Intentions for 2021

During the first week of 2021, I’ve been setting intentions for 2021.  I reflected on 2020 and evaluated all that happened in a memorable year.

I stopped making resolutions and setting rigid goals many years ago, but I like to start the year with some thoughts about how I want this next year of my life’s journey to proceed.

Setting Intentions for 2021 -- photo by Alex Belogub on Unsplash
Setting Intentions for 2021 — photo by Alex Belogub on Unsplash

To celebrate a new year, it’s a popular custom to choose a motto and word of the year. I like this practice. Last year, my WOTY was ‘determination’ and, it took much determination to face the uncertainty brought by the pandemic. For 2021, my motto is ‘hard things are hard’; my word of the year (WOTY) is acceptance.

Why chose ‘hard things are hard’?

This motto comes from a quote attributed to David Axelrod, former advisor to President Obama. I chose ‘hard things are hard’ to remind myself that retirement is no cakewalk, especially during a pandemic.

For too many months of 2020, I struggled with surviving the pandemic. I patted myself on the back just for getting through a day with some small accomplishment. I abandoned pursuits that took effort.

Getting through 2021 until it’s my turn to receive a COVID vaccine, which could be months from now, won’t be easy. And, after receiving a vaccine, adherence to public health guidelines will be required until some level of herd immunity is proclaimed by Public Health Canada.

Meanwhile, I plan to challenge myself to tackle more difficult projects such as learning Gutenberg to help with my blog.  I’ll also challenge myself to use my camera more often and to sort the mishmash of digital photos on my computers.

Word of the Year for 2021 — Acceptance

After rejecting several ideas for a word of the year (WOTY), I decided that acceptance would help me to undertake and receive what life offers. I wanted to use radical acceptance but the addition of the adjective would count as two words.  I like the concept of radical acceptance as it seems more action-oriented but I’ll shorten it to acceptance.

In early December, I listened to a CBC radio journalist who advocated the use of radical acceptance as a positive mental health technique. The journalist argued that fighting the reality of what’s happening with pandemic restrictions or, any challenging life circumstance, can lead to bitterness and resentment.

When I looked into the meaning of radical acceptance I learned that it is based on a type of mental health treatment, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, that is based on the concepts of acceptance and change.

These ideas are similar to Buddhist concepts of accepting yourself and what happens rather than getting attached to ideas of how things should be. When we don’t accept what’s going on around us, we create suffering for ourselves.  There’s no point in holding tightly to fixed beliefs especially in situations that are beyond our control.

Because so much of what happens in life is beyond my control, I’ll strive to accept what I can’t control and work to change a few small things. Instead of fighting to re-create what I knew as ‘normal’ in the past, I’ll seize this opportunity for radical acceptance of what’s happening around me.

The addition of radical as a modifying adjective represents complete and absolute acceptance — no bargaining, no negotiating, no re-framing. I’ll try to do this in a good-natured, warm, and caring manner.

Change is the second aspect of radical acceptance.  It’s benign to simply accept what’s happening without trying to make changes for things you can control.  Change is sometimes defined as a variation to the usual way of doing things.

Change is one of the only constants in life. It may come from technology, from economics, from public policy.  It may happen gradually or drastically as a result of an earthquake, a severe storm, or, as we’ve recently experienced, a pandemic.

My WOTY, acceptance, and my motto, ‘hard things are hard’ come together when dealing with change.  It’s my intention in 2021 to accept what’s happening around me, to do what I can to make changes, and to understand that doing so won’t be easy.









12 Replies to “Intentions for 2021”

  1. Back at last! My word for the year is similar to your, Jeanette. It is ‘Adapt’ which we have already practiced this past year. This year it will be a more intentional adaptation. In two months time we move from Markham to the west coast where, except for a handful of family members, I know no one. It will be a new home, health care, environment and culture and there will be a great need to adapt. Thanks to Covid-19 and Zoom I shall be able to continue my book club meetings and weekly, world-wide family get-togethers, while bridge on line should not be interrupted. The biggest hurdle would be the additional flight it will take to visit my family in South Africa, whenever that becomes possible again. I Shall adapt!

    1. So glad to have you back!
      I’ve been thinking of your move to the West coast. Choosing ‘adapt’ as your WOTY is appropriate for all you will face. When we moved here four years ago, I confronted similar changes. You have moved many times in your life, including the relocation from South Africa to Canada. I’m sure that you’ll deal with the challenges and adapt with your usual positive attitude.

  2. Chrysalis. That’s my word for me for 2021. Thanks for bringing me to it.

    1. A great word! I can tell that you are anticipating more changes. May your transition be one that brings more beauty, compassion, and wisdom. You have come through some choppy waters.

  3. That quote is similar to one I heard from a guest on the Oprah show many years ago. “Pain and suffering are inevitable, misery is optional.” That quote has stayed with me and rings so true,

    1. Hi Rose, I checked Google and they attribute it to an old Buddist quote. It is also attributed to the Dalai Lama. Regardless, it’s a great reminder that we create our suffering by our reactions.
      Be well,

  4. Your reference to everything constantly changing and the need to expect that as part of normality reminds me of a motto adopted by staff at a school where I was a governor: “Shift happens,” and although they were more likely to use the colloquialism on which the motto was a wordplay, it got the message across.

    1. I’ve often heard this colloquial expression! I’m sure it helped staff members accept and manage many tough situations. Sometimes, we need to do/say something to normalize what seems impossible!

  5. My motto would be “more is not always more” and my word would be “succumb”. I have a history of fighting things I cannot change. I have been fighting health care for so long, I have become even more jaded than when I started. I now realize doing “more” is disadvantageous to my mental health. And I do succumb (perhaps your version of accept?) to the idea that I cannot change the world. I believe it actually takes a multitude of voices singing the same song. I have opened up my heart to choices I would never have “chanced” decades ago. Especially after 2020, I can even now feel more kindly towards my fellow humans, as groups or individuals. Believe me, some days the effort to feel kindly towards others can be a challenge, take January 6th, but I do try!

    1. Hi Barb,
      There’s so much self-wisdom in your comment. From my yoga journey, I’m learning that fighting an outcome creates suffering — for me and for others. Thus, my word choice for 2021 is acceptance. So much of what happens to us is beyond our control and fighting to get a happier/better outcome often fails. I agree that when many advocate for a change, the possibility of success is greater. I wish you good luck with your motto and your word of the year for 2021. Stay strong in your convictions!

  6. I like the idea of setting intentions. And I like your choice of the word “acceptance.” Your post reminds me of a quote, I think it goes something like – Change is inevitable; Suffering is optional. I also think it is very helpful to focus on the things we can change. I hope you 2021 is a good year for you, and I look forward to reading in your blog posts how great you make it. Enjoy your day!

    1. I love the quote you sent! It reminds me that suffering happens when we cling to preferred outcomes. Sometimes things just ‘happen’ and we need to accept or fight against the outcome. I’m hopeful that I’ll get better at acceptance!

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