The start to a new year should be fresh and reflective. The end of a year and beginning of a new one used to bring me so much anxiety. I used to calculate exactly how much money I needed to make in order to take whichever trips I was dreaming of that year. Or I would measure my entire body at the start of the year, just to track and mark my weight loss and body change progress. I would stress for the entire month of December on what I needed to accomplish, what is even possible in a year, and what a timeline for achieving all of my goals in 12-months looked like.
Not only did this type of goal planning require some work, but it set up an unrealistic expectation for my goals that often left me feeling “not good enough” when these (sometimes) insane goals wouldn’t be met. I am a sucker for self-help and a natural planner so completely removing goal-setting from my life would be impossible, but I questioned my motives and if this was the best possible way to use the incredible gift of 365 days.
Borrowing from the philosophy of Atomic Habits, the belief is that by doing small increments of some task for many days in a row, the results eventually compound and become more of an ingrained lifestyle. Making the task itself less of a task that leads to something, and more of a habit. When I was first introduced to this goal setting philosophy, I began to look at my New Years Resolutions (or Intentions as I prefer to call them) with fresh eyes. Instead of focusing all of my energy on goals (specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable, trackable goals to be exact), I would instead focus on longer-term lifestyle adjustments that didn’t necessarily have a trackable outcome. Or not exactly an outcome that I was focusing on. I wanted to remove attachment to the New Years Intention, and make it more like what it is: intentional.
Behind every intention is energy, and where we direct our energy, brings growth. My first New Years intention took place in 2017 when I decided that I would do three sun salutations every morning for the year. I was already practicing yoga at the time, but wanted to expand my at-home practice and create a solid morning routine. Thus, a daily morning yoga routine was born. Did I do it every single day of the year? Probably not. Did I do it so many more times than I would have if I never put the intention out there? Totally. I found this daily practice to be incredibly satisfying and still lives on in different forms today. Without the attachment of an outcome, I was able to enjoy them everyday because I knew that I was treating my body right and practicing self love.
In 2018, I added a habit of writing three pages in my journal and in 2019, I added 5-10 minutes of meditation to my daily routine. Simple, easy daily tasks, without any outcome or attachments to it has been the greatest gift that I could give myself. They’ve compounded into a lifestyle for me that now includes daily health and wellness routines. None of this would be possible without the intentions set at the top of every year, and without the debilitating end product that sometimes comes with New Years Resolutions.
In 2020, I gave up alcohol. Which has compounded exponentially throughout my life ever since. I added a kundalini yoga routine to my life in 2021 and so on. The effects of the last five years have altered the course of my life dramatically. And would not have happened if I wouldn’t have been intentional with my time.
Instead of trying to micromanage your life, or coming up with unrealistic goals/expectations of yourself, try thinking of something that will benefit your life in the long run, but that needs time towards it to really grow. And set out to find the 5-10 minutes in your day to actually do it. At the end of the year, you will have completed 30-60 HOURS of your activity and which will follow you much longer than the one year you set out to do it. Be intentional with yourself and your goals, give yourself grace along the journey, and know that you are enough exactly as you are right now. Anything you add to your life will be a special bonus!
Give yourself the best gift that you can this year, time dedicated to self love and self care through intentional practices.
California Associate Clinical Social Worker #ASW100012
Under supervision of:
Javanne Golob #77915
San Francisco, California
I am a clinical therapist specializing in providing personalized care for individuals seeking support in addressing their mental health concerns, including trauma and addiction.