It’s a brand new year, a time when people often make resolutions. Not me. I set intentions. Remember an earlier blog post (May 2022) on reframing our self-talk? To me, intention, defined as an aim or plan, has a more positive connotation than resolution, defined as “to settle or find a solution to.” I want to surround myself with positive people and positive words. I am also replacing “I must,” “I should,” and “I will” with “I want” and “I choose.” Let’s explore how you might set intentions for 2023.

"Moments" is my keyword for 2023. That single word reminds me of what I want to commit to in 2023. I set intentions to be more present and to pay attention to tiny moments of joy, such as the spectacular sunrise on 1/2/23.
“Moments” is my keyword for 2023. That single word reminds me of what I want to commit to in 2023. I set intentions to be more present and to pay attention to tiny moments of joy, such as the spectacular sunrise on 1/2/23.

Move Toward Instead of Away From

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, writes about moving toward something instead of away. Which are you? I confess: when people ask me what I want, I often say, “I don’t know, but I know what I don’t want.” Sound familiar?

This year, I have determined six things I want to do more of:

  • Appreciate beauty
  • Connect deeply
  • Move frequently
  • Create abundantly
  • Improve lovingly
  • Challenge gently

I can hear you now, probably referring to my post from last January. “But Court, those aren’t SMART goals. Where’s the Specificity? Metrics? Actions? Realism? Time-stamp?” Right. But I never called these GOALS.

When you feel like you're about to go under, jot down some of your favorite moments. This form of gratitude can give you a moment of peace and help you reframe your reality. How can you get more joyful moments into your days?
When you feel like you’re about to go under, jot down some of your favorite moments. This form of gratitude can give you a few moments of peace and help you reframe your reality. How can you get more joyful moments into your days?

Set Intentions Using Values

Think of INTENTIONS as values or principles that steer you through life. They are as much a part of us as sleeping, eating, exercising, and breathing. If you can remember what matters most to you at the foundational level, you can use those values to help you make decisions about what to include in your day. Once you know what you value, seek to include more.

The sixth intention, challenge gently, stretches me outside of my comfort zone. I remember the first time I went into Lake Washington on New Year’s Day for the annual Polar Bear Plunge. It was a challenge. Now it’s just a quirky, fun tradition, something I look forward to every January first. I trust that things I currently perceive as stretches will become more familiar and common with practice.

I start my year with my first set intention: taking the Polar Bear Plunge at Matthews Beach. This year the air and water temperature matched: 46 F. Thank goodness for hot tubs!
I start my year with my first set intention: taking the Polar Bear Plunge at Matthews Beach. This year the air and water temperature matched: 46 F. Thank goodness for hot tubs!

Active Ajax Adventures

My six intentions have culminated in a fun “moving toward” challenge. I call it “Active Ajax Adventures.” (AAA for short. I love my shorthanded acronyms!) These will look similar to Julia Cameron’s Artist Dates, only done with my dog. My chosen day is Tuesday, rain or shine. I will do something active with Ajax. This could be a hike in the mountains or a park. It could be “sniffer” training, or nose work, which he loves. We can do something shorter like visit an off-leash dog park. Or we can find new neighborhoods to explore on our walks. Something new and different every week. For us both. And something I look forward to. No dread.

Ajax on Tiger Mountain Trail New Year's Eve morning 2022. He absolutely loves hiking with me and I love giving him adventures. The "Active Ajax" idea came to me on our 8-mile hike and seems like a wonderful challenge for 2023.
Ajax on Tiger Mountain Trail New Year’s Eve morning 2022. He absolutely loves hiking with me and I love giving him adventures. The “Active Ajax” idea came to me on our 8-mile hike and seems like a wonderful challenge for 2023.

Combining Intentions

What is exciting about this project is it creatively combines all six intentions. By documenting our outings on camera, I will pay more attention to my surroundings (appreciate beauty) while also connecting with my dog. “Active Ajax” means (bonus!) I will be active, too. The “create abundantly” part will play into my choice of location and how I document our adventures. “Improve lovingly” means improving my mood, well-being, self-definition, and exploration of our region. Wins all around!

I’ve even given myself permission to shift by a few days if the weather doesn’t cooperate. If one of us is sick, or if I find myself over-committed on a Tuesday, perhaps Wednesday or Thursday will work better. The intention is to have 52 unique adventures with Ajax in 2023.

Appreciating beauty is one of my set intentions. Mossy logs covered in fungus on Tiger Mountain Trail, 12/31/22.
Appreciating beauty is one of my set intentions. Mossy logs covered in fungus on Tiger Mountain Trail, 12/31/22.

Set Intentions: Try This

Several weeks ago I wrote about using journaling to find your strengths, values, and priorities. If you have that list handy, pull it out. Now, from your list, choose three to six values that you want to focus on in the coming months. Reflect on those values on a few walks. See if some creative idea comes to you that merges all of them together like the Active Ajax example.

If not, that’s totally fine; think of how you can set an intention to get more of that value in your life. Instead of “lose twenty pounds” can you choose a “moving toward” goal like “play pickleball weekly with a friend” or “set a step minimum with a reward for succeeding”? The more playful, the better. And announcing your intention to someone who acts as an accountability partner also helps. I have all of my readers to hold me accountable!

Just one look at my beaming face when I'm out in nature is enough to solidify my commitment to Ajax. We both love it; I'm the one who makes it happen. So I'm setting intentions to document our adventures and share what we learn on this "intention" quest.
Just one look at my beaming face when I’m out in nature is enough to solidify my commitment to Ajax. We both love it; I’m the one who makes it happen. So I’m setting intentions to document our adventures and share what we learn on this “intention” quest.

If you have an unusual intention for 2023 or would like suggestions for how to make it more likely that you will follow through, share them in the comments section below. I love to hear from my readers and respond to each credible post.

Published by Courtenay Schurman

Co-author of The Outdoor Athlete (2009) and Train to Climb Mt. Rainier or Any High Peak DVD (2002), author of Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills/conditioning chapter 4 (3 editions), and Peak Performance column for the Mountaineers Mag (2014-present). Member of PNWA, SCBWI, EPIC. Served on the steering committee for WOTS (2019-present). Completed UW Certificate program for Children's Literature and Memoir. Co-owner of Body Results, Inc. in Seattle. Climb leader with Seattle Mountaineers for over 15 years. Volunteer at Woodland Park Zoo since 2014.

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8 Comments

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  1. Great blog. I love the intention instead of resolution. More positive. Also, “I want and I choose” better than I should and I would.

    Great idea “Tuesdays with Ajax”, and building some options, just in case.

    And documenting it with essays and photos. You’re so good at it.

    Keep doing it. I am reading it and loving it.

  2. I love it. I agree intention is a better way than resolution. More positive. I love “I want and I choose”. Great idea about Tuesdays with Ajax. Also, considering options if something is in your way of your intention. It is easy to skip it and then to skip it again. I know for you setting intentions is easier as you are a person who has already have great habits. 😎

    One of my intentions for this year is to declutter my home. I will do it small steps at a time. It won’t be easy. 😳

    For my photography, I want to find a project to do by the end of the summer. Again, have been saying this for a couple of years.

    And I will continue the great habit of training and hiking.

    Maybe we need to do a costal hike together. I invite you, with all your loves one on Vancouver Island. That would be super cool. So much to do and see.

    Keep blogging. I always look forward to read it.

    1. It appears I got two posts from you on the Intentions blog — it’s an interesting comment you make about my “already having great habits.” Wherever we are, we can ALWAYS improve. I use the concept of “turning the dial one notch at a time” — yes, I exercise regularly and am careful about what I eat, but in the past that has been fear-based (fear of not looking the part of a trainer, of putting on pounds, of whatever) and now this “intention” feels more playful, like I’ve turned a corner and can see and feel more joy. Working on the change blog for the past 18 months I think is really making a difference for me — you ARE what you PAY ATTENTION TO — so you bet, I’ll keep writing!

      Small steps is the only way to go. How do you eat an elephant? one bite at a time. How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time. How do you clutterbust a home? One shelf, one drawer, one closet, one room at a time. You got this!

      And a thought on the photography project: you might want to look around at what others are doing. I came upon my “Active Ajax” goal as a way to really SEE my neighborhood and new things — today’s walk was amazing. Thanks for the invite for a coastal hike — we’ve been watching Alone, people surviving up in BC/Alaska on Vancouver Island – what beautiful, wet, rugged terrain up your way!

      Appreciate the thoughts and keep shooting!

  3. Such a fun post, Court! I’m deeply grateful for your upward vision, and for the positive energy you exude.