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How to Create Meaningful Intention

Intention setting can be really powerful. It can give shape and tone to the year ahead. It lets us tap into what’s in our control: our inner world. It offers us a way to authentically ground in the face of an always-uncertain future.

So what are the elements of creating an intention that feels meaningful? I have some ideas.

Get quiet.

This is my advice to begin pretty much everything. Just pause for a moment. Be still and quiet with yourself. Intention can’t breathe when you’re rushing or when you’re letting other people shout over her.

Carve out a few minutes in the morning or before bed to just be quiet: no screens or sounds or activity. Maybe you’ll journal a little or meditate. Maybe you’ll just be with the question: what kind of intention would feel meaningful right now? What do you want more of in your life? What do you want to cultivate and let grow?

However you choose to do it, just slow down and let these questions start to percolate. It doesn’t need a formal practice, but these questions crave uncluttered attention.

(Note: If this feels uncomfortable — to be quiet with yourself — maybe that is a clue. Just sayin’.)

Make it personal.

What are you facing right now where you could use some guidance?

(Go ahead and write it down. You might have a lot of areas where you have questions. That’s incredibly human.)

I’ll tell you a quick story:

When my mom was diagnosed with cancer for the first time in 2010, I needed a response other than panic. I wanted a reaction other than to go into “fixing” mode. It didn’t feel sufficient to me to simply wish for things to  be other than what they were. (Note: that’s a recipe for disaster.)

Ultimately, I chose to be grateful. My mom had an incredible medical team. She had health insurance and the financial resources not to worry during that time. She had my sister’s and my love. She had a tribe of wonderful friends around her. She had a home. She had a disease that was treatable, if not curable.

Gratitude in the face of cancer might seem callous to some.  But adopting that tone shifted my whole relationship with that season in our lives. Being in a state of gratitude allowed me to be present for my mom instead of wallowing in my own sorrow.

That’s what intention can do.

So: what are you facing right now where you could use some guidance?

What is your very personal situation calling for right now? What you need and what I need are very different. What tone do you want to embody to take on what’s coming up for you in this season of your life?

Let your intuition be your guide.

The irony of my trying to teach you how to create intention (or anything related to yourself) is that you already know best. You know your inner world better than I ever will. You are the expert in yourself, and you are deeply wise.

Listen to your own voice. Don’t take up an intention just because that’s what someone else is working on. Or because you think you “should”. The level of coercion in the personal development world is fucking staggering. But I promise: you don’t “have to” be grateful. I don’t think you “should” be joyful or curious or receptive or generous or anything else.

Pick an intention that actually works for you, in your real life, that comes from your own heart. It will serve you so much more fully.

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Set yourself up for success.

Fun fact: none of this works if you don’t follow through.

If you set an intention for ease and then overbook yourself. If you set an intention for courage and then take no risks. If you set an intention for joy and then cling to your habit of complaining. That’s just not going to work — and it’s unfair to make yourself “feel bad”.

So choose an intention that seems doable. What are you going to feel excited to embody? Maybe this isn’t the year for risk or frivolity. It’s still possible to set beautiful intention for yourself — but it needs to be yours.

After I published my Word for the Year post, I saw other folks online posting about their words for the year. And honestly? I felt kind of jealous of their words. But my word is my word. My intention is my intention.

It belongs to me, and that’s what makes it meaningful.

PS: Unconditional Love and Self-Care for the Grief of the World

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