Happy New Year!!
It is hard to believe that, once again, we are at that point where many of us are making resolutions for eating better, getting healthy, exercising more and becoming better human beings.
There is nothing wrong with setting goals. And if you are someone who thrives on that type of planning and execution, I say GO GET ‘EM!!!
But, I don’t set New Year’s resolutions or goals anymore. Rather, I set intentions or intentional rhythms.
I had to take a hard look at that process when I realized how it would draw my mind and my thoughts into depression and anxiety.
My perception of failure when these goals/resolutions were not attained would cause me to either give up completely, or to kick it into high gear and strive endlessly until I dropped in an exhausted heap, with nothing accomplished and nothing left to give.
You might be thinking “what’s the difference?” Well, let’s see.
A goal is an external achievement or destination. An intention is about the internal; your relationship with God, yourself, and others. If the goal is the destination, the intention is the journey.
I love painting with watercolors. This is a medium not easily mastered. It can be finicky and uncontrollable. When I was first learning, I would get the paper wet and the paint would go to all the places I didn’t want it to go. Or I would put the paint on dry paper and it wouldn’t move. What I got at the end of the day was a lot of “wasted” paper and paint, and a mind full of thoughts that I was an artistic failure. I was looking far beyond my current skill set to the end goal of beautiful paintings and I completely missed the “intention” of the process of learning.
I focused on the future and missed the present. That is the difference between a goal and an intention.
Looking through the lens of intention vs goal, I can see that the paint and paper were not actually wasted. Rather, they were valuable stepping stones to the next part of my watercolor journey. The blobs of muddied colors which came from paints that went everywhere except where I wanted, were not disasters, but the living lessons of what to do, or not do, next time. The fact that I wasn’t a master watercolorist at the end of my initial session, while unrealistic, was not a failure. It was the first step in what would become a lifelong (I hope) journey of becoming a painter and developing a better understanding of (relationship with, if you will) this beautiful medium. Before I shifted to setting intentions and only focused on the goals I was setting, I would see myself as a failure.
Now, with an intentional rhythm of doing something each day or week that increases my knowledge or experience in this artistic medium, I don’t see failure; instead, I embrace the building blocks.
If you are like me, you might need a list of practical ways to start moving towards daily or weekly intentions. I call these intentional rhythms, and they are what I lean into for my spiritual growth, my personal growth, and my artistic/creative growth. These intentional rhythms create space for that growth to occur.
Intentional Rhythm #1: Solitude. This is not solitude for the sake of silence, but solitude for the sake of listening to my thoughts about what God has called me to create. To hear HIS voice in those thoughts. Creativity blossoms when we can look deep inside and focus.
Intentional Rhythm #2: Participation. I don’t mean activity, per se, but more like pursuing learning from others. Whoever it may be in the arena to which you feel called, read what they write, follow them on social media, find out what makes them tick and what their practices are. Seek inspiration from music, art, books, nature, magazines – inspiration can even be found in a beautiful meal, whether you are a good cook or not.
Intentional Rhythm #3: Be ruthless with your schedule. Be so protective of your schedule, at least for a few days a week, that you set time limits for each thing on your to-do list. Set a timer if you must. You can even include the things that you know you need to do simply for your body’s sake, such as “drink three glasses of water by noon” or “take a 30-minute walk”.
Intentional Rhythm #4: Be a note taker. This might not be for everyone, but for me, I take notes all the time. I have post-it pads and notepads in every room. I use the notes app on my phone when I’m not near paper or I am out running errands. I must physically write notes for things to stick in my head. I go through all my notes at the end of each day to see what I need to do immediately, what was already done and what needs to be prioritized on another list for the future. Often these notes spark creativity for current or future projects.
Intentional Rhythm #5: Do creative stuff every day. Make it a habit not to judge yourself on your creativity – artistic or otherwise.
Intentional Rhythm #6: Stir up your routine. Take a new route to work or write with a pencil instead of a pen. In other words, “shake your tree”. Make time and space for having fun.
Lest you think that “intention” is a human thing, think again. The One who made you was quite intentional about every single part of YOU! In Psalm 139:14 the Psalmist writes “I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking. It simply amazes me to think about it!” (The Passion Translation)
There is one thing I know for certain, living with intention has no room for shame.
We should not get to the end of the day and beat ourselves up because we are not better spouses, parents, teachers, friends, caregivers, speakers, writers, homemakers, accountants, or artists.
However, we ought to be seeking ways to make space for creative thoughts that will lead to creative intentions. When we rise each morning, we can pray, “Lord, YOU set the course for my day. Fill each moment with your plans for my day. Help me to plot the course and set the sails with the intentions you would have me follow. In Your Name, Amen.”
Reclaiming Our Intentions Together,
Stacy MacLaren, Fellow Reclaimer
Stacy has been married for almost three decades to her soul mate, who she lovingly calls the Rocket Scientist, and is the mom of one son, PJ, who now dances with his Savior in heaven after an 18-month battle with cancer that ended in 2017. He was the light of their lives and he left behind an even bigger light for their lives – their grandson! Just call them Gigi and Pops! They are extra blessed to have a daughter-in-love as well as a bonus son in her new hubby. In 2020, Stacy started The Creative Table podcast and blog. Her heart is that everyone would learn to see themselves as creative. While some of us may not have an artistic bent, we are ALL creative because we were made by THE MOST CREATIVE ONE AROUND – God! You can find the podcast wherever you listen to music/podcasts as well as at https://www.thecreativetable.net/. Additionally, Stacy is most active on Instagram at @thecreativetable and you can always email her at email@example.com