All Intents and Purposes
As we reflect on the best films, songs, scientific discoveries, memes, and more of the 2010s, we are also looking ahead to a new year AND a new decade. Instead of waiting for the “new year, new me” frenzy to take off, I have been trying to start and end each day by being more intentional. Now, you might be thinking, “Isn’t ‘intention’ just an unnecessary synonym for the words ‘goal’ or ‘resolution’?” While this may be a common perception, I’ve come to believe that being intentional about word choice has significant impacts on our attitudes and actions.
Often, we get lazy with our language and don’t recognize the effect our words have on us. I have failed at every “new year resolution” I have set for myself. I know so many other people who have done the same, yet we keep on thinking that maybe the next year will be different. Reframing these resolutions as “intentions” has helped me to be more successful in upholding these agreements with myself, and they have already had an incredibly positive influence on my life.
I haven’t kept a formal list of these intentions until now, but here is what I have been focusing on:
- Follow my study routine
- Stay in touch with friends, old and new
- Challenge myself in rock climbing
- Reduce waste at home
- Write my favorite part of my day in my journal every night
- No devices before bed, read instead
I think the main difference between goals and intentions is that intentions keep us present. Instead of focusing on future achievements, we put energy into ourselves, our actions, and our choices in the moment. While we might reach a goal and then set our sights on new pursuits, our intentions actually become woven into the fabric of our lives. I believe that intentions are incredibly powerful for a number of reasons:
While goals, by nature, tend to be something we have to reach for, I think that it’s important for our intentions to be more easily adopted. This doesn’t mean that they don’t still challenge us! I’ve never been someone to keep a journal; I honestly never saw the point or purpose of one. That being said, last year, I wrote a post called Just Checking In on the importance of check-ins and check-outs. I love doing check-outs with our staff and students, so why wouldn’t I benefit from something similar for myself? I knew I would never commit to something as involved as a Bullet Journal or even the Five Minute Journal™, so I took inspiration from my own blog post and chose to simply reflect on my favorite part of each day. Most days, I just write a single sentence, but then I go to sleep with gratitude and start the next day with positivity and excitement! Our intentions should fit our current lifestyles while also adding to them in new and interesting ways.
When setting goals, it helps to be really specific so that you can track and measure your progress. With intentions, I’ve found that I actually benefit from having some flexibility. For example, “challenge myself in rock climbing” can, and should, look different day to day. Yesterday, it meant practicing falls (which I hate), today it means strength building (I have a long way to go), and this weekend it will mean getting on a few routes outside (gotta build that confidence!). This really helps keep me interested and bought into my intentions because they are able to adapt and grow with me.
The other night instead of reading before bed, I watched a movie (which clearly violates the “no devices” clause). Instead of being disappointed, I forgave myself. Now you might think that this would encourage a lack of accountability, but I found the opposite to be true. I think we often give up on our goals because we come to fear them, and these feelings of worry or guilt are not great motivators. But, I didn’t view this situation as “failure.” That’s because intentions aren’t a destination; instead, they are meant to act as guides in our lives. Guides take scenic detours and are open to different experiences, but ultimately help to keep us moving in the right direction. Being kind and gracious to myself meant that I was more inclined to refocus and get back to my new book!
Lastly, intentions encourage me to come up with solutions to fulfill their purpose. One of my intentions is to reduce my environmental impact, but I kept forgetting to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store. Instead of giving up, I decided to keep the paper and plastic bags in my car for just those times! Now that I’ve solved that problem, I am trying to be better at bringing Tupperware with me to restaurants when dining out. It’s empowering and motivating to know that it’s not that I can’t do these things, it’s just that I haven’t figured out how to do them yet.
Slowly but surely, these intentions are just becoming habits that I don’t have to consciously think about. More importantly, they are aspects of my day that I look forward to, and that are making me happier and healthier. And in a crazy turn of events, these intentions are helping me to reach bigger life goals like getting into graduate school and practicing better self-care! This process has completely changed the way that I view and take ownership of my own personal development – 10/10 highly recommend.
Instead of setting new year resolutions this year, give intentions a try! Keep these helpful tips in mind as you get started:
- Start small – I started with just one simple intention that snowballed into more. Give yourself the chance to be successful by starting small and building from there as you discover what works for you.
- Declare your intentions – It really doesn’t matter how you do this, but you should find a way to make these intentions noticeable and memorable. As I said, I had never actually written my intentions down before this post. However, I did share them with my roommate. She has been a great accountabilibuddy who checks in with me to see how I’m following through. Write them on your mirror, set a reminder on your phone, or start a Pinterest board!
- Back them up – I want to reduce the amount of time I spend on my phone, but instead of focusing on not being able to check my social media, I tied this intention to something else that is important to me: quality sleep! The blue light from our devices is known for disrupting our natural sleep cycles, and I’m not about that! I had started to suffer from insomnia, and that was the push I needed to commit to this new intention. This week, I was happy to see my phone reported that my screen time had been reduced by 10%!
- Evaluate – If you find that you consistently aren’t following through on one or more of your intentions, evaluate how valuable that intention is to you. It’s totally okay if it’s not a priority right now! But if you decide that it is, think about the different ways you can be more engaged and go back to brainstorming how you can fulfill that intention’s purpose. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help or suggestions!
*Meet the Author*
Caelan Cooney has worked with Leadership Inspirations since 2015. She got her start in leadership as a high school DECA student and went on to graduate from Chapman University with degrees in Business Management and Integrated Educational Studies. As a regular contributor to From the Balcony, her favorite topics to explore are personality theory, group development, and conflict management. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and listening to podcasts.
Favorite Quote: “I am still learning” – Michelangelo
Fun Facts: 1) I once bought a goat on Craigslist 2) I am afraid of escalators 3) My life goal is to give a TedTalk