Whether we promise ourselves to travel more, spend less, eat healthier, or anything of the sort, there’s an expectation of failure built right in when it comes to New Year’s resolutions.
So, instead of setting a resolution and feeling guilty when you don’t follow through, why not consider intention setting? We spoke with meditation guide and mindfulness consultant Ericka Phillips to learn all about intention setting and how to apply it in your life and at home.
What is Intention Setting?
“Resolutions are action-based and focused on doing, which is why they can set us up for failure if we don’t do,” Ericka says. Setting an intention is more like finding a north star, she says: it’s an aim you can keep coming back to time and again that helps you keep your life in alignment.
How Do You Set an Intention?
Most people are familiar with resolutions, which makes them a great place to start, Ericka says.
“Think about what you want and need, and what you resolve to do—maybe people want to be more organized or stop smoking. Whatever it is, bring those things to the forefront of your mind, and then start asking yourself why. Why do you want to do these particular actions, what’s that about? Distill it down, and you’ll have an intention,” she says.
For example, maybe you start with a resolution to earn more money. Now, ask yourself why. Is it really to buy more things, or is it something deeper? “To me, it would usually distill down to wanting to have more freedom,” Ericka says.
I'm Still Confused
That’s OK! Each intention is inherently personal, but Ericka graciously provided an example from her own life. She used a resolution—revisiting horseback riding lessons, which she took as a child—as a launchpad for setting an intention. Here’s how:
“I thought about my resolution of wanting to take horseback riding lessons again, and then I asked myself why I wanted to do that. It’s because I remember having a sense of joy during that time. I want to connect with things that help me cultivate joy in my life. When I dig down even deeper, I can see I also want to feel the sense of power and strength I felt when I rode horses in the past—I want to feel strong,” she says. “So, my two intentions are to cultivate joy and to cultivate strength.”
Armed with her intentions, Ericka can live her life more mindfully and be less reactionary—a benefit for anyone who chooses to set an intention.
“If an opportunity comes up, whether it’s something as big as a new job, or something as mundane as going out with friends, you can use your intention to ask yourself, is this aligned with what I want in my life right now?”
What Are Some Practical Ways to Honor My Intention?
No matter what intention you set, interior design is actually an important component of tending to it. “Intentions connect closely with design because you’re creating an environment that’s proactive and conducive to what you want to cultivate in your life,” Ericka says.
Perhaps you set an intention to practice self-care daily. You could honor this by creating a bedroom that helps you rest and relax—think new sheets, painting the room a soothing color, swapping out overhead lights for lamps and a dimmer. Or you could better nourish your body as an act of self-care. This could mean purchasing a beautiful fruit bowl to fill with fresh, tempting produce, or new kitchen tools to prompt you to cook and eat at home more often. You could also upgrade your dining room so the meal takes center stage, allowing you to eat more mindfully.
How Often Should I Check In With My Intention?
Ericka revisits her intentions daily as part of her own meditation practice. Don’t meditate daily? Don’t meditate ever? Don’t worry, she says. As a general guideline, she suggests checking in during times of transition. “If your intention is your north star and your aim, a disruption in your life can disorient you. Revisiting your intention can help steer you back on course.”
“This is a new year and a new decade, so there’s all this collective energy and momentum,” Ericka says. “People everywhere are starting resolutions and talking about them, and this environment actually really supports you, because you’ve got a built-in energy base. It’s the perfect time to identify an intention.”
Ready to make good on your intentions? Get started by taking our fun style quiz.