We don’t need to tell you that 2020 brought lots of challenges. What didn’t happen in 2020? Maybe the year’s biggest lesson was how badly things went for those of us who, a year ago, thought we had it all together. When so much is going wrong, where should you start to set things right, at least in your own world?
The first and most important step to effecting real change is to identify which inner resources you can build on. Owning your inner reality is what being intentional is all about. So what can you do to become more intentional in 2021?
understand what you can control
The events of the past year have humbled us all. Our jobs, our finances, even our health—2020 proved we aren’t always able to influence these things. But setting intentions isn’t about these external parts of life. Rather, it’s about what’s internal to us: namely, our thoughts and feelings.
The blog Living Marvelously puts it brilliantly: “A goal is about achieving a specific outcome; whereas an intention is about setting a specific mindset or feeling.”
Goals are for external things like your career, your relationships, or your health—all of which can be fickle. Intentions, on the other hand, are about what’s in your head here and now.
focus on the positive
Of course, our here-and-now feelings are greatly influenced by what’s going on around us. That’s perfectly okay. And an important part of being intentional is being honest about how we are doing. What really separates intentions from meandering thoughts, however, is that the latter is about framing how you think—and doing so in a positive way.
Would you set an intention to scowl more at passers-by on the street? Hopefully not. A better alternative might be to bring kindness into every interaction you have, no matter how brief. Positivity is what gives intentions their power. By making your intentions affirmative, you’re creating (in a small way) the world you want to inhabit.
But how do you actually go about thinking positively, when it can seem like the world is working against you?
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight,” poet e.e. cummings said.
Over and over, you must remind yourself who you want to be and how you want to live. Many spiritualists suggest that intentions should be reaffirmed daily. Ideally, you make them a part of your morning routine: such as when you first wake up.
Rituals are hugely powerful, not only because they ground us in something larger than us but because of simple repetition. When you make intentionality repetitive, it becomes a way of thinking.
seek out community(ies)
Today, communities (religious and otherwise) are mainly virtual as opposed to in-person, which is less than ideal—we are social creatures, after all.
Yet regardless of the form your community takes, building bonds is important. When you verbalize your intentions, you invite other people to hold you accountable to them. And when you find a community of like-minded people, you strengthen each other’s resolve.
Even in times like these, when our illusions of control are shattered, we still have ourselves (and each other). Taking control of your feelings so you can tap into your inner strength is what it means to be intentional.
No one can know what 2021 will look like. Things didn’t magically stop being bad the moment the clock ticked from 11:59 to 12:00 on December 31, 2020. But we can choose how we perceive and react to the world around us by being more intentional about the world within us.
Photo by David Cohen on Unsplash