I hear you calling me out. You think I'm late to the game. It’s February! Everybody knows that January is the time to talk about resolutions. February's the month to act like you haven't already thrown your New Year's resolutions to the wayside. I'm here to tell you the New Year is just beginning. Again.
Welcome to the Lunar New Year.
When I was growing up, I would write New Year’s resolutions’ lists as long as my arm. At the age of 16, 15, 14, I knew that this was the year I would finally change. This was the year I would do every little thing that was holding me back. Of course, there were a couple of problems with my mindset. First, I would say what I wanted to do, but I never took the time to create a roadmap for how I was going to get there. Maybe I did want to speak up more in public, but what small step actions did I plan to take to overcome my anxiety?
Second, and most important, I was setting impossible expectations for myself.
I know a little about impossible expectations. They’re my specialty. I have lived my entire life with the over-whelming call to be perfect at every. thing. I. do. And when I don’t live up to my self-imposed standards, I allow my mind to let me know just how terribly I’ve failed. It has really only been in the last few years that I made the conscientious choice to change the conversation in my head. And to be honest, I’m not nearly perfect at doing so. I could beat myself up about it, but I’m fairly certain that then I’d have to beat myself up about beating myself up about it . . . which is a cycle that’s never fun to step into.
I get way too dizzy.
Resolutions or Intentions?
From my experiences as a Human Perfectionist, I have learned that as inspiring as New Year’s resolutions may seem, ultimately, they are intrinsically flawed. When we begin a new year with unrealistic expectations that we will almost definitely fail, it means that we start the new year telling ourselves: I am not enough.
With intentions, instead of asking what you want to do or change in the coming year, you ask yourself the question: who is it that I want to be? It’s a minor shift in mindset, but a vital one. When you come from a place of doingness, you are viewing who you are in relationship to external factors. Often, you are trying to control situations and people, but there’s really only one thing you have dominion over: yourself. Beingness, at its core, is about revealing who you already are and learning how to love yourself more fully. When you ask yourself the question – “Who do I want to be?” you are committing yourself to looking inward. And when you fully commit to looking within yourself, you often find the small, but powerful voice that has an intention to share with you.
My intention for the year called while I was driving. This past Friday, I woke up feeling anxious. When this happens, I pray myself out of bed and spend at least twenty minutes in meditation. Meditation helps to quiet the mind so that the still, small, powerful voice within can be heard. She chose to speak to me on my way to work.
Let Intuition guide you, not insecurity.
Immediately, I knew those words were to be my intention for the year.
Practices to Set Your Intention
Setting an intention for the year, or even the next month, can be a little intimidating if you have never examined your life from a Being perspective. If you’re like me, however—if you have tried and failed with resolutions or if you have the perfectionist tendencies—I would suggest you give intention-setting a try. To help guide you on this journey, I compiled great practices to help you discover and apply your intention.
1. Listen to Your Inner Self – You Know your Intention
We live in a world of noise and opinions. 24/7 news stations are the perfect indication of this. It’s easy for who we are to be drowned out by the insistent clamoring of who we should be. Not only from the media, but from family, friends, religious leaders, co-workers, acquaintances, strangers on the street – you get the picture. Not only that, but even when we do get some time to our thoughts, we tend to shy away from any notion of inward silence and instead turn on the radio or busy ourselves with watching TV or reading. While these factors are not bad in itself, when we don’t take the deliberate time to be silent, how can we possibly be expected to truly know our inner self? So take time in silence. Take time in silence every day. Consistency is key. Don’t think you can sit down for ten minutes and hear your inner voice. You’ve gotten use to a couple decades or more of consistent noise. And even if you don’t find yourself intimidated by the silence, you have quite a few voices in your head that will remind you of everything else you should be doing right now, should have done yesterday, and need to do tomorrow. Learn how to let those voices pass by without concern and stay focused on the silence. With dedication, you will recognize and hear your inner self.
2. Be Patient when Discovering your Intention
Unfortunately that inner self I speak of doesn’t play well with deadlines. When you’re first learning to be comfortable in the silence, that voice will be hard to come by. However, even when you have a dedicated practice of invoking silence, your inner self may not feel like speaking up quite when you want. For me, I was ready to set my intention for the year on January 1. After a 2015 year that taught me more than I could imagine, I wanted to walk into 2016 prepared to face what was in store. However, it took time for me to truly embrace my intention. Don’t force the words. Allow them to speak to you when the time is right. Only you know when that is.
3. Create a Positive Intention
I’m a little guilty of this one, because I have a not in my statement. This is usually a big no-no when creating intentions. But I’m a sucker for alliterations, so when I’m thinking of my intention, I often just focus on the first phrase “Let Intuition Guide You.” This suggestion is especially important, particularly if you believe in the power of the mind. The problem with focusing on the negative means that the negative will come back to you. What do I mean by that? Let’s say you choose the intention “Don’t be a jerk” for the year. Other than the fact that you’re automatically deciding to focus on a negative aspect of yourself, you are also giving your mind a strong case for the word jerk. You may be thinking, “don’t be a jerk,” as you try to be kinder to others, but your subconscious is only focusing on one word: “Jerk. Jerk. Jerk.” Instead, create a positive spin: “Be Compassionate.” It means the same thing, but now your subconscious can instead focus on: “Compassion. Compassion. Compassion.”
4. Make Your Intention Visual
I have my intention on a post-it note on my computer, so every time I open my computer, I see it. I have it on a poster I created for my office. It’s in my bathroom and it’s written on my ongoing vision board in my mediation space. Make your intention a daily part of your life. Place it in places where you will see it every day – every hour, if possible – this way you can remind your mind what is important to your Beingness. Additionally, when you see those words and you know your actions or thoughts are not aligning with your intention, it allows you the opportunity for realignment.
5. Be Intentional about Your Intention
Get to know your intention. Seriously. If you have a daily practice of prayer, meditation, or positive affirmation, I would suggest including your intention in that time. Find opportunities to apply it in your life every day. When you are making decisions—I don’t care how small—ask yourself if it reflects your intention. Finally, at least twice a month, do some studying around your intention. This may include discovering articles, books, or classes. Study and apply it to your life. Discovering your intention, speaking it to others, seeing your intention every day – these are all great habits to integrate it into your subconscious. But at some point, you also have to say: how am I going to live this intention in my daily life. And what tools are missing from my life that are stopping me from embracing this intention fully?
One Last Note
Don’t think you have to wait until the New Year to set your intention. Some people choose to do it on their birthdays, or after an inspiring event, maybe it’s just a random Tuesday and you turn inward and hear your intention. Be open to what the universe is showing you and don’t feel like you must wait to set a new course because of a date on the calendar.
What is your intention for the New Year and beyond?