by Angela Noel
January 5, 2017
The UN makes resolutions, defined as, “. . .formal expressions of the opinion or will of the United Nations organs.” One could argue New Year’s Resolutions fall into this category. We are expressing our will or opinion on what we want to create in the world as a result of careful consideration and after assessment of the conditions at hand. But, here a resolution is needed often to “resolve” a current conflict or friction point.
When we make New Year’s Resolutions, no doubt the goal is to resolve an issue we perceive in our lives today; something we’re doing we want to stop, or something we aren’t doing that we want to start. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to break the routine and introduce a new idea. The issue I have with resolutions, as we practice them in daily life, is with the stiff formality of it all. Our lives are fluid. Sometimes, even if I want a grilled cheese sandwich, the bread is moldy and the cheese has a funny (but not in a good way) smell. I must adapt my dinner preferences as I must adapt my life to the circumstances within it.
My answer to New Year’s Resolutions is a cluster of yearly Intentions.
Each Intention has the following characteristics:
Personal: No one else needs to understand them, or what they represent, but me. I might pick a picture that reminds me of seeing beauty in the world. Or perhaps it’s a quote from a book I read, or podcast I listened to. “Dance my dance,” was one of my favorites from my 2016 list. This is from a lecture by Father Anthony de Mello.
Another 2016 Intention, “‘I’ doesn’t identify” probably makes no sense to you. But to me, it means the essence of who I am cannot be disturbed by external things. If someone is mean to me at work, or cuts me off in traffic, “I” am not affected, nor do “I” need to take whatever happened personally. Sure, my ego might bruise, but if I keep in mind that my ego is distinct from my essence–MY EGO IS NOT I– I weather the storms of circumstance better. Knowing this, I can be bolder, more vulnerable, open to feedback and criticism. All this from one seemingly non-senseical phrase.
- Non-restrictive: These aren’t goals, like “write 10,000 words a day.” I’ve got writing goals and performance targets at work, but Intentions aren’t items I have “to do,” they’re ways I want to live. The goals I have are tools in line with, but not in place of, my Intentions.
I love writing, I want to make space for my writing to flow. So, an Intention would sound more like, “Feed the things I love with time, space, and focus.” Notice that “things I love” could include my family and friends. This Intention would remind me to pay attention, slow down, honor connections with people, places, and things that speak to the deepest part of who I am. A goal to write a certain number of words acts as an item on the menu in service to the Intention.
Imagine a restaurant where the food, lighting, décor, servers, even the restrooms, serve the experience of the customer. The owner has a vision or a theme he or she wants to create and every item within his or her four walls is carefully chosen as part of that theme. An Intention is the theme, the goal a way to execute a part of the whole.
Here’s another example. Paul and I were walking Ace, our golden retriever, recently. Since our move to our new house with a fenced-in yard, walks for Ace haven’t been frequent. I could say, “My New Year’s Resolution is to walk Ace more.” Now that’s a perfectly fine resolution. But an Intention would take a different approach. Instead of specifically focusing on walking Ace–which solves a single problem with a single solution–an Intention that includes this goal, but is not limited by it might be: “Contribute to the joy and health of those who depend on me.” For Ace, this could mean both more walks, more affection, more play. For Jackson (the human that depends on us) it might mean putting down my dumb smart phone for an hour and playing “Laser Maze” with him instead.
- Contribution-based: Intentions or resolutions that depend on other people, or circumstances outside of our direct control, are doomed. “Get promoted” feels action oriented, but depends on too many elusive factors well outside our area of influence. Instead, my Intentions focus on what I want to contribute, not what I want to receive. A work-based Intention might look like, “Build and offer my knowledge and effort in new ways.” I can find ways to do this without any assistance from anyone, and it just feels good.
One of my Intentions in 2017 is: Be with and for others. Community is important to me, more so now than ever before. This year, I want my contributions to the success of my fellow humans to grow in new ways. I want to learn more about what we have in common–our connection points–and seek greater understanding from a place of openness and a full heart. This Intention will lead me to do things like; learn more about social justice, buy and read the books of authors I meet through social media, support other bloggers, seek new friends and deepen my love for those I have already, and more. An Intention is a promise of how I’ll BE in the next year, not just what I’ll do. The do always follows the be.
Finally, I think it helps to share my Intentions with someone. I post them up at work and at home. I email them to friends, and encourage them to do the same. When they are known outside of myself, I feel like I have a community supporting me, and I want to do the same for others.
I invite you to share your version of Intentions. Email them to me at email@example.com or post them in the comments below. I welcome your questions or other thoughts, too. Maybe you’ve got another idea for a Resolution Revolution? Or you want to try the Intentions approach but still aren’t sure how. Ask away.
We can all be awesome in real life in 2017.
- The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
- Radical Leadership founded by Therese Kienast