for accident insurance! ah!) But seriously, all of these are pursuits that you can seamlessly translate into an intention.

Intentions are compatible with the natural ebbs and flows of life. Goals change. Circumstances change. Priorities change. When you set an intention, you enter into this cool little agreement with yourself that leaves space for the natural wiggle room that life so often calls for. 

yin-yang

A departure from our goals or resolution shouldn’t necessarily be seen as “abandoning what we set out to do.” Sometimes our goals or resolutions change because we discover more about ourselves through new experiences or relationships. And rather than feeling guilty about those lane changes, we’ll be in far better shape if we’ve set up a framework for ourselves to celebrate that and claim it as part of our intention-driven process.

This year, because I’m an unabashed goals & self-improvement junkie, I’m not ridding myself of resolutions, but rather I am incorporating two intentions into my new year, as a way to claim the type of perspective and experiences I would like to cultivate in myself and in my interactions with the world.

My two intentions for 2018 are Balance + Tenderness.

In terms of balance, I would like to maintain a balance of relaxation and goal-crushing. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m going to be teaching full time, working towards my MA part-time, and training for a half-marathon. And that’s just the things that are planned. I’d like to really spring out of bed each day ready to do the daunting, and enjoy a fierce commitment to believing in myself and knowing that I can get it all done. On the flip side, I also want to make sure I’m tending to self-care and slowing down when there are moments to. I don’t really think I’ll figure out a way to quantify this balance, but I think between my own gut instincts and this shiny new intention, it will work itself out.

Also relating to balance, I’d like to maintain a healthy and sustainable balance between my fitness training and a hearty social life. I’m someone who thrives from being around the people I adore, and at the same time I have a goal to get in shape for running this half marathon. Plus there’s the fact that consistent exercise has countless benefits, including combating anxiety and getting better sleep. This year, I would like to be wise with my time so that I am able to enjoy both a commitment to my physical well-being as well as enjoying the happiness that I get from being a social being. Recently I got together with some fabulous ladies and my friend J hosted us for an evening of great company, yummy snacks, and vision-boarding. Smack dab in the middle of my vision board for 2018 is a photo of a red stiletto heel right next to an image of a pair of running shoes getting laced up. In terms of balance, I’m looking forward to a year where I make time to wear both my dancin’ shoes and my running shoes quite frequently, and not at the expense of one another.

balance

As far as tenderness goes, I would like to work on being more tender towards myself– to not be so hard on myself– and more tender towards outside circumstances. If things don’t go my way, instead of becoming flustered because I’ve lost control of the a given situation, I’d like to adapt the “maybe things didn’t go my way this time, but perhaps they will another time” mindset. I’d like to treat everyone I encounter with tenderness, no matter how much of a rush I’m in. I love love love living in a bustling city, and at the same time sometimes the edges of fast-paced life can feel a little harsh. I’d like to be part of softening those edges whenever and wherever I can.

If setting another resolution this year feels about as appealing as rock-climbing in heels, I encourage you to play around with the idea of setting New Year intentions. You deserve an amazing year, filled with clarity, agency, and room to grow and test out new things. Setting an intention may be just the tool to start things off right, and a great opportunity to check in with yourself ❤

rockclimbing

Yours in balance and tenderness,

Hales

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