We went through a lot in 2020, and even though the new year is already underway, it’s hard not to think about the past 11 months and the global crisis that changed our lives. Many of us experienced a number of struggles, disruptions and losses — and are still processing everything that happened. But 2020 also gave us the opportunity to reflect more deeply and find key lessons about community, solitude and gratitude amidst the madness. As we move forward in 2021, let’s take a moment to visualize the upcoming year and set intentions that can pave the way for a healthier, kinder and wiser tomorrow.
Review Your 2020
Last year may have held a lot of lows, but it’s important to trace the silver linings before you set your intentions for 2021. In the midst of adjusting to the “new normal,” what were the positive takeaways and/or experiences that helped you make it through? Studies report that keeping a journal can help you manage anxiety and cope with stress, so if you have the time, write down what comes to mind. Don’t overthink your words — just be honest with yourself on the page. What’s the most important lesson you learned last year? What new habits did you start? What were you most thankful for? If you need a bit of help, check out these 50 questions to jumpstart your reflection process. Instead of resisting or shying away from the negative moments, think about how they impacted you — and how you want to transform them for the future.
Set Intentions for How You Want 2021 to Be
In 2021, are you aiming for a healthier tomorrow? A kinder one? One that’s more grateful or empowered or attentive — or some mix of these? In your journal, scribble down a few adjectives to set the tone for your year. Then, consider how you might want to take any of the positive lessons from 2020 and cultivate them into a consistent practice. For instance, did you feel more connected to your friends or family through regular text check-ins and phone calls? Did you go on more walks, or read more books, or spend more time making home-cooked meals? Did you pick up an at-home yoga practice, even if it was only 10 minutes a day? Instead of spinning these into aggressive resolutions or “end points,” focus on setting up a starting point — a journey — instead. Remember that an intention, according to life coach Tara-Nicholle Nelson, is a “statement of pure, clear, decisive focus that kick-starts the process of aligning your whole being and your whole life to your desire.” Here are a few examples of intentions that work:
I will set at least 30 uninterrupted minutes each week to express myself creatively, whether it’s painting or running or dancing or writing.
I will make time to reach out to the friends I love, whether it’s a quick check-in via text or a catch-up via FaceTime. If I’m feeling socially or technologically fatigued, I will send a letter or postcard instead.
I will prioritize my mental health and set boundaries at work and in my personal life to ensure that I have the time and space to reflect and recharge.
Revise Your Intentions When Necessary — and Be Forgiving
Unlike rigid resolutions, intentions are meant to evolve as you yourself grow. Every three to six months, set aside some time to read over what you originally wrote, reflect on how the year has been going, and tweak your intentions or create new ones, if need be. Do you still feel inspired or accountable to your words? Are there other areas of your life that need more focus? Remember — the point of intentions is to avoid the self-punishing tendencies that can happen when you fall short of goals that are too ambitious. As you move through your year, be forgiving toward yourself, above all.