Intention words are a bunch of balls.
Hear me out.
To understand why I say that, we have to go back to 2013, the first year I set an intention word for the year.
2013 – VITALITY
After starting my business, going up a couple of dress sizes and not shifting it, then ending a relationship in the last few months of 2012, you could say I was craving lightness and energy by the time 2013 rolled in. So I set the intention, did a couple of months of pilates and cardio classes, and then… #lifehappened
A close family member passed and I leaned on alcohol a teensy bit too much, had a couple of less-than-advisable (read: shit-show) relationships, then got my act together somewhat and smashed the Bikram yoga for a few months.
By the time I was reminded that I’d set an intention word for the year, my VITALITY levels had been up and down. I looked back and I was okay with that.
Because when you’re at your dear uncle’s funeral, surrounded by the love of your family, saying goodbye to a special person, you have precisely zero intention of feeling VITAL that day.
Intention Word Rating: 2 stars
2014 – EXPRESSIVE, EXOTIC, CURIOUS, FREE
The following year, I set my goals like all good entrepreneurs do.
I was in a fantastic supportive mastermind. I was going to spend 3 months travelling the South Pacific on the way back to base myself in Europe after my time in NZ had run out. And beyond that was anyone’s guess.
I used the principles of Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map to set a few words for how I wanted this year to feel, and I did keep them in mind for much of the year.
When I think of memorable moments from that year – solo travel, meeting my soulmate, quitting my freelance work to go all-in on my editing business, deciding to emigrate back to the Southern Hemisphere and a new life in Australia – they were indeed guided by wanting FREEDOM and EXPRESSION, and loaded with the desire to feel and chase the EXOTIC and original, to follow my CURIOUS heart.
I remember the wide-eyed part-panic part-thrill of flying in a 12-seat plane for the first time to E’ua island in Tonga, the most remote and crazy place I’d ever been, guided by CURIOSITY.
Weeks later, on a 6-seater air taxi over Vanuatu’s volcanic islands, reciting the mantra “exotic, expressive, free, exotic, expressive, free” as my seemingly weightless plane darted and tilted at impossible angles to show us breathtaking views below.
Weeks after that, meeting a random guy for a random date in the then-unknown-to-me city of Brisbane Australia, and feeling completely confident and open and FREE to EXPRESS who I was to him. For our second date, he met me in Singapore two weeks later. He was CURIOUS too. Something started.
And that UK summer, dropping my dull freelance gig and buying a ticket back to EXOTIC south-east Queensland to see what all the fuss was about.
Intention Word Rating: 5 stars (but I cheated by choosing four)
2015 – VISIBILITY
Working with a next-level coach, I thought this was the year I was going to Make It Big.
There are certainly a few highlights where VISIBILITY played a part.
I wrote, designed and launched a book and workshop package called Web Words & Wanderlust, the release of which required an uncomfortable level of self-promo. I was bridesmaid for my now-sister-in-law and did a reading at my brother’s wedding. And I did several group workshops and speaking gigs, including running a session at a business retreat in Mexico.
And yet, although many of these opportunities were fun and fulfilling, something didn’t feel quite ‘me’ about the year as a whole.
I was suffering from Online Opinion Overload by the end of 2015, stressed by the pressures of choosing where to live and what that would mean for my relationship, and juggling too many friend and family commitments with no boundaries or time for myself.
Visible online, yes. Physically in attendance, always.
But was I being seen?
And moments of intimacy and introspection were players that year too. You could call those VISIBILITY’s polar opposites. In the end, I yearned for more of myself.
Intention Word Rating: 3.5 stars
2016 – SOVEREIGN
I’m seeing a pattern, aren’t you? My year ends on a certain note, so I go and choose the word that’s the exact opposite… the word that encompasses what I’m craving, what I’m desperate for.
And we all know desperation is a great place to make a decision, don’t we?
I’m sure it’ll be a surprise to no-one that 2016 was a write-off.
Oh, I guess I was sovereign sometimes, but it was also the year that I applied for a partnership visa (thereby utterly relying on my boyfriend for, you know, my right to stay in the country and other minor trivialities like that).
On the plus side, I didn’t sign up for any business coaching or masterminds that year, and engaged experts as and when I needed them. That was a real win for SOVEREIGNTY and making my own decisions.
Having said that, if I’d stuck to my guns and always opted to go my own way, I wouldn’t have created one of the most successful business partnerships I’ve ever had.
In reality, while I was less bogged down in other people’s opinions for maybe the first half of the year, I was the most dependent on other people that I’d been in years, the most encumbered by responsibilities. I finished the year quite ill with anxiety from spending way too much time on social media involved in what appeared to be the whole world losing the plot!
Intention Word Rating: 1.5 stars
2017 – RELAX
Bahahahahaha! If one year proved that intention words are a bunch of balls, then 2017 was it.
I spent January on a 2016 Detox, forcing myself to do nothing and learn to relax.
I was itching to get back into work by February and felt really ready.
That feeling lasted approximately 4 minutes after I started back and realised nothing had changed and I wasn’t actually inspired at all.
Then I launched a website.
Then I bought a house.
Then I had a mild meltdown.
Then everything was okay again.
No, I don’t know where launching a website comes on the list of most stressful things you can do in your lifetime, but apparently buying a house is third, topped only by getting a divorce and going through a bereavement of a partner or parent.
Delightfully, my gorgeous website was aligned with my inner juju by fluke and the extraordinary talents of my designer, to whom I am ever grateful.
Conventional wisdom tells us stress is bad for us, but the house-buying and ensuing identity crisis have been a blessing. For the second half of 2017, business results have been strong and consistent. I put it down to a stable environment, healthy work ethic, as well as a strong and consistent work schedule.
So RELAX was an interesting one and probably the last straw for intention words.
Intention Word Rating: 1 star
What Am I Getting At?
It’s not that I’ve had a bad 5 years. Not at all.
The last 5 years have seen the most conscious personal growth I’ve ever experienced. I’ve met the greatest people I’ve ever known. And done the best and most fulfilling work I’ve ever done.
It’s just that setting an intention for the year, whittling it down to ONE word, is overly simplistic advice.
Words can be defined and interpreted in many different ways.
Words can be loaded with meaning, or super specific.
And a year is a long time. (Although are they making them shorter these days? It feels like it!)
One word cannot possibly do justice to 12 months, 365 days, 8760 hours.
A lot can happen in that time that we can’t possibly imagine in January. I don’t want to aim uniformly for one type of feeling. Something that was relevant to how I wanted to live my life in January could be obsolete by May. I might feel the need to do the exact opposite!
To cover all possible angles and emotions and richness of a year in one word, we’d have to choose something so vague that it isn’t even worth it.
That’s why we hear words like CONNECTION and FREEDOM and EASE and FLOW and ABUNDANCE and FOCUS.
They mean everything and nothing at all.
So what do I suggest instead?
If reflecting on the last 5 years has taught me anything at all, it’s that this work we do requires depth. It’s complex. It’s always multi-faceted, always changing. For every ebb, there is a flow. It’s ever-surprising.
I’ve learned as much about freedom from becoming a home owner in a relationship than I did in several years of solo travel and being single.
I’ve had as many frustrations from sovereignty as I have had benefits.
And I may always be chasing vitality.
There is only one word you need, because it’s the only consistent truth, and that is…
CHANGE is the one and only word we can rely on forever.