”There are pros and cons to setting intentions or goals for the coming year. Some say it’s better to let it all hang out, that setting goals can be limiting. Others say that setting goals is not the right thing to do because we don’t stick to them anyway.
I’m one of those, perhaps an old-fashioned one, who believes that intentions for a new year are fine as long as we set them carefully. Otherwise, I feel like I would be like a boat on the water, directionless, drifting. I’m not arguing that free will is not influenced, affected by the outside. The last two years have shown us that it is not the times under man, but poor man is under the times, as the chronicler says. But even so, it’s good, I think, to be at the helm of one’s own boat.
Since we’ve been in the pandemic, we’ve seen that many intentions can only remain on paper. But I would venture to hope that next year will be more generous, will bring us a little more clarity, a bit of predictability.
Pandemic or not, I, therefore, support the setting of intentions for a new year. I don’t say goals because it’s hard right now to be as SMART as the goal-setting theory requires us to be. (Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Relevant, Time-bound).
I read in the Journal of Clinical Psychology that people who set intentions for the next year are 10 times more likely to change their behavior for the better than those who don’t have those intentions or resolutions, as everyone wants to say.
Here are some ideas for setting intentions for the coming year:
Choose intentions that are meaningful to you, that you believe in, that make you look forward to the morning.
Intentions chosen because ‘that’s right’, ‘that’s what others say’, would be ‘common sense’, are ‘in tune with the world’, don’t get us very far. It’s good to be as specific as possible, but I would also leave room for rethinking, adaptation.
For example, there’s no point in setting out to walk 10,000 steps a day, I know that my pace of life, my jobs, the other concerns that give meaning to my existence, will limit me. So, I’ll make it a point to park my car further away from my block, take the elevator from the 10th floor to the 5th, then take the stairs, have an online chat while walking through the park next to my office.
Or I plan to do an online program that will help me develop, and that will involve studying every week for six months. But it’s something new, it inspires me, I can’t wait for January.
Make a plan. Not in detail, but at least in broad strokes, it’s good to get some ideas down on paper.
For example, if I’m proposing to reduce my time spent on social media, it’s good to take a little look at why I spend so much time, what need I’m fulfilling, what side gain, what reward I have, what else I can replace this time with to satisfy my need: reconnect next year with my friends, go out with each one once/quarter, for example, call them every weekend.
I would suggest having personal activities in the calendar as well, like: call this person; go to the hairdresser; go out to a restaurant, go shopping.
Here are some strategies for self-monitoring how I am implementing my intentions:
Keep our intentions in our phone, handy; now that the phone is like an extension of our hand, what better place to keep something important to us?
Let’s make a visual map and have it somewhere, at home, in plain sight. I’ve taped some ideas on the front door inside that I want to keep in mind every time I leave the house.
To have a kind of partner for some intentions. For example, if we want to exercise, let’s do it with someone else. It will help us stick to what we set out to do.
Periodically review these intentions. Maybe once a quarter.
Let’s set small steps to take daily, weekly. Better to start with small steps than to set big, but hard-to-implement steps.
Let’s keep ourselves in a positive, balanced state, even when we don’t succeed. Let’s reflect on what didn’t work, learn from it and move forward.
Periodically write down on coloured notes the steps we have taken towards our intentions and put these notes in a jar. After a few months, we will be happy to see how many steps we have taken, how many notes we have collected and we will be proud of ourselves.
It’s good to keep in mind that we don’t always have clear, smart intentions like business goals.
Sometimes intentions are seemingly more vague, like:
To be good to me.
To be a good friend/mother/wife/daughter/colleague or a better friend/husband.
To keep myself healthy/healthy physically and mentally.
To keep myself open to growth.
To increase my adaptability, flexibility.
To explore collaborations in other cultures, other countries; to do this, to learn another language.
These are vague intentions, I agree. But if I’m good to myself, if I’m a better friend, boss, colleague, if I’m more adaptable, if I keep my curiosity and enthusiasm high, won’t I attract lots of opportunities? Won’t I be better off in my life, in all my roles?
The time comes when we set our intentions, review last year’s. I hope it will be a time of reflection, joy, and hope for all of us. I like a Chinese proverb that says happiness means something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. I hope your intentions for next year bring you energy, inspiration, joy, zest for life, and that you enjoy every step you take in 2022.”