Make Your Intentions Stick

Photo by  Austin Schmid  on  Unsplash

A few years ago, I stopped making resolutions at the start of the calendar new year. Instead, on my birthday—in December—I starting making lists of the things I wanted to do in the 12 months ahead.  Design and teach a yoga workshop. Snowboard down M1 without crying. Spend quality one-on-one time with each of my guys every single week. Publish four essays. Go on a road trip with my sister and kids. 

I realized there was a common reason for aiming to accomplish all these things. I wanted to feel brave, creative, alive, connected. I wanted to mop up all the moments with the people I love most. Through my yoga studies, I realized that I'd switched from making resolutions to creating sankalpas. In Sanskrit, sankalpa means "will, purpose or determination." It's is sort of a resolution, wrapped in your best intentions, written by your highest self.  Last year, my sankalpa was this:  "I manage my energy in ways that allow me to stay present for, and to enjoy, the people and things that matter most."

This year, I've boiled my aim down to its essence, a single word: LEAP. I'm turning intentions into actions and ideas into reality, summoning up the courage to have the hard conversations, pushing past discomfort to expand my limits—as a parent, a partner, a person. And generally just getting shit done, like going to the police station to be fingerprinted (after four years of vowing to do it) so I can chaperone a school field trip without having to have a chaperone myself. I did that today. Took 10 minutes.

When it comes to aligning actions with intentions, I've discovered some things that help keep me focused (which is no small feat). Maybe they'll help you too: 

Design your mission.

Turn your mission or your mantra or your word into something you can display front-and-center in your home, office, on your phone. (Or skin. I have a tattoo of a swallow on my wrist to remind me to keep writing. It's inspired by Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird). If you don’t feel particularly artistic, curate others' words and images to make a vision board. Mine has Joe Biden on it. And lots of ladies leaping. 

Wear a reminder.

It can be as simple as a string—or a hairband—around your wrist. I wear mala bracelets made by my friend Shannon, who donates a portion of every sale to help rescue dogs

Set out a statue. 

On my desk at work sits a little brass Ganesh—the elephant-headed Hindu diety associated with removing obstacles. (He's gone on many field trips with friends when they've most needed his power.) I also have a "egg" rock my kid found on a the beach, which reminds me to see the world more like a child, and a framed little card that says "Stop Talking."  (It's for my own good. Thanks, HT!)

Stay in touch.

Read about inspiring leaders who align with your values and aims, get outside and connect with your thoughts, hang with people who expand your perspectives.


Write about your victories (offer gratitude) and your challenges (and what you learned!). Notice patterns. Refine to align. 

Practice yoga. 

I love thinking about shapes as a container for my energy. Yoga poses may stimulate or symbolize certain ways of feeling. Here are my go-to poses:

To feel energized: Sun salutations and heat-building poses like utkatasana (chair), planks, core work

To feel confident: Tadasana (mountain pose), Virabhadrasana I and II (Warrior 1 and 2)

To find focus: Balancing poses - Vriksasana (tree), Garudasana (Gagle), Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3) 

To tune in (and tune out the world): Forward folds 

To let go: Hip openers like pigeon, Baddha Konasana, Anjaneyasana (low lunge) Flowing sequences

On a related note, I'm leading an Intention-Setting + Yoga Workshop this Sunday, January 22 at Yoga Roots in Shelburne, VT.  You can learn more and register here