Pots were a’bangin’ and a’clangin’ by little tots holding wooden spoons. I was in my party dress which consisted of yoga pants and an oversized sweatshirt. I could hear the countdown from ten to one in the background, but my thoughts were already well into the new year. My goal for 2021 was no more yelling at my kids. I was done, and I was going to be a better mom.
Guess how shitty I felt when two days later I had my first fail.
Yup, I yelled at my kids. And not just an oops I raised my voice a little kind of yell. It was more of like the exorcist with a spinning head kind of thing.
Over and over again, all throughout the year, the goal I set for myself seemed to be a constant reminder of my not-enoughness. It was like a dangling carrot I could never reach. Okay, let’s get real, who wants to reach for a carrot … it was like a dangling donut I couldn’t reach … now that, that I can be disappointed about.
Anyways, back to the story.
I would put little smiley faces on the calendar next to each day that I didn’t yell but then when it inevitably happened, it felt like everything I had done to that point was moot. Kind of like an all-or-nothing deal. Not great for the ol’ self-esteem if ya know what I mean.
Fast forward to the present day and 2021 seems to be in my rear-view as I look ahead to 2022. What will be my goal? What will be my goal?
I wasn’t expecting a response from my husband but I guess that’s what happens when you speak your thoughts aloud. “How about you don’t set one,” he said casually.
Huh, was he crazy? How else would I lose 10 pounds and eat more kale and not yell at my kids?! … Oh, wait. Yea, those were all the self-proclaimed things I had to do in 2021, none of which panned out. See above about the donut and sweat pants and spinning head.
He continued, “You set these big goals and then you beat yourself up when you don’t meet them. You’re never going to yell at our kids again? I mean, the intent is good but never is a really hard thing to achieve. You are allowed to mess up. That doesn’t make you a bad mom.”
I opened my mouth to rebuttal, but instead, I did the unimaginable for a gal like me. I zipped it and let his words sink in for a few days. I mean, don’t tell him that I’m telling you this but he might actually be on to something.
The Difference Between A Goal And An Intention
Turns out that he was on to a lot of something. There is actually a very big difference between setting a goal and setting an intention.
According to Elizabeth Sautter, M.A., CCC-SLP, licensed speech and language pathologist, author of Make Social And Emotional Learning Stick, and co-founder of the Make It Stick Program, “Setting resolutions or goals for the New Year rarely comes from a place of self-acceptance. It becomes all these things you have to do in order to be a ‘better you.’ Parenting goals, especially, set us up for failure.”
Okay … well, then what do we well-meaning parents do if we aren’t setting goals? Sautter says the answer to this is in setting an intention. “Intentions come from a place of empowerment. And setting an intention for the new year helps us determine how we want to show up. We can come back to them day after day, or even hour after hour, to remind ourselves how we want to ‘be’ with the people we support and love so much.”
Since I am a visual learner, I hooked ya’ll up with a little chart to help paint the picture.
|Focuses on the future with a specific outcome or external achievement
|Relates to a larger purpose involving the relationship with ourselves and others
|Shapes the way we show up in the future
|Shapes the way we show up now
|Born from expectations and guilt
|Born from your values and life purpose
How To Set An Intention
Now that we know what an intention is, how do we set one?
I am so glad you asked.
STEP 1: Reflect
Journal, go for a walk or meditate, taking time to review the accumulation of moments that shaped your year. Think about what went well and which life experiences lifted you. And then recall the moments which felt hard or uncomfortable. This is a time to notice without judgment. Just see what comes up for you.
STEP 2: Let Go
After thinking about some of the hard times and/or the things you want to create less of in your life, write down the feelings that come with these memories. Confusion? Overwhelm? Frustration? Take a deep breath as you read each word to yourself. Thank each of these more challenging feelings for the lessons they brought and then let them go.
STEP 3: Cultivate
Once you are clear on what you want more of, hone in on these feelings, actions, experiences, and describe them. Write down the words that resonate with you. Connection? Collaboration? Clarity? Joy and ease? Allow that which you want to attract come to you in the form of a simple word, maybe two, and write them down.
STEP 4: Anchor
Once you are clear with what you want to cultivate and what you want to let go of, anchor your intentions by boiling it all down to just one or two words that lift you. This will be your "word of the year", something you can reflect on and revisit daily, bringing both your attention and your intentions to sourcing more of this life-giving vibration into your life.
STEP 5: Say YES!
Now that you have your intention for the new year, tune into this single word or short phrase daily. One powerful visual reminder is to add your intention as an image on your phone's home screen. By keeping your word or phrase "alive" in this way, you will be more apt to notice when it shows up in your life.
Setting Intentions As A Family
In her book, Make Social and Emotional Learning Stick, Sautter shares some ways that families can set intentions together. Here are three.
1. Set your family’s thermostat
How does your family want your home to feel? And I am not talking temperature here. What are your values? What are your desires?
As a family, come up with 12 words or phrases (one for each month), writing them down and hanging them on the fridge as a gentle reminder. It could be as simple as writing things like respectful, honest, or playful. Together, find small ways to live into the word of the month each day.
2. Create a vision board
Gather magazines and craft supplies to create a board with pictures, words, and things that you and your child want to focus on and remember for the year. Think of this board as a liveable thing that changes and adapts as you do.
3. Celebrate more
Far too often we focus on what is going wrong. Our brain is kind of wired for that sort of thing. Seems like a drag but really it is a protective mechanism. Help your family shift energy by celebrating your child’s efforts (and yours too). Look for what is going well in a week, day, or moment and you will find that you see more of it. As a daily ritual, chat about this as a family. What do you want to see more of and how is it already showing up in your home?!
So, what about me? I divorced my goals, married a word, and kept the husband and kids. My word for 2022 is presence. What’s yours?