Today’s big idea is that setting an intention before you head into any kind of holiday situation, whether that’s a family gathering, or doing some kind of chore, or shopping, or traveling, can help you achieve those twin goals of reducing stress and enjoying more.
I think of an intention like a force field. It helps you maintain things that you want, like a feeling of calmness, or being curious, or playful, and helps you exclude things you don’t want. Like other people’s negativity or anxiety or what have you. Setting an intention is like saying, “Shields up!”
It’s also a way to focus your attention on what you want, and away from you don’t want. And that’s so helpful because what you focus on grows. I was reading an article recently about the director Jane Campion. And she said something that had me nodding my head, which is “Attention is love.” So setting an intention is basically a way to pay attention to the things you love.
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There are two pieces to setting an intention
The first is to name the action or the outcome you want. That’s pretty self-explanatory. But the one tricky thing in this step is to set an intention that’s general and not overly specific.
I’ll share an example that will make this clearer in just a little bit.
But first, there’s a second piece of an intention that most people don’t think about or even know about. And that’s setting an intention on how you’re to BE that supports that intention. Because really, we don’t have control over what happens. We only have a say over how we react to what happens.
So to set a general intention without also thinking about how you want to be only sets you up for disappointment.
Here’s an example of an intention you could set
Let’s say you’re going shopping for gifts this weekend. You know it’s likely to be crowded. And you’ve heard about shortages so you know you might not be able to get what you want, and you’re really just dreading it.
You could set an intention to find things that make the people you’re giving to feel appreciated. And to do it in a way that doesn’t stress you out.
And the way you want to be in order to help that happen is open-minded and patient.
If you’re open-minded, you’ll be more likely to find something that maybe you hadn’t thought of that would actually make that person feel appreciated. You might be more likely to talk with a salesperson who can show you something that you didn’t know to look for. And if you’re patient, you won’t automatically get a blood pressure spike when you catch sight of the line, which will help you not get stressed out. Maybe you’ll decide to go enjoy a cup of coffee and wait for the line to go down. Or maybe your open-mindedness will cause you to seek out the other register in the back of the store that’s not nearly as crowded.
I had a cool experience with intention setting a couple years ago
We had some friends visiting from out of town and wanted to do something cool with them. There was an artist’s market in an old mill happening that we decided to go to, we figured it would be a fun outing and hopefully a cool way to buy some local, handmade gifts and support some small business owners. When we were parking the car I set an intention to connect with one person in there. (As an introvert, this is an intention I often set before walking into a crowded event, it helps keep it on an intimate scale, at least in my mind). And I was going to be curious about figuring out who that person was.
Once we were inside, I got to chatting with a woman who sold hot water bottles covered in these really cute flannel covers that she and her daughter sewed by hand. I ended up buying a water bottle for my mom and my kids as holiday presents and they all loved them.
But even beyond that, I ended up becoming friends with that woman. She invited me to a networking event where I met a lot of other cool women and through that event I met someone who helped me figure out what to plant in this one shady spot in our yard. And it all came out of that one intention! Otherwise, I would have blown right past the hot water table, or I wouldn’t have lingered, and I certainly wouldn’t have asked enough questions for us to strike up a significant conversation.
Daily Tiny Assignment
So that’s your tiny assignment–to set an intention for something holiday-related. Be thoughtful about how you express what your intention is–don’t get too hung up on specifics. And then think about what energy is going to help you fulfill that intention.
Just to recap, there are two parts of an intention:
The aim you’re seeking to fulfill, voiced in a way that’s general.
And the energy you want to inhabit that will help you fulfill that aim.
If you need some ideas of ways to be, here are some:
Open honest grounded playful curious receptive powerful bold decisive positive
This is all a little woo, I know. But setting an intention is how you use the opportunity, and yes, the challenges, of the holiday season to actually practice being a better person, instead of just muddling through, getting run down or overwhelmed. It’s a gift you give yourself. And then knowing how to set an intention will be a skill that you have in your pocket long after the holidays are through.