The new year dawns bright and crisp, with fresh opportunities to fail. At least, that’s what lists of New Year’s resolutions mean to me.
In January 2017, I wrote more than one list of resolutions. I had goals for writing, health and fitness, comedy, and a couple of more areas of my life that I simply can’t remember because by March, I had lost those lists. Not all was lost, however, because I had also chosen an intention word for the year.
What is an Intention Word?
One word. I could do one word for an entire year. For 2018, I ditched the lists and stuck with a one-word intention, ending the dread of trying to stick with so many things and spreading myself too thin. One word that encapsulated my intention through the days and weeks and months until December 31st rolled around again.
An intention word is a low-pressure, high-value concept that helps focus energy, effort, and attention as the seasons pass. Choosing an intention word and speaking it out can help encourage personal growth, build gratitude, and provide a unique perspective regardless of what happens throughout the year.
My husband, two teen boys, and I have a ritual that we happen to do each January 1st. However, this process of choosing a word can take place at any time during the year for as long as you want to use it. In our family, we use stones as symbols and do a little rock ceremony, keeping our rocks on our mantle all year long as reminders. The beauty of the intention word and ritual is that it can be tailored to fit your needs and desires. Here’s one way to choose the best intention word for you for this year, no matter how close it is to December 31st.
- Reflect on the Previous Year
Reflection on the previous year or even the past few months can help focus your attention on what you might want to let go of and what you want to see happen in the new year. For our family, 2017 was rough. There were extended family members who left, the death of beloved pets, injuries and hospitalizations, and other crises that we had weathered together.
My time of reflection before choosing my new intention word helped me to put the previous year in perspective. I thought about how my 2017 intention word—“Nourish”—was fulfilled even through the tough times. I also thought about what I didn’t like about 2017, and what I might want to change going forward.
- Decide What You Want to Let Go Of for the New Year
This decision is as important as deciding a new intention word. Each member of our family chooses a word or phrase that specifies one thing we want to give up going forward. Throughout 2017, I had noticed what I call “The Mean Voice” living in my head. This voice put me down, second-guessed my decisions, and was overall just plain mean.
Going forward, I decided that this voice was getting entirely too much attention. I wanted to let “The Mean Voice” go as I stepped into the new year. I wanted to be able to recognize it immediately and shut it down, which takes practice. Hopefully the result will be that I will hear the more positive messages trying to get through.
- Decide What Intention You Want to Speak into the New Year
The other side of deciding what to let go of is deciding what to grab onto. Choosing my intention word is largely intuitive, a little like playing a free-association game with my soul. During my times of reflection, whether meditating or walking or simply sitting and staring for awhile, I let my mind loose while still feeling connected.
This year, the word came to me while I walked our dog in the neighborhood. I have spent a good deal of time learning how to process anger, and that anger is tightness and being closed. I no longer want to do that, and the word, “Open” came to me as my intention word for the new year.
- Find Your Symbol
Our symbols happen to be rocks that we write on using Sharpies. On one side, we write the previous year with the word or phrase specifying what we want to let go. On the other side, we write the current year and our new intention word.
For us, rocks are easy to find, durable, and can be written on and displayed. However, this is only one kind of symbol that can be used for this purpose, which is one of the great things about choosing an intention word for the year. Choose a symbol that makes you happy and keeps you thinking of your intention word all year long.
- Plan the Ritual for Letting Go and Speaking Out
It’s important to me to speak out my words in a little ritual. My family gathers around the dining room table with our rocks and Sharpies and a weird candle that I made at a craft night. We each have time and space to talk about our previous year’s intention word, what we are letting go for the new year, and our new intention word. Then we add our rocks to the giant wine glass for display on the mantel, where we can all see them.
This visual reminder helps us all to remember our one important word for the year, that one mindfully-chosen intention to keep us focused through each season.