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5 Steps to a Purpose-Driven New Year

There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
C.S. Lewis

In a recent post, I shared some of the flaws in my past goals that set them up for failure and ultimately led to big ‘ole flops.  

Which only caused me to feel incredibly discouraged, disappointed, and even…as if I myself was a failure.


For more on that, check out my previous post:New Year’s Resolutions: Flaws that Encourage “Flops”

Despite my history of unrealized goals that left me jaded and caused me to entirely give up setting New Year’s goals for a time, I have since changed my viewpoint.  I now understand the importance of being, mindful, strategic, and purposed about my days.

Without intentions, without direction: I find myself aimlessly expending my days enslaved to a routine. I find myself distracted, I find myself seeking comfort and convenience, I find myself living a life of no real impact.  

And I don’t want that. I want my life to be purposed.  I want to have an impact that is lasting, significant, and as intended by God. 

I want to be grateful for, and present in, each blessed moment. 

I want to be confident in my uniqueness and who I am in Christ. 

I want to be radiant. Completely consumed by God’s love and acceptance such that it exudes from my very being…God’s love shining brightly through my actions and in the way I show love and compassion to others.

Living with Purpose: Setting Intentions to Direct my Days

To ensure my days are lived with purpose and in pursuit of the things that matter most, these days I choose to participate in setting intentions at the start of the New Year.

I want to point out: I like to think of them as “intentions” rather than “resolutions” or “goals,” as it helps me focus more on a way of “being” and establish “life principles” to guide my days, rather than having a list of things I set out to “accomplish” and check off my list.

At the end of each year, I have adopted a practice wherein I reflect on the previous year and mindfully set intentions for the new calendar year.  My past New Year’s goal setting failures have provided me with valuable lessons that have helped me “fail forward” and transformed my intention setting practice into something that is life-giving, full of purpose and passion, and surrounded by self-compassion. 

My intention setting is centered around the desired mindset I’d like to embody in the year ahead, the motivations and passions God has placed on my heart, and the values/principles I want to guide my days.  

Here’s what my New Year intention setting process looks like today…

5 Steps to Set Intentions for a Purpose-Driven New Year


It’s hard to know what’s working and what needs to change in your life if you don’t have any awareness around what’s broken or needs improvement.  

Dwelling on or grieving over the past is usually not very helpful: in fact, oftentimes it can just keep us stuck and/or steal joy from our present. However, taking time to reflect on past experiences in an effort to learn and grow is extremely beneficial.  

Before setting my intentions for the New Year, I like to reflect back on the last year.

Think back on the moments.

I think about the highs, the lows…the things I’m grateful for, the areas that were particularly challenging.  I think about the individuals who were impactful and encouraging to me throughout the year (also considering which folks I want to reach out to specifically to pass along my gratitude and appreciation).  I think about areas of progress and areas that still require focused attention and growth.  

There are a number of things I think about as I reflect on the past.  The aforementioned items are only a few examples, intended to get you started on your own reflection journey.  

As part of my reflection exercise, another thing I like to do is look back at my past journal entries.  This is extremely informative, as it helps me recall the events that took place, feelings experienced, and lessons learned.  It also helps me acknowledge wins and identify opportunities for growth.

Looking back on pictures from the past year (such as those posted to social media or those on my phone) also have such a way of stirring up nostalgia and gratitude from experiences in the past year that had been blurred from my memory.  Looking back on those snaps of moments in time helps inform my reflection time.  

Pictures of past moments help me think about how I want to be diligent to protect the time in my schedule for future moments of connection with my loved ones, how I want to embrace being present and in the moment each day, how I want to pursue my passions, how I want to plan times for travel to allow me to grow my understanding of other people and cultures around the world, how I want to welcome in more peace to allow me to truly enjoy and savor life.

Your reflection time may look different from mine.  However, the important take-away is this: I encourage you to create some space and invite in some quiet to allow you to reflect on 2018 so you can be more mindful and intentional about how you walk into 2019 and the actions you want to take in the next year that support you in achieving those intentions for the year ahead.

Step #2: Focus on Core Values

For me, it’s incredibly important to remind myself of my core values: the principals that guide my days.

My core values are grounding and unique: based on my purpose, passions, and personality.  Some of my own core values include (in no particular order): Love, Spiritual Growth, Compassion, Connection, Integrity/Authenticity, Creativity, and Gratitude. 

We are each wired differently and created with our own unique purpose in life; therefore, we have our own set of “core values” that resonate with each of us.  If you haven’t considered what your “core values” are, I encourage you to do so.  To get you started, I suggest doing a “Google” or “Pinterest” search to find a list of core values.

Take a look at that laundry list of values: what are the 5-10 core values that resonate most with you? What words create passion within you? What words embody the things that are most important to you and your life?

Step #2: Establish a “What Matters Most” List

In addition to my core values, I also have a list of What Matters Most (“WMM”) that encompasses my “big life goals” in line with my core values.

While core values generally remain the same over the years, my WMM list can change based on the season of life I’m in or the priorities God has placed on my heart.  

I find revisiting my WMM list at the end of the year and/or the beginning of a New Year is a great exercise.  I also like to revisit it periodically throughout the year (typically monthly) to make any necessary updates as life progresses.  My WMM list helps me be more strategic with my days, because they inform the smaller, more attainable goals I set each day to get me closer and closer to my longer-term goals (which are in accordance with my core values).  

Essentially, my core values and WMM list help me make sure I’m being intentional, purposed, and mindful with my days.  They help me keep me on course, and revisiting these items periodically helps me be accountable to myself and also ask myself if any adjustments need to be made.

Step #3: Select a Word for 2019

As part of my intention setting for the New Year, I like to select a word or phrase that is an overarching theme: an anchor that keeps me grounded.

Last year, my word was “Hazak” – a Hebrew word that means “be strong” or “be strong and may we be strengthened.”

This year, I selected a new word to kick-off 2019.  What’s my word? Ahh, patience, friend.  More on that in a post later this week.   I know, I know, you’re probably thinking: “you’re killing me, Smalls!!”

But my ask for your patience is intentional, as I want to dive into more detail around my process of selecting a word and what this year’s word means to me.  I’m hoping by providing some insight into my own process it will help direct you and help you avoid some of the overwhelm and perfectionism that crept into my own selection process.

So stay tuned.

In the meanwhile, start to think about potential word options as you think about your “word for 2019.”  

What word embodies what you would like to see or experience in 2019? Share with me in the comments. I’d love to hear about the words of empowerment and encouragement you’re considering for 2019!

You don’t need to hone in on one word just yet.  My upcoming post will hopefully help you in your search and selection process: however, in the meanwhile, just let the ideas fly and come up with a potential list.

Step #4: Highlight Themes to Ground You in 2019

Considering my core values, as well as the season of life in which I find myself, I created a list of various themes that encapsulate what I want to prioritize and focus on this next year.  

Some of these things I included in my list are the following:

  • Awake: remaining present (not in the past or future), making the most of each moment
  • Calm: all is well, and even when it’s not (even when I feel like I’m going to be consumed by my circumstances) – it will all be well because God is with me through all things and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
  • Simplicity: maintaining a “less is more” mindset; being mindful about and prioritizing the tasks, people, and things I allow in my life through the filter of “What Matters Most” (e.g., commitments I say “yes” to, possessions I welcome into my home, the people with whom I spend my time, etc.)
  • Focus: keeping my values and WMM at the forefront of my mind each day; prioritizing the tasks to be accomplished today, refraining from multitasking, and leaving tomorrow’s cares for tomorrow
  • Silence and solitude: an emphasis on seeking quiet alone time to seek direction and intimacy with God; turning inward to understand and process through my emotions and thoughts and seeking guidance and discernment from God
  • Applause of One: striving to please God and achieve “success” by His standards, not others’
  • Purposed: living each day with purpose and intention, as if it were my last
  • Gratitude: living from a place of abundance and gratitude, choosing to see the value in each moment: even the difficult moments are gifted opportunities for growth
  • Little Loves: loving in “little” ways – remembering no small act of kindness is irrelevant or wasted effort; prioritizing the value of the moment with each individual who crosses my path (including strangers); loving in ways never seen or recognized by others; loving even when it means I don’t receive love in return; caring for others in ways prompted by God, even when I can’t see the benefit or purpose behind such acts of kindness
  • Allow, release, receive, and trust: releasing the desire to control and my desire to plan my future while maintaining a spirit that is willing to receive, allow, and embrace whatever God deems best and leads me through; trusting God holds my future and allowing His plan for my life to unfold (releasing ALL control); trusting that God will use all things for good – even the most gnarly and grotesque seasons and flaws in my life; accepting difficult circumstances and challenges that I would not choose for myself, knowing that God’s ways are higher than my ways and all will be well because He is with me and will use any hardships to produce good character and growth within me
  • Truth Seeker: busting lies that confront me each day, accepting only to believe that which lines up with Scripture and is consistent with what God says about me; when triggered, turning inward with curiosity to seek out clarity of my internal world – asking “what is true?” and seeking understanding the of root of my feelings

Life is a Journey: Live it with Purpose to Make the Most of it!

This intention-setting process is a practice that helps me push against the perfectionistic tendencies and black-and-white thinking to which I’m susceptible. 

I find I am more prone to lean into self-compassion and welcome in more peace.  I’m more able to let go of striving after very specific metrics and/or standards to strive after and accomplish. and instead focus on living out a mindful and intentioned life.  It also helps me welcome in more flexibility and let go of angst.  

When I remember life is a journey, it helps me stay grounded in the fact that I’m not in a race and have nothing to prove. My life will look different than yours, and yours will look different than mine. 

It helps me remember that each day is a gift, full of many blessings if only I have eyes to see and ears to hear.  

It helps me remember that it’s not all up to me. God knows what’s best for me, and He is with me always.  He will be with me each step of my journey and has a remarkable plan for my life. And a remarkable plan for your life. A remarkable plan for ALL of our lives.  

As I follow His lead, I am beginning to experience joy and peace more and more each day.  I’m becoming a person who is grounded in faith and trust, a person who of faith who is steadfast no matter the circumstances that surround me.

I am a person who knows that God has a plan and purpose for her life.  So, I set intentions at the beginning of the year to remind myself of that fact.  

Now it’s YOUR Turn!!!

Living with intention and purpose is incredibly important.  So, I encourage you to set intentions for 2019.  

Begin to envision the year ahead.  Start asking yourself some questions.

Questions such:

  • If you knew this was your last year in this world, what would be important to you and how would you want to spend your time?
  • What kind of person do you want to be this year?  What do you want to focus on? How do you want to feel?  
  • How do you envision your “ grateful, confident, radiant self”?  When driven by purpose and passion, what does he/she pursue?
  • What core values drive you?  What are you passionate about?  What makes your heart bleed? What makes your heart smile? 
  • What does your “what matters most” list look like in your own life? 
  • What changes need to be made in your life such that your days are grounded in your core values and aimed at achieving things on your “What Matters Most” list?

Remember: life is a journey

Just take one day at a time.  Be intentioned today, and then be intentioned tomorrow.  Seek God’s support, seek God’s direction.  

Soon enough: you will be living a well-intentioned, purpose-driven life.  

And that, my friend, is where good character is built and true joy and peace is realized.

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