It’s that time of year. If we haven’t already set a New Year’s resolution, we’ve at least thought about it or felt the expectation that we need to. Culturally, the expectation to set a New Year’s resolution is most commonly tied to health: losing weight, eating better and exercise.
Historically, there is a sacredness at the beginning of the year. A time of self-reflection of our lives in the past year and our wishes for the year to come.
But New Year’s resolutions have a subtle way of highlighting where we’ve gone wrong and what expectations we haven’t lived up to for the past year. There is self-judgment associated with resolutions on how we are living our life. Often resolutions are based on how our inner life is comparing to everyone else’s outer life.
So what would happen if instead of using the traditional New Year’s resolution to set the tone for the upcoming year, you changed it to your New Year’s intention and asked yourself this question, “What do I long for in life?” The answer to this question is felt in the heart, not figured out in the mind.
In the past couple of years, I’ve longed for simplicity and space. In the awareness of my longings, I’ve set my intention for the year around them.
This year my longing is for more courage in life. I notice that I can get swept up in self-judgment, insecurity, and fear. Fear of feeling vulnerable and seen. An insecurity of not being good enough. Or a self-judgement that I could always do more and be better.
I created a working definition of courage for the year. Courage is the confidence in and commitment to life. It lies deep within the heart of the human spirit. It is the source of inner strength with a soft, open and vulnerable heart.
So my intention for the year is to live from a place of courage. That may mean that I trust my heart more than my mind or that I trust the uncomfortable places in life like watching my son transition into adolescence.
Just the other day I had made a long list of things to do and on that list was, “Take a walk in nature.” On the way to my hike at Swallow Cliff, I passed a car wash. My car hadn’t been washed in months and the crumbs and the garbage had definitely accumulated in the backseat. There was a choice moment. Do I add to my list and end up compressing my time to get the car washed, or do I honor the part of me that loves time in nature and knows it is medicine for my spirit?
I passed the car wash and decided to put in on my list for another day. I had the most lovely walk in the woods. That moment of choosing took courage.
Intentions ask us to pause and hear what we long to align with in our lives. They are closely aligned with the essential qualities of being human like kindness, peace, simplicity, joy, and love. Setting an intention can be the touchstone in all your decisions and aspects of your life. It is a guiding theme that leads you in work, family, school, community and relationships. The question then becomes, “Is this choice bringing me closer to my intention or further away from it?”
The intention is led by the heart, but it’s also a process. It’s a process that is ongoing and also one that unfolds for us to see the ways in which we can disconnect and ignore our deepest longings in life. The process of living from intention can also shed light on the ease of getting swept up in the surface layers of life and forgetting about what calls us deep in our heart. We can think of setting a New Year’s intention as the process of strengthening the pathways to the heart.
Getting swept away in life is part of the process of awareness and also presents the choice of coming back to your heart. There’s nothing better than that.