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New Year, New Intentions
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Norman Vincent Peale
So many of us go into each New Year with the best intentions. We want to get back in the gym, start meal prepping, or maybe pick up an old hobby again—and we really do mean to adjust our lifestyles. But even after making a plan and designating some time on January 1st to kick things off, how many of us find ourselves right back where we started by January 15th?
You wanted to try something, so you did, but it didn’t stick. Usually, it’s because life has a nice little habit of being way too overwhelming to squeeze something else in. And if you have kids? Forget about it. Each day is its own mountain to climb—so go ahead and put away your old yoga mat. Maybe next year. (Just kidding—read this first and then decide.)
While it’s easy to feel some guilt about not reaching your goals, give yourself some grace. After all, you’d extend that grace to friends or family who admit to not reaching their goals, so why not do the same for yourself? There’s no shame in trying something new, but prioritizing them behind other important things is natural. Each day has enough stress of its own to worry about hopping on your spin bike for an extra 60 minutes you probably don’t have. Understanding the difference between a “resolution” and an “intention” is key to reaching your goals.
Cambridge Dictionary defines “resolution” as: “a promise to yourself to do or to not do something”.
Cambridge Dictionary defines “intention” as: “something that you want and plan to do”.
Notice the difference here in the absolute nature of each definition. What’s a promise? It’s knowing that once something is put into motion, it will be completed. If it’s in friendship, it represents unbreakable security and trust. But what’s a want? It’s a goal. An aspiration. It’s something to work towards, and provides some wiggle room while making it happen.
There are ways to make sure your current lifestyle matches up with the intention of your resolution, as long as you can remain flexible. Let’s start with an example:
If your resolution is to…
…your intentions may be rooted in creating some together time, teaching your kids about the world around them, and trying new things in new places. But let’s face it— the closest national park might be a 5-hour drive. And your spouse may need to get some unexpected work done during your one free weekend of April. And there might be too many little league games on the schedule when May’s warmer weather starts to roll around.
But all’s not lost, there’s still room to make it work. Here are a couple things you might try to accomplish each benefit that your original intention provided, just without the ‘national park’ part (but getting close enough):
Creating some together time:
Swap out the newest must-see family movie for a nature documentary. Bonus points if it’s about the national park you wanted to visit! Make it interactive by pausing it when any talking points come up and sparking some open-ended conversations.
Did a family of prairie dogs star in a scene? Talk about what they might be up to in their burrows.
Does it look hot or cold? Talk about which type of weather each person prefers and why.
Where is the nearest water supply? Keep an eye out together and say “Splash!” when you spot it. Do a quick search on your phone to find out which water sources are safe to drink from. Tell everyone what you learned.
Teaching your kids about the world around them:
Go on a scavenger hunt at a local park. The rocks might not be the same kind you’d find in the Grand Canyon, but oh well. A rock is a rock (unless you’re a geologist). Make a list and find things along the way. While you search, talk about:
- Why trees change colors each season. Then why fall is your favorite season.
- What makes the dirt under your feet different from the sand in the sandbox? Where does sand come from, anyways?
- Try to guess how old a tree might be. Explain how the rings on the inside of a tree trunk determine its age. That lesson never fails to be a fan favorite.
Trying new things in new places:
Whether it’s across the street, across town, or across state lines, there are new places waiting to be explored near and far. If getting away for a weekend outdoors won’t fit in the schedule, maybe getting away for a few hours could. Try things like this:
- Visit a community garden together. Many community gardens offer volunteer experiences you and your family can sign up for. Together, get some hands-on horticulture experience, and get ready to get a little dirty!
- Go on a nature walk at your closest trail. If you can’t leave town, you might as well simulate the experience. Along the way, count how many different kinds of leaves you see.
- Say “hello” to each bird you see in a new accent— it’s silly, and that’s just what you might need to make a new memory stick. Speaking of sticks, draw some pictures with some. Bring a disposable camera along and pretend to be tourists while you stand in front of trail landmarks, i.e., “Please pick up trash” signs. Nothing says ‘staycation’ like doing your national park bucket list in your hometown—just consider it practice for the real thing.
- Go fishing. It’s slimy, a little yucky, and super rewarding when you catch something. As long as it’s not a boot. Make sure to pack some snacks, unless you plan on cooking up your catch together right on the dock, of course.
How to create the follow through
Applying your own spin on the previous section’s example might be a good way to set the foundation for your intentions, but here are some other ways to help you see things through:
Allow your life to mold your intention, not the other way aroundThis could also read “be realistic”. If you create the intention of getting in shape and decide that running a marathon within the month will help you get there, but you’ve never even run a mile, this might create more harm than good. But if your goal is to deepen your relationship with your newly teenaged son, this might be a feasible activity to try in the car on the way to school with the help of some open-ended conversation starters.
Set short-term and long-term goalsBe deliberate in your planning. Life will always be happening, yes. But goals rarely come to life if we don’t make progress along the way. Using the example in the previous section, notice how each activity may have gauged a shared interest in visiting a national park as a family. Do your kids even like nature walks? Try a short trip to a park and see how the kids do before taking a trip across the state. Plan for bite-sized occasions to get you ready to take on the big thing.
Let yourself make mistakesThis may feel counterintuitive. “Why would I want to mess up?” you might think. Well, think about what we’ve already talked about throughout this blog. Life has a way of getting in the way when we least expect it. Staying flexible and remaining optimistic is the key to success. Making mistakes is how we learn. As long as there is a safe space within yourself to have bumps in the road, you can always be sure that the path forward won’t end as soon as there’s a struggle. And, sharing your mistakes is a great way to model for you kids how they might handle mistakes, too.
Turn “your” intention into “our” intentionWho doesn’t love a good, united front? Whoever your team members will be, whether it be your spouse, kids, siblings, parents, friends, or neighbors, creating a sense of community support can be what it takes to make an intention come to fruition. This will require you to be flexible, hearing another take on what a plan should be, but could ultimately develop a strong sense of teamwork and empowerment for everyone involved. Get ready, get set, and GO team!