The Power of Keeping It Small
Updated: Jan 21
The new year brings funny things. On the one hand it offers us new perspectives and possibilities to step further into what we would love for our lives.
On the other hand, the new year can create total overwhelm in feeling pressures and expectations for what we “should” be doing – lose xyz pounds (on the list every year), eat better, make more money, blah, blah, blah.
Those pressures sound so dismal and uninspiring. I wouldn’t want to make any changes either from that perspective!
And yet, there’s such value in capturing a new beginning. There is new energy out there and around us, as the clock turns, and we step into another year. It offers us a new perspective and provides us with renewed vitality to take steps we’ve been hesitant to take in the past or boldly embrace a new concept that might bring a new point of view for the future.
As we step into a new year, it also gives us the opportunities to look back on where we’ve been and what we’ve learned. In doing so, we see the previous year more objectively, which allows us to name more clearly what we learned and acknowledge ourselves for what we did. We then get to identify what to carry with us into the new year, in hopes to make it a richer more fulfilling experience.
There’s something about the process of “review and renew” (my theme for this month) that clears the cobwebs, helps us project into a bigger future what we desire and ignites our action to step into all the possibilities of change! Follow my suggestions below for a powerful intention setting experience.
General Tips And Tools For New Year’s Intentions:
1. Keep your daily steps SMALL. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen and heard my clients and others say, “I had it all planned out and was going to exercise 7 days a week and only eat very healthy, but I couldn’t stay consistent with it, so I just gave up.” By keeping our daily and weekly intentions small and doable (like the subject line says), we set ourselves up for success. Each little win builds on the next, as opposed to not completing a giant unrealistic step and then feeling disappointed and angry with ourselves.
2. Write it down! Research shows that if we write down our goals and intentions even once, they’re 50% more likely to be fulfilled!
3. Keep up the momentum by seeing yourself on a daily basis doing and being the person enjoying the thing(s) you desire and write down what you see.
a. Make sure you write about this in the present tense such as “I am loving my relaxing vacation in Hawaii” not, “I hope to go to Hawaii or I want to go to Hawaii”. That thinking puts you outside and apart from what you desire and in a “wanting or trying” position, as opposed to living and being in it, in your mind’s eye.
b. Present tense language leads the mind into believing that you’re already there and that you’ve achieved it, which opens more pathways of mental possibility to make these things happen.
- Keep the language positive and if you find yourself talking about what
you don’t want, like “There are no lines during my vacation”, turn that
language around by asking yourself, “what would I be doing if there were
no lines?”. A nice revision would be, “I’m enjoying easy entrance into every
activity I do on my vacation.”
- When we write or speak about what we don’t want, our brains think about
those things and the mental picture of them appears, canceling out the
positive thoughts and pictures of what we really want.
Two Different Approaches:
Below I offer two different approaches to setting intentions for the new year. One is straight forward, pretty simple and quick. Its easy approach is inspiring and empowering.
The other is more detailed and offers a deeper dive into excavating the precious learnings and acknowledgements from the previous year to help inform our intentions for the new year. It also has questions to help you identify your intentions, while developing doable action steps to support you in getting there.
Both are helpful and powerful. Choose whichever fits best for you and enjoy the process!
The Easing In approach is quick and simple intention setting that makes it light and easy.
1. Pick 1 to 3 things you’d like to change, work on, incorporate or ponder in this new year.
- This could be choosing to be more kind to strangers or more kind to your
loved ones. It could also include eating a salad a day to bring more veggies into
your life, maybe listening to music more regularly, or perhaps listening to your
body more and honoring its rhythms.
2. Set up some reminders for yourself like post-its around your home with the intention written on it or a daily alarm on your phone.
3. Just starting with one intention that can be worked into your daily or weekly life will create great change and hopefully bring you more joy, without a lot of planning, fuss or expectation on yourself.
4. Make sure to apply the general tips listed above, to keep these intentions relevant for you and forward moving.
A Deeper Dive
The second approach is a little more involved for those who enjoy a deeper process. It begins with taking stock of the year before and reviewing each month on your calendar (and in your journal if you wrote in one) to tease out the wins, challenges, heartbreaks and celebrations you experienced.
After you’ve jotted down those things, star or highlight the most significant ones. This creates your list of highlights from the year. You can then separate them into general categories such as personal and career/business highlights, if that’s fitting for you, or a handful of smaller categories such as family, relationships, friends, health, work, mindset, hobbies, etc, etc.
From there you can identify the learnings you gained through these highlights and choose which feel most important to continue to implement into your life in the new year and carry with you to incorporate into your values and character if that hasn’t already happened.
Some questions for your Year in Review to consider:
- What unique inner learnings did I gain about myself in 2020?
- What were my personal highlights from the year?
- What were my professional highlights from the year?
- What things am I most proud of from last year?
- What or where could I have taken more responsibility or tuned in more but didn’t
and how would I re-do it if I could?
- What are any habits or patterns I’d like to leave behind?
- What am I most grateful for from 2020?
To create intentions for the new year, ask yourself these questions:
- What are new behaviors I’d like to incorporate into my life in 2021 that will make my life better?
- What are 3 to 5 things I would LOVE to experience or have in 2021?
- What is one step I can take today towards making those things happen?
- What steps can I plot out for me to take towards these desires this month and
in the months to come? (this is where planning and daily action steps are so
- You can also set aside time each month to establish the action steps for
the next month,that way you’ll have more consistent and relevant
information so fine-tuned steps can be created.
- Who do I know or who/what (ie: YouTube etc.) can give me some support,
encouragement or direction in these steps I’m taking? Am I willing to pursue
them? And if so, when?
- A helpful tip for doing research when it may seem
overwhelming, includes setting a timer for 30 minutes each time.
You can increase or decrease the amount of time set aside as
needed and it helps to keep
the steps small rather than being stunned into inaction because of
- Could I use an accountability buddy to check in with weekly to share my
progress and support me in my next steps for the following week?
- Choose someone you trust and feel safe with whom you can
share your progress and challenges with and who will cheer you
on along the journey. A therapist or coach can be great for this as
- Make sure to apply the general tips listed above, further up in this article, to
keep these intentions relevant for you and forward moving.
It Doesn’t Have To Be The New Year (by the way)!
New beginnings happen all the time and don’t only have to begin on January 1st. In fact, some people say, “forget all the new year goal setting hype and craziness” and instead choose other times in the year to start working towards new intentions, like in the spring or when school starts again.
Others also use life events to mark a new beginning, like preparing for a family wedding or vacation or coming back from a trip and using the new perspective to frame and support a new way of being such as taking on a new habit or pattern and engaging in new hobbies or previous passions. Choose your new beginning when it feels right for you!
Reminders For The Road
Note that you’ll have to be in-tune with yourself throughout the process, always renegotiating your action steps in accordance with new information, as well as incorporating self-care.
Cultivating and creating these things we love for our lives happens best when there is pacing, and we have love and compassion for ourselves throughout the process. This is in contrast to bulldozing through, making it happen at any cost to our bodies and missing the learnings or new possibilities along the way that make our desires and the outcomes better than we’d hoped.
It’s all a beautiful process and journey ever unfolding, expanding our daily lives and our futures, along with our hearts, minds and souls.