I’ve heard clients, friends, and family make comments such as, “this is going to be my year,” “last year was not my year,” “I’m hoping that this will be my year.” I’ve noticed that making it their year is contingent on some sort of achievement or gain. It often sounds like: “this year I plan to get in shape,” “I hope to get a promotion,” “I will become a homeowner,” “I plan to find a partner,” “I’m hoping to get engaged,” etc. What do you need to experience, see, or accomplish to consider this “your year?”
Are you goal oriented? So, what are your goals for the new year? If you’re a goal oriented person, that question will not bother you, in fact, it may stimulate you. You may be able to fire those goals out to anyone who asks in a manner that exudes an eloquent confidence with specifics around steps and dates within the year in which you plan to achieve those goals. Congratulations, on your ability to focus, create detailed task lists and actually complete them! Being goal oriented supports many people, some people thrive from setting goals, competing, and healthy stress. For those of you out there that embrace the word, “goal,” who turn that energy into action, (and I say this sincerely) yay you!
For many others (the vast majority), the mere word, “goal” brings with it feelings of pressure, anxiety, stress and expectation (immediate migraine). I have observed clients show signs of distress during session, such as fidgeting, rapid heart rate and speech when the word, “goal” is brought up since there are various cognitions and feelings attached to it. The thought of having to sit down and come up with a “plan” around achieving your “goals” for the new year can feel like going on a job interview when you have just been laid off! In which there is a lot riding on what you do, you fear judgment, and there is a belief that you have to get everything just right in order to be considered a success and worthy of being on the team! You either get the job or you don’t. You either pass or fail.
The idea of setting intentions seems so much friendlier, when the word intention is shared during session, clients usually breath deeper, become pensive , speak softly and share in a more concise way. The word intention is soothing, it evokes hope, a gentle nudge. Rather than the idea of sitting across from someone in a stuffy suit on the other end of a desk in an unfamiliar setting who you feel will judge you, I encourage you to envision a cup of hot chocolate or tea in hand, perhaps a glass of wine or beer and sitting back on a comfy sofa, legs propped up, sitting next to an encouraging family member or close friend and discussing some things that you would like to do or have always dreamed about doing and then envision making that a reality. Think about how you can create the life you want in the new year, and yes, I mean this year!
A goal is measurable, it places value, either you achieve your goal or you fail (that seems harsh)! It is often born in the rational, 3-D mind, is black or white and can be non-forgiving
Intentions come from within, your deepest desires, the song in your heart and the energy of your soul coming together to create an intention. Intentions are compassionate, forgiving, ever growing, and evolving.
How to Set Intentions for yourself:
Step 1: Commit to/Set aside time to relax and be fully present with yourself. Some people find this works best while they meditate, however if meditation is not something that you believe works for you, finding a quiet place where you are comfortable works just as well.
Examples for quiet time/a quiet place: Sitting in a warm bath (a lavender or vanilla scented candle, bath salt or bath gel can enhance the experience), drinking a warm beverage in your favorite chair, sitting in nature (in the park watching the birds, squirrels, the leaves sway in the trees, at the beach, the ocean waves, the stillness of a lake, in your car parked under a tree, in NYC you can park by the Hudson or East River, etc). Give yourself at least 60 minutes, turn electronics off, let your loved ones know you will be unavailable and prioritize listening to yourself.
Step 2: Take deep breaths (to calm your heart rate) and allow thoughts of what you enjoy most in life to surface, what about life makes you smile, what makes you feel like moving freely and laughing, when do you feel like the most authentic version of yourself, what would you like to create, and what do you wish you had more time to do?
Step 3: Once you have created the opportunity to think, reflect, and envision, write down the questions above and write down what your thoughts are about them. The act of writing them down is cathartic, it supports bringing thoughts and feelings that may have been residing dormant within you to the surface. Once brought to the surface they bring with them the awareness necessary to support intentions to manifest. In other words, writing brings with it an awareness of your deepest thoughts and feelings which you may have been unaware of, having this awareness will empower you to bring about the change you seek.
Examples of Individual Intentions:
I intend to recognize at least one positive thing in every situation. (this will support elevating mood, and appreciation).
I intend to take ownership of my role in situations, understanding that everyone plays a role in an outcome. (this will promote self-awareness and internal growth)
I intend to practice trust in the outcome of everyday and identify a lesson/positive even when things do not go according to my plan. (this will support letting go of rigid attachments, and decreasing anxiety)
I intend to do more of what makes me smile, such as reading and spending more time with friends. (this will support happiness and a sense of fulfillment)
I intend to use my natural gifts more often to support myself as well as others. (this will support self-esteem, self-worth and sense of purpose)
I intend to lead an active lifestyle, to keep myself as healthy as possible to be around for my loved ones. (this promotes elevated mood due to the release of endorphins and a sense of accomplishment)
I intend to acknowledge when fears are limiting me and make a decision to practice trust around my own ability to handle any outcome. (this will decrease anxiety and support growth and self-esteem)
I intend to recognize when past wounds are influencing decisions and move towards making decisions rooted in love and trust to create a life of fulfillment in my authenticity. (this will support healing and self actualization)
I intend to practice appreciation everyday for the life I am already living (this supports gratitude, happiness, and contentment)
How to Set Intentions for your Relationship:
Step 1: Discuss your desire to come up with intentions for your relationship in a collaborative manner. Each of you can identify what tool you will be using to begin (a notepad, phone app, or in a word document) so that you can refer back to the questions and answers throughout the year and also provide a copy to one another.
Step 2: Think/Reflect around what type of relationship you would like to create. Answer the following questions: When was I happiest in the relationship? When did I feel safest? How do I enjoy receiving love? How do I enjoy showing love? What do I still want to do individually? What do I want to do with my partner? Do I believe we are working as a team? When do I feel most connected? How are we connecting? What are our couple strengths? What areas would I like us to grow in?
Step 3: Once you have both written and reflected on the questions above, schedule a time to sit together and share your responses. Use this time to truly connect, view it as a positive experience, and rid yourselves of all distractions (electronic devices). Allocate at least a couple of hours to the conversation, perhaps while sharing a meal. Together you can gain insight around your partner and set intentions for your relationship which you are aligned with and both take ownership around.
Examples of Relationship Intentions:
We intend to listen to one another from a place of love and trust in an effort to practice empathy, compassion, and validation. (this will support arguing less)
We intend to recognize our maladaptive coping mechanisms and make a decision to be unguarded and vulnerable. We will each identify and share new, healthy ways to cope with conflict and our individual stress. (this will support conflict resolution, de-escalating, and connection)
We intend to continue to grow our relationship based on how we relate to one another and the place we have in one another’s hearts and not be influenced by the expectations and views of others. (this supports overall happiness, stepping away from roles imposed by family and society)
We intend to share our truth, views, and opinions with our partner to promote understanding, and not impose those said views and opinions on them. (this will support safety and connection).
We intend to spend quality time together being fully present and engaged. (this will support connection, intimacy, and trust).
We intend to continue to get to know one another as we recognize that we are individuals who continue to grow, evolve and change. We will not assume to know what the other is thinking or feeling, we will approach one another with love and curiosity. (this will promote intimacy, attraction, and connection)
We intend to create a safe space for one another by communicating in a validating, compassionate manner, being mindful of our tone and body language. (this will support intimacy and safety)
Ready? you Set your Intention…now, Go!
So now that you have created your individual and/or relationship intentions, come up with ways to ensure those intentions come to fruition. In order for intentions to manifest, you must not only think about them, you must have a deeper awareness of the fact that they exist and then practice (an action) something different.
If one of your individual intentions was “I recognize when fears are limiting me and make a decision to practice trust around my ability to handle any outcome.” The first step is the awareness around what you are fearing (identify the fear) and the next step is the actionable item (doing something different). Example: Let’s say that you are not going out socializing because you do not have as many friends as you once had. You have convinced/told yourself that you just do not want to go out, you are an introvert, do not really need or like people and just want to stay to yourself. While this may be true for some people, for many people it is not and the recognition may be around the fact that you are fearful that you can not make new friends, that you are not interesting, that others find you boring and that you will have a difficult time. Once you are aware of that fear, the next step is practicing something different. You can join a meetup with people who have similar interests, join a club, begin a new healthy hobby such as walking or jogging, all with the intention to meet new people. If that seems overwhelming to you, you may make a decision to go to therapy to work on shyness and discover social anxiety may be what has been standing in your way. You have increased your awareness and decided to do something different, you are being intentional.
In your couple relationship, if you intend to “recognize old maladaptive coping mechanisms and make a decision to be unguarded and vulnerable” what does that look like in awareness? Example: You and your partner have a disagreement, he wants to go out for dinner and you want to stay in. He begins to say that you always want to stay in and he is bored staying in. You hear that (your filter) as him calling you boring. You may get defensive. Your defensiveness may look like shutting down (not saying anything), lashing out (name calling, screaming), walking away, beginning to laugh (deflecting with humor or passive aggressive sarcasm), use of exit language (I can’t deal with this anymore, I’m going to pack my bags and leave, I think we should get a divorce). Those are all maladaptive coping mechanisms aka guards, aka defense mechanisms.
Do you know what yours are? (once again, awareness). Ask yourself, what are my defense mechanisms? How do I protect myself? If you do know what yours are, you now have the opportunity to do something different. If you usually internalize what people share and shut down, make the decision to share differently, stating, “that was a trigger for me, I heard that as you calling me boring.” In that simple statement you are now doing something intentionally different and giving your partner the opportunity to show up differently as well. If you are prone to lash out, escalate the argument quickly, engage in name calling, start to yell and blame, then your something different will come in the form of learning how to self-soothe. It is imperative to find new/healthier ways to cope/self-soothe such as: Recognizing that you have been triggered and turning inward to feel better by taking some deep breathes, drinking a glass of water, etc. Finding new language such as, “I’m upset and need to take a few minutes to calm down before we continue to have this conversation,” “I love you, I want us to be able to have this conversation, let’s both start over by listening with compassion and validating.” The awareness will lead to increased intentionality. The intention accompanied by action, will lead to a different outcome.
Begin with a quiet space, a restful heart, and a quiet mind. Set your intentions and practice awareness. When awareness and intentionality exist simultaneously, the desires from within are able to manifest. Set your intention, hold yourself accountable, do something different and allow life to unfold.
The fact is, that every year is your year.
This is already your year,
How will you decide to experience it?