I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore, do you? According to U.S. News and World Report, 80% of resolutions fail by February. Resolutions tend to be BIG goals that are hard to integrate into an already full life. I’m glad to know I’m not alone in starting strong and fizzling out with January promises. For me, setting an intention for the year has been more sustainable.
In January I select a word that will help guide my daily life as a part of developing a practice of mindfulness. You can start at any point to begin your word intention, maybe a better time for you would be a birthday or other anchoring date. The words I have chosen so far are: Mindfulness, gratitude, presence, and kindness. Instead of the pressure of a big goal, my word serves as a gentle reminder to pay attention for personal growth. Last year’s word, kindness, changed my perspective in simple and profound ways. Here are a few examples of realizations from my year of KINDNESS:
- Intention directs attention. Once you choose a word it will JUMP OUT at you from unexpected places. The word has always been there, but you just never noticed. Throughout the year it became like an inside joke, a loving reminder of seeing kindness with new eyes.
- Kindness evokes a feeling. Receiving kindness felt warm, safe, and loving. The act of giving kindness sparked a joyful happiness and sense of belonging. The feelings from kindness were long lasting and great for savoring on a down day.
- Kindness is enhanced with a conscious choice. It might seem like a small thing to choose kindness, but before my awareness I was giving a watered down version that wasn’t as thoughtful or connecting. whole self kindness. Over time I became more aware of what I think of now as “whole self kindness” and the impact eye contact, voice tone, and smile in everyday interactions.
- Small acts of kindness matter. My intentional kindness elevated conversations. Down time (in waiting rooms, lines, traffic) transformed to pleasant opportunities for small talk to go deeper. One New York subway ride left me and a fellow passenger moved by how small the world becomes when you make an authentic connection.
- Kindness is a universal language. Many times throughout the year I was moved to tears by the kindness of others. Kindness on the Camino de Santiago in May took many forms. Some was shown in fellow pilgrim’s patience with language barriers, and a genuine desire to be helpful. Several people even walked a great distance to be clear in giving directions. Through this experience I learned new ways to show kindness to strangers.
Over the last four years my words of intention (mindfulness, gratitude, presence, and kindness) have improved my peacefulness, happiness, and awareness of the good in the world. So far, so good!
My journey this year will be in GENEROSITY. After a personal and professional year of abundance I believe the time is right to give back. I’m eager to see how generosity will shape my experiences in 2019.
What word will captivate your attention this year? What lessons have you learned from setting an intention?