Setting Intentions for the New Year


Patty Cusick is a licensed professional counselor at Oasis Counseling for Women and Children. Oasis fills a critical gap in mental health care services for women, children, and families living at or below the poverty level. They offer services on a sliding-fee scale based on household income and the number of dependents.

The following is a summary from Forge’s January 2022 program, “Setting Intentions for the New Year,” featuring Patty Cusick as our speaker.

“An intention is a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you aim to create. Like real seeds, intentions can’t grow if you hold onto them. Only when you release your intentions into the fertile depths of your consciousness can they grow and flourish.” – Deepak Chopra

Around the start of the new year, you might hear others talk about setting goals, making resolutions, choosing a word for the year or writing down their intentions. It can be confusing and overwhelming to pick something that you will stick with throughout the entire year. In the Forge program “Setting Intentions for the New Year,” Patty explained that there is an important difference between goals and intentions and knowing the difference can help set you up for success and purpose in the new year.

Here are a few differences between goals and intentions[1]:
  • Goals are focused on the future. Intentions are based in the present moment.
  • Goals are a destination or specific achievement, such as “I want to drop 10 pounds” or “I want to buy a new car this year.” Intentions are lived each day, independent of achieving the goal or destination.
  • Goals are external achievements. Intentions are about your relationships with yourself and others.
  • Goals answer the WHAT, and intentions answer the WHY.

An intention is a purposeful aim for change or direction for action; something that you are choosing to commit to and that shapes your goals and activities for the year. It can be described as a guiding principle for who we want to be and how we want to show up in the world.

A goal is much more specific and detailed. Goals can be motivating, but they can also make us feel that what we have isn’t enough. Goals are often all or nothing – you reached it or you didn’t, which can lead to disappointment and feeling inadequate or behind in life. Focusing on a goal can become a problem if we focus all our time and energy on the outcome and ignore the journey and the lessons that can be learned along the way. If you are only focused on the goal, then you miss out on everything going on during that process.

In other words, the journey that you have taken and been present for and mindful of, that journey to get to the goal, is what will fill you with happiness and fulfillment. Sometimes the goal might not make you happier or feel more abundant if it is wrong or not aligned with your true intention. Life doesn’t always go as planned, so intentions give you the space to adjust your goals and still feel like you’ve accomplished the things you’ve wanted to during the year.

Patty explained that we need to set the intention first and set the goals based on that intention. When they are aligned, that is when we can see true happiness. To begin, Patty suggested thinking about these questions:

  • What is going well for me in my life?
  • Where are the areas in my life I can progress?
  • Who am I becoming?

These questions, including others you may think of, can help you better understand how you want to spend your time and energy this year. After picking an intention from the year, make realistic goals that will help fulfill your intention. For example, if you are interested in broadening your perspective this year, select goals that are meaningful and possible with your time, energy and resources. That way, your goals will help you achieve a sense of broadened perspective and will allow you to enjoy all the things you do throughout the year with that in mind.

For more information, Patty shared the links to the resources she used to inform her presentation on setting intentions. We hope that you will draw inspiration from these as you consider what your intention and goals are for this year, giving yourself grace and flexibility because the last two years have been challenging, and no one knows what is in store for us in 2022.