I’VE NEVER BEEN keen on the saying “New year, new me,” because unlike a snake that swiftly sheds its skin, humans are constantly evolving. Case in point: If you sit with the question, “What do you know now that you didn’t a year ago?” I’m willing to bet you’ll come up with a list of life lessons that might not make the highlight reel of social media but are invaluable in terms of your personal evolution. Change is incremental — often invisible yet ever present. And we can benefit from it if we just pause long enough to take note.
The start of a new year is an incredibly seductive invitation to begin again, and yet New Year’s resolutions have proven to be ineffective motivators of long-lasting change. A New Year’s resolution emphasizes all that we’d like to change versus all that we already have. When we practice intention setting instead, we focus on what we can do with what is already presently accessible — also known as an abundance mindset.
If you’re new to intention setting, here are a few tried-and-true prompts for crafting one of your own:
• How do you want to show up for your loved ones?
• What lasting impact do you want to leave on this planet?
• What characteristics do you value most at work, home, and life?
• If your future self gave you a word of warning, what would they say?
• If your past self saw you now, what would they think of you?
Sit with whatever comes up, without judgment. If you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed, putting pen to paper is often a tangible way to detangle the thoughts in your head. Use the above prompts to identify what you most desire, and from there craft a personal mission statement that embodies these virtues. Ensure that your statement is qualitative versus quantitative (i.e., “I am worthy of rest” instead of “I will go to bed no later than midnight”), and refine the wording until you’re left with a simple sentence that you’ll easily remember.
Once you have an intention, you have a seed with the potential to sprout new and revitalized rituals. As the founder of the mindful collective 3rd Ritual, I’m often asked to explain the difference between ritual and routine. Intention sits atop the list of necessary ingredients for the former. When you approach something as simple as making tea in the morning with an intention of reverence, it has the power to go from routine to ritual. In the words of French novelist and philosophy teacher Muriel Barbery, “When tea becomes ritual, it takes place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things.”
The idea of sitting still for meditation can be daunting, but giving yourself a point of focus while engaging in a seemingly mundane task like painting, cleaning, or baking is one way to get started. It functions beautifully as a kind of mental bait and switch. You can even incorporate your intention here — reciting it as you utilize the repetitive nature of working with your hands to create a continuous mantra such as, “I will listen to learn, remain open to new ideas, and be brave enough to be imperfect.”
In yogic and Buddhist philosophy, meditation is achievable through a ritual of single-pointed concentration called Trataka, shared in last month’s column. As a reminder, you can practice by affixing your gaze to a dot on the wall or the flickering flame of a candle. As the mind centers on its focal point, the space between thoughts lengthens and creates space for presence and peace. Once again you can incorporate your intention, reciting your “I am” statement with every inhalation and the rest of your intention with every exhalation.
Ritual can be a rite of passage — a gateway between mundane and meaningful that is ready and waiting to make you receptive instead of reactive. Intentions are personal guidelines for who we want to be and how we want to affect the world around us. Cheers to an even brighter turn around the sun.
Photographed at Le Checuel
Jenn Tardif Writer
Jenn Tardif is the founder of the mindful collective 3rd Ritual, a certified aromatherapist, and a writer. A devout student of Taoism, yoga, and mindfulness, Tardif is a firm believer that wisdom lights the path to well-being, and has made a lifelong commitment to share the teachings with anyone curious enough to learn more.
Jessa Carter Photographer
Jessa Carter (she/her) is a multimodal omnidisciplinary artist compelled toward the collapsing of categories, systems thinking, and collective healing. Carter’s work/play traverses ecosystem and egosystem to trace the leading lines of value, ownership, authorship, identity, time, performativity, language, and labor.