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Intentions and Self-Compassion in 2023

Yellow Wildflower
photographed by Angela Andiorio

Here we are at the end of January. About one month since we’ve started a new year. Take a pause and let that sink in. One twelfth of the year down and 11 months to go! Did you set any resolutions for 2023? I don’t like to make resolutions because I think they set us up for self-judgment and often leave us feeling like we aren’t enough. This makes us discouraged and often can lead to negative self-talk and then soon we return to old behaviors because it seems like we’ve failed so why bother. Maybe this has been the experience you’ve had too.

Where your attention goes the energy flows

I prefer setting intentions as opposed to resolutions because they give us a focus for our energy. As business coach Tony Robbins says, “Where focus goes energy flows.” When we set intentions and continually stay mindful of them all of our actions will more easily align. Suppose your intention is to spend more time in nature. As you plan your weekly calendar, you can be intentional about scheduling in a daily 10-min mindful walk outdoors. As you move through your week take note each day and celebrate the days that you were able to get outside! You are now noticing and being more mindful. If it is working and you are loving it, you can add more…perhaps a weekly or monthly hike or trip to a new nature spot.

What if you aren’t meeting the intention you set?

On the other hand, if it is challenging to get out daily and you find it isn’t happening take a few minutes to look at your day. Offer yourself some space for self-compassion and self-awareness without judgment. It isn’t right or wrong that you didn’t go outside every day. It is simply the truth. Witness the truth by asking yourself honestly: How am I spending my time? Is there something I can let go of to free up more energy for my walk? Would I feel more motivated to go with a friend or neighbor? Did I set an unrealistic goal for myself? Getting curious without judgment will help you to become a detective of your habits and behaviors.

Here is broader example. At the end of 2022, I noticed many people posting on social media about being ready for the new year and welcoming 2023 because they had endured many hardships in 2022. They were ready to make resolutions and take action and put it all behind them. Some people were posting not to claim 2023 as “their year” for fear that it might jinx everyone. It might feel that way, but is it truth? Ever since 2020, and the beginning of the pandemic, there has been an undercurrent of fear and perhaps a bit of trauma or worry of “what next?” It is certainly understandable that people would be feeling this way, but I have some news for everyone: This year will also have struggles and hardships, and being anxious about the future, dwelling in the past and ignoring them won’t serve you. How can we honor these very real feelings without ruminating, running away from them or getting carried away with stress and worry? Again, one way to do this is to offer yourself a self-compassion practice:

A practice for self-compassion

Pause for a moment and notice your breathing. Allow yourself to be aware of your struggle(s) and to sit with the feelings. Recognize that struggle is a part of humanity and it is acceptable to offer yourself loving support and to acknowledge how you feel and what your thoughts are. Know that they are your thoughts and feelings, they aren’t you. They will change and you will still be there. This is a gift you can always give yourself but it is hard. Treat yourself like a friend, talk to yourself kindly and with understanding. Remember that others are also struggling (even if we don’t know about it) and offer everyone else that same understanding and empathy you bestowed upon yourself. Then you can take some aligned-action to best care for yourself.