by Angela Noel
January 5, 2017
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.
When we make New Year’s Resolutions, no doubt the goal is to resolve an issue we perceive in our lives today. We resolve to stop something we’re doing. Or start something new. 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 today, is with the stiff formality of it all.
Our lives are fluid. But, resolutions assume only a grilled cheese will do.
So I don’t make them. (Actually, I don’t make either resolutions or grilled cheese. The former, because I think they don’t work well, the latter because I always burn them.) Instead, I create intentions. They’re ideas I want to live into, frameworks that set a direction, but don’t specify the road.
An intention, in my definition, is three things: personal, non-restrictive, and contribution-based.
No one else needs to understand an intention, 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 a podcast I listened to. “Dance my dance,” was one of my favorites from my 2016 list. This was from a lecture by Father Anthony de Mello.
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.
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.
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.
Every new year, new day, new moment invites the opportunity to build on the one before. We take what we have, and keep moving towards what we want. Unless what we want is a grilled cheese–in that case, we’re fresh out. But, we’ll find something we like just as much.
Your turn: How do you approach the new year? What types of goals/intentions do you set for yourself?
- The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
- Radical Leadership founded by Therese Kienast