5 Ways to Set Intentions and Goals for 2021

We polled our staff for any tips or tried and true methods they used for setting intentions for the New Year. Unsurprisingly, they were varied, but there were a few themes that resonated throughout (spoiler alert: gratitude was a popular one). We hope you all can glean some nuggets of wisdom through these processes, and are able to find lessons in the trials and challenges that 2020 presented us to make the coming year the best it can be! Have your own process for setting goals an intentions? We’d love to hear it!

Cynthia: A few years ago we invited Marshall Goldsmith to speak. He talked about his book Triggers where he recommends creating a set of personal “Daily Questions” to track your progress on the behaviors you most want to change. But not just any question will do. Avoid the passive question and hold yourself to a higher standard by asking an “active question” that focuses on actual behaviors (Did I do my best today to drink at least 3 glasses of water? Did I make time for a meaningful conversation with my middle schooler?). This small switch is so much more effective then simply making a list (drink more water…spend more time with kids). Since we had Marshall speak, I have used his advice and have a list of questions that help me prioritize the changes I want to see.

Lisa: I stopped setting resolutions for the new year quite a long time ago, and then moved to selecting a word for the year instead – which I’ve also since dropped. What I’ve realized is that the goals and intentions I have for myself are inspired and informed by things that don’t necessarily sync up with the beginning of a new year. If I did have to share one word that sums up a mantra for this past year though, it would be gratitude. Reflecting on what I am thankful for in life, almost every night before bed, has helped me keep perspective and optimism in what has been a year unlike any other. This is certainly a habit I will be taking with me into the new year and this new normal.

Tara: I used to set a laundry list of resolutions every year, but found that I would get halfway through the year (or let’s be honest, a few months in) and nothing would be accomplished and it would feel really deflating. So for the last few years, I started setting a theme for each year that I’d like to focus on instead (last year’s theme was Intentionality. 2021’s will be Courage) – and keeping a running list of accomplishments and moments that brought me joy. Adding something to the list proved to be so motivating, and reading through it was a much better way to end the year than seeing a list of unfinished milestones.

Aimee: Each year, I don’t really set out to have resolutions as much as I set out to be intentional with my time. Growing up, my mom was a nurse practitioner in the children’s ER here in town, and she would always remind us to be grateful our feet hit the floor each morning. That may sound odd, but it’s helped me to realize that each day is an opportunity to turn around and begin again. That being said, I do think the New Year is a fun time to get creative. And as much as I want to floss daily, go for a run 5 times a week, or finally cook dinner most nights, I find what I usually focus deeply on is my relationships. Each year, I try to figure out where I can show up better, what relationships I want to develop, and how I can make deeper connections. That way, I’m present and purposeful in the relationships I already have and creating new, genuine connections throughout the year.

Holly: The time between holidays and first of the year always gives me time to slow down, rest, and set intentions for the year ahead. I took a walk with a dear friend and we talked about what we learned this year and both came up with a word or two that capture the lessons we learned this year, which turned into what we hope to remember and stay focused on as we go into 2021. My words are empathy and compassion.

Simple, but both really powerful for me personally. I’ve watched Brene Brown’s short video about empathy many times, yet I STILL struggle with trying to help or fix others rather than feeling WITH others. I’ve realized that these habits get in the way of the connection I want to have with others, especially those closest to me. To put empathy into action this year, I’m going to practice listening with the goal of reflecting the feelings I hear in others and validating that those feelings make sense.

And compassion for myself and others – 2020 gave me the gift of letting go of how I think things should be and being grateful for all that they are. Compassion reminds me to continue to do my own inner work and give others the space to do theirs.

How do I keep these intentions top of mind? I’ll lean on the wisdom of the 3 R’s of Habit Change in James Clear’s book Atomic Habits – Reminder, Routine, and Reward. In 2018 I started using a 5-year Journal. I was sporadic in 2018 and 2019, but in 2020 I haven’t missed a day writing in it since April. Every night when I get in bed, I pick up the journal and write a few lines about the day (Reminder/Routine). It is so fun looking back on what happened on a particular day one or two years back and I’m so glad I documented life in 2020 (Reward). This year I incorporated writing a gratitude list on each day. This new small, atomic habit will keep me focused on my intentions for empathy and compassion in 2021.