My new year ritual: a one-word intention

Today is a reflective day for me, and I often get asked about goals for the new year. For the past 3 years, I have been experimenting with a different new year ritual: setting a one-word intention for the year, instead of specific goals.

Setting specific personal goals can be limiting for me. I feel closed, as anything not aligned with my goals I will tune out and as a result, not be open to new opportunities right in front of me. Although I still set goals for my business, I have taken a different strategy at a personal level.

My annual intention is captured simply in one word. It is purposely very abstract and serves as a north star and guiding light, helping me make small decisions along the journey. It’s like a theme for the year, with lots of space and creativity for me to bring it to life however feels right in the moment. Success is determined by me and me alone, checking in with myself on how I feel.

My intention

I started this ritual three years ago, setting discovery as my intention for 2015. It came to me a few days before the start of the year while in the shower, and at the time, I had no idea how it would manifest itself, but it felt right at the time. What followed throughout the year was that I discovered new places, solo vacation travel (for the first time), more about myself (taking an interest in several mindfulness practices) and new friendships.

The following year, my intention was energy. This showed up primarily as creative energy, with me taking an interest in improv, dance, picking up a regular journaling practice and starting this blog. New forms of creative energy entered my life thanks to this intention. Last year, my intention was freedom, specifically freedom for my mind. My mindfulness practices (meditation, yoga, etc.) deepened, I became more aware throughout the year when I felt freedom for my mind and when I did not, and how to cultivate a greater sense of peace and calm for myself.

This year, my intention is to be fearless. I have no idea how this will show up in my life, and that’s the fun part! I have a blank canvas and get to paint it however I’d like.

Inspiration for your intention

My parents and sister have joined me in this ritual for the past two years, with each of us not only setting an intention, but also sharing it with one another, finding ways to support and encourage one another (when we remember), or simply talking about it (which we do about once a month over dinner). In the past year, several friends have also set an intention and it’s been a nice way to connect at a deeper level.

Here are just some of the intentions that people in my life have set and shared with me.

By now, you’ve likely already come up with your intention for 2018. If not, pause for a moment, don’t think too hard and notice what comes up. Pick a word that you feel a strong connection to and are excited by. This is the fuel for your journey ahead.

Now, here are some of my practices to keeping the intention top-of-mind:

  • Journal on it at the start of the year (i.e. now) and every month or two
  • Share it with those close to me (and now that includes you)
  • A quick daily reflection, capturing in one sentence an observation or thought on how my intention appeared (or didn’t) in my day
  • Making the word visible in the physical space around me

Now that you know my intention, I’d love to hear yours. Happy New Year!


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Kunal Gupta is the Founder & CEO of Polar. Follow his leadership blog at At Polar, Kunal leads a talented team transforming the media publishing industry with technology. He is passionate about leadership and finding focus in a modern era. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Medium or Twitter.

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