January is named for the ancient Roman God, Janus. He is usually depicted with two faces as he simultaneously looks to the past and the future. Janus symbolizes transitions as he looks in two directions. This January, the myth of Janus asks us to self-reflect, forward and backward on what we desired, accomplished, and left undone last year to set our intentions for the New Year.
Intentions give us direction
New year’s resolutions, or other promises concerning how we will change or what we would like to accomplish are popular this time of the year. We often frame our wishes with words such as, “ I want to, or I should do something.” These statements look to the future from the present without an idea of how to achieve our desires. Because our wishes often lack specificity and tactics to accomplish our ends, we have given ourselves permission to fall short of what we truly want. For example, if we say, “I would like to have more friends or I should have better relationships,” we have set a goal without a strategy to reach our objective. Goals without direction are usually not achieved.
Intentions, on the other hand, are statements about the future from the perspective of the future. Intentions speak as if our desires have been achieved. For example, if we phrase our January intention from a future perspective we would say, “It’s December and I have five new friendships which are meaningful and bring joy to my relationships.” Because this intention has specific statements of what we will have accomplished, we are able to visualize who or what we need to be to achieve our intention.
Being supports intentions
To achieve our relationship intention, for example, we might consider activities such as join a club to meet new people, spend more time on social media, or broaden our circle of acquaintances. However, because these activities lack specificity, such as when we will do the activity or how much time we will spend, these activities are unlikely to support our intentions without consideration of who or what we need to be to accomplish our desires. Thich Nhat Hanh, in “Interbeing,” advocates mindfulness toward being as an essential part of what we do in our lives
Being enables doing
Goals are difficult to achieve when they are based on doing without attention to who or what we will need to be to accomplish the goal. Therefore, we would ask, “To have meaningful relationships, who or what do I need to be to develop five new friends?” This question is specific and addresses our attitudes and beliefs, which drive our behaviors, our states of being.
If we ask ourselves, for example, what states of being are necessary to support our relationship intention we might include being present in conversations with others. We may have determined this state of being through feedback from others or by self-reflection on prior conversations. Recall the myth of Janus, to simultaneously reflect on the past while we vision the future.
Examine our current states of being
If we continue self-inventory of our actions of the past (what we desired, achieved, and left undone) this process will help us vision the future and identify multiple states of being, which will be needed to achieve our intentions.
Choose states of being to support our intentions
Once we have inventoried our past and identified our intentions for the future, we pick appropriate states of being to support our intentions. For example, the following states of being were described in articles I posted on last year. Pick from this list or identify applicable states of being to support your intentions for the New Year:
Like Janus, reflect on the past and look forward to choose appropriate states of being to achieve your intentions.
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Life Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
I write personal essays, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and self-development articles from my home in Madison, Wisconsin.