A Proposed Intention Setting Ritual for the New Year

Personally, I love New Years. Besides my birthday, it’s my favorite holiday. I say this despite how fat-shaming, the self-help industrial complex, and the American dream rear their ugly heads. They push resolutions to lose weight, focus on your “flaws”, and emphasize that said deficits are your problem to individually overcome through shear will and tireless effort (and buying things). There’s something about the collective marker of time that inspires me to contemplate the past year that I’ve lived and what I hope is in store in the year ahead.

Maybe it’s because I love self-reflection. Just me, my journal, and a day off? Yes please! Over the years I’ve gradually developed an intention setting ritual around the New Years that does a lot to support my growth as a bold, goal-achieving, and happy femme. I frame them as intentions rather than resolutions because I’m not trying to resolve anything. Rather, I intend to focus my energy on what’s most meaningful to me. Focusing in this way allows me to pursue what’s important with my limited time while still having gentle stakes if I don’t reach them fully.

If you are a femme somewhere along your life path of confidently owning your element, here are some suggestions for a little structure to help you along in 2019. In my own process, I use a combination of narratives, lists, and diagrams and am prone to transferring my intentions into google docs. Get comfortable in your favorite spot with your favorite smells, sounds, visuals, pen, journal, outfit, hairdo, you name it. It’s amazing what can manifest when you make space for it and honor it. Make your process your own and have fun.

Keep a Strengths-Based Approach, and Be Honest

First, reflect on 2018. What were your highs and lows over the last year? What’s different than one year ago? If you set intentions last New Years, how did they go? Were there things that got in the way of them being fully realized? Focus on your successes, achievements, and strengths, however big and small. Looking honestly at your year can inform how you move forward. Consider that some things can be difficult to examine because they either mean a lot to you, they’re not right for you, or they need to be adjusted, slowed down, or broken into smaller pieces.

Make Your Intentions Your Own

Now for 2019. Give yourself a chance to dream about what excites you. We tend to feel less motivated towards intentions that aren’t really our own but rather are influenced by “shoulds” and the opinions of others. Use your own language, consider what you want for yourself beyond the next year, and have a balance of playful, low stakes intentions and serious, uncompromising intentions.

Have Specific Intentions for Different Aspects of Your Well-Being

When setting intentions for 2019, break them out into separate categories. Some helpful categories to include are:

  • Relationships

  • Physical Well-Being

  • Finances

  • Work

  • Adventures (this can be travel, vacations, or recreational activities)

  • Hobbies

  • Spiritual Well-Being

  • Home/Housing

What would you like to focus on throughout the year? Where would you like these aspects of your life to be in a year?

Set Mental Health Intentions

Have you ever set specific mental health intentions before? What do you want for your mental health this year? Consider support systems, medication management, self-care, therapy, creative outlets, educational, advocacy, or rest related intentions.

Make Intentions Attainable

The intentions you set can make all of the difference in your success with them. How you set them contributes to your sense of success throughout the year as well. Some considerations for realistic intention setting are:

  • Set intentions given your capacity over a year’s time

  • Consider how your intentions relate to each other (i.e. Are your work intentions and your mental health intentions attainable simultaneously, or do your mental health intentions make your work intentions more appropriate as a three year plan?)

  • Break intentions out into monthly or weekly steps

  • Set a limited number of intentions for each category you have

  • Intentions that are measurable are also more achievable; quantifiable intentions are the easiest to measure

  • Focus on what is in your control (i.e. “Submit my work to five different programs” as opposed to “get into five different programs”)

  • How will you know you’ve reached your intentions? Make them accessible throughout 2019 and track your progress

Allow Flexibility for the Unexpected

A year is a long time. A lot can happen in a year. Medical needs, job status, housing situations, and relationships can all change for the worse or for the better unexpectedly. Depending on the amount of stability you’re used to and sense of control you need to feel, this can be common knowledge or difficult to cope with. Be flexible that the year may not go as planned. Again, that’s why I call them intentions. Acknowledge work done towards them over their completion.

Connect with Others Around Your Intentions

Share them with others! Make your intention setting ritual a group activity if it doesn’t hinder your self-reflection. You don’t need to pursue them on your own! You’re welcome to start by sharing about your own rituals and any outcomes from these suggestions in the comments below. That will start the momentum for saying your intentions out loud and receiving encouragement. Utilize trusted loved ones to create accountability. And of course, a therapist can help.

Stay tuned for a blog post in the new year announcing January’s theme!

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Image credit: Chelsea Duerden