Over the next few days, most of us will be spending time in holiday mode – visiting family, maybe seeing old friends, and bringing in the New Year.
I want to share with you one, powerful, very simple practice that has dramatically transformed my holiday experiences: setting an intention.
What do you want for your holiday experience this year? Set that as your intention.
Ideas for Intention
Here are just a few examples of holiday intentions that have brought me delight, meaning, and a sense of peace over the past few years:
- Communicate honestly.
- Really share in conversations. Talk about the real stuff.
- Take time for myself and take care of myself.
- Keep it light. Bring humor into the room.
- Be surprised. See something new in each person.
- Express love.
Intentions are at the heart of our own power to create the lives we want. For me, holding an intention creates a much more alive, exciting experience. It gives me something interesting to be “up to” – no matter what else is going on. It puts me in meaningful relationship with myself, not just with those around me.
Holding an intention brings many other benefits as well. It gives me an anchor point to keep returning to. I’m not floating around, moving according to everyone else’s currents. If I’m open to it, I learn a lot about myself as I’m trying to put my intention into action: Where do I get stuck? What gets in my way? What makes it easy? Sometimes, my intention and the actions that flow from it truly begin to transform relationships. Not bad for an activity that takes less than five minutes.
Guidelines for Setting Holiday Intentions
1. Intentions are helpful only when they relate to areas in which you have power. They are not about what other people do. “Aunt Lulu and Mom will get along great” isn’t an intention. It’s a wish (or maybe a fantasy). “Aunt Lulu and I will get along great” isn’t going to be helpful either, as you aren’t in control of whether she’s getting along with you.
Something like, “My intention is to appreciate the things that are amazing about Aunt Lulu” could really open up and enrich your experience. “My intention is to not take Aunt Lulu’s comments personally” might also be a good one…depending on the situation.
2. An intention is touchstone, not a test. You might forget your intention entirely for a while. You might find yourself doing something in direct opposition to it. No big deal. This isn’t about being good or bad, doing it or not doing it. It is about having a support that serves you, especially in getting back on track in alignment with your values, your aspirations, who you really are.
3. It can be helpful to create a reminder of your intention. Write it down somewhere where you see it regularly, or send yourself and email about it and leave it in your inbox so you see it regularly. Or, let a physical object that you use regularly become a symbol of it. (This can be a piece of jewelry, a scarf, a small something you can carry in you pocket). You’ll be reminded of your intention whenever you see or touch it.
The big point here? Each of us has huge power in determining the quality of our holiday experience. In the midst of taxing travel, entrenched family dynamics, and long-standing traditions, that can be hard to remember. Our real power lies not in changing anything outside of us, but in how we live with ourselves, what we create from ourselves. It lies in what we do, through our own actions, in our own minds and hearts.