For many people, the new year often comes with feelings of recharge and renewal, which encourage us to lay out new goals, desires, or intentions. Yes, January 1 is "just another day," but the new beginning of the year prompts us to review and consider how we want to create a symbolic new beginning in our life.
There are many rituals and practices that go along with this time of reflection and planning -- listing out goals, filling out a new planner, creating a vision board, committing to resolutions, taking stock of the previous year, choosing a word for the year, journaling, and so on. Sometimes, setting a firm resolution or goal like, "lose 15 pounds," initially feels inspiring and motivational, but often ultimately leads to frustration and disappointment.
Instead, consider what it would feel like to set an intention like, "take care of my body." Instead of a limited focus on what it takes to lose 15 pounds sometime in the future, you funnel your energy to the care and support your body needs to feel good and be healthy right now, in the moment. That could include getting out today and going to the gym or for a walk, and eating more vegetables, or it could mean going to bed earlier this evening and scheduling a massage and/or therapy appointment for later in the week.
Unlike a goal (which is helpful and valuable in its own way), which focuses on a working hard to achieve a future outcome, an intention is a practice that focuses how you are being/what you are doing in the present moment. Author, founder of the Life Balance Institute, and former CEO of Esquire magazine Phillip Moffitt, says that with intentions,
Your attention is on the everpresent "now" in the constantly changing flow of life. You set your intentions based on understanding what matters most to you and make a commitment to align your worldly actions with your inner values.
Author, speaker, and alternative medicine expert Deepak Chopra, MD, says that "intention is much more powerful when it comes from a place of contentment than if it arises from a sense of lack or need." Considering that definition, how might you set out your intentions for the days and weeks of the new year as you navigate your journey in pregnancy or parenting? To get your thoughts flowing, start with some questions:
- What's important to me in my pregnancy/parenting?
- What could I cultivate more of in my pregnancy/parenting?
- How do I want to feel during my pregnancy?
- When I look back, what will I wish I would have achieved?
- How do I want to feel during pregnancy/parenting?
- What do I hope my child[ren] feel during their childhood?
Creating Realistic Intentions
"Setting an intention is like drawing a map of where you wish to go," says spiritual teacher and meditation guide Chandresh Bhardwaj. The key, of course, is to use and follow that map. Bhardwaj advises that in order to be more successful with setting and following intentions, people must create intentions that are positive in tone; that can evolve over time; and that aim for the short-term. For example, if one of your goals during pregnancy is to experience reduced stress, you might create an intention for the day that says, "I intend to invite peace and calm into my life" and after a few days or a week, amend your intention to say, "I intend to create more space for peace and calm."
If your intention is more specific or concrete, it will be important for you to know the steps and actions necessary to support your intention. For example, if your intention is to be healthy during pregnancy, but you don't know what a healthy pregnancy looks like, you'll need to spend some time learning about it. Similarly, if your intention is to be more patient and loving as a parent, but you struggle with your emotions and ability to connect, it will be important for you to work toward cultivating those areas with support like therapy or a parenting class. Simply setting an intention and walking away does not yield success. Setting your intention and recommitting daily to actions and information that support it, does. As Moffitt says, "You don't just set your intentions and then forget about them; you live them every day."
Tips for Success
For some, it may help to set a daily attention, or even to set a different intention prior to doing certain things throughout your day. If setting intentions is new to you, try out different ways to see what feels like the best fit. Writing down your intention, whether in your daily planner or on a sticky note that you can see throughout the day, can help keep it top of mind and increase your ability to follow your intention.
Spiritual teachers and executive coaches often teach about intentions hand-in-hand with teaching meditation. Meditation helps provide the mental space and clarity needed to set heartfelt intentions. If meditation is new to you, consider attending a class with someone who can guide you through a meditation session. Or, try out a meditation app that will introduce you and lead you through the process (check out some of the most popular meditation apps recommended by Huffington Post).
So, if making New Year's resolutions isn't your thing -- or even if it is -- consider giving intention setting throughout your pregnancy and your parenting journey a try. It could be just the tool you need to enjoying and feeling content with this season of your life.
Chopra, Deepak. 5 Steps to Setting Powerful Intentions. The Chopra Center.
Bhardwaj, Chandresh. 10 Intentions to Set for Your Most Powerful Life. Mindbodygreen.
Moffitt, Phillip. The Heart's Intention. Dharma Wisdom.