A new year, a new round of intentions
This is my favorite way to document the good stuff — and I'm happy to share it with you.
Hello, friends! In true My Sweet Dumb Brain style, I’ve written an essay to announce today’s offering. But if you’re short on time or feeling impatient, here’s the tl;dr: Our weekly intentions guide is back for 2024! Next year’s version includes fresh monthly prompts, plus some new features and perks, including:
An exercise to help you think about the year ahead
A weekly reminder to document the good things
A special winter version of the intentions guide, for folks who don’t want to commit to a full 52-week habit
Seasonal Zoom calls to connect and reflect on our intentions
And here’s maybe the biggest announcement of all: The intentions documents are available to everyone, whether you’re a paying subscriber or not.
The very first week of 2023, I went bowling with a group of local widows and widowers — folks I hadn’t seen for years but felt close to all the same thanks to our shared misfortune. Like me, they are all relatively young people who lost their partners far too early in life. We indulged in dark humor over appetizers and shared updates on our lives in between bowling frames. Despite having not bowled in many years, I landed my best-ever score: 129. I attributed my personal record to the arm strength I’d gained from carrying around a toddler.
This all happened nearly a full year ago, but I remember it with clarity. I even know my exact score! This is not because I’m one of those people with a picture-perfect memory (my memory is typically fuzzy, at best), but because I wrote about the experience in my weekly intentions document, a practice I’ve now kept up with for two years in a row.
Since January 2022, my friend (and newsletter editor) Becca and I have written down our intentions for each week ahead in a shared Google Doc. At the end of each week, we return to the document to reflect on how we did.
My intention at the start of January 2023 was not to go bowling — it was to do yoga every day, something I managed most days that week — but I reflected on that outing thanks to an addition to the document that Becca suggested, to note a good thing that happened each week. Those good-thing notes are now proof of all the small, special highlights I experienced in 2023 — the year’s “glimmers,” asrecently put it.
In March, I left work early to meet my family at our local farmers market; I can envision the giant smile on my daughter’s face when she saw me walking towards her. In May, I stepped away from a project I overcommitted to (and cried from relief when I broke the news to my work partner). In early June, I took a 4.5-mile walk from the office to my kiddo’s swim class. In August, I paid off my credit card debt, which is something that had been hanging over me for a while. In September, I hosted my neighborhood book club at my house. In October, I relaxed in our backyard hammock for a brief but blissful 15 minutes — no phone, no interruptions, nothing but me and my thoughts.
These are small things. But they matter. Looking back at this year, I’ll undoubtedly remember the big moments — the vacations, work trips, and house projects — but I want to recall the small moments, too. I especially want to remember how they made me feel. Revisiting my reflections from this year, I can remember the explosion of love in my chest as my daughter spotted me from afar. I can recall how sweaty and satisfied I was after that long walk. I am reminded how much lighter I felt after admitting out loud that I’d taken on too much work.
Despite my love for writing and self-reflection, I’ve never kept up a regular journaling practice. I’ve tried plenty of times over plenty of years, yet haven’t figured out a way to make journaling work for me. But keeping weekly intentions and reflecting on those intentions each week is a habit that’s stuck. I genuinely look forward to setting new intentions, even when doing so feels like a chore. Sometimes, it’s hard to come up with a goal for the week ahead; sometimes, I forget to do it at all! When those instances inevitably happen, I remind myself that I can always begin the following Sunday.
Putting some thought into how I want to spend each week helps me take ownership of how I spend my time, instead of letting it pass me by. And considering the average person lives only 4,000 weeks or so, I want to savor the time I have left.
In 2022, Becca and I took our weekly intentions document for a test-drive. This year, scores of My Sweet Dumb Brain readers joined us. And in September, I asked for those readers’ feedback, in hopes of making the weekly intentions guide even better for 2024.
Overall, the feedback was incredibly positive — and we loved the suggestions that you all shared.
“I really love the intentions because they can be small, so they feel manageable,” said Joy. “This doc is a moment of mindfulness and thoughtfulness that I'm really enjoying. And there's an added benefit in being able to look back over my year.” However, some noted they would appreciate a smaller scope to get started on their path to being intentional; while they appreciated the simplicity of weekly intentions, the idea of committing for an entire year was too overwhelming. This year, for the folks who felt daunted by keeping up with a 52-week guide, we also created a seasonal version of the intentions document.
Kate suggested adding a “tell me something good” line, which we gladly incorporated into this year’s guide. “In addition to lifting the moment, I suspect it would be an invaluable boost when looking back on the month or year,” she said. We couldn’t agree more!
Rebecca hoped for some more built-in accountability. We are here for it! With that in mind, we’re excited to launch a new, interactive offering in 2024 for paying subscribers: a seasonal Zoom call where Becca and I will share some insight into our own intentions and invite our lovely community to share, too.
And Danni’s comment filled me with happiness: “I've really enjoyed using it!!! I've been using the buddy version with a friend and I think it's helped to have the accountability. It has also helped me feel closer to my friend. If I notice in the reflection that she had a rough week and vice versa, we'll reach out and offer support and encouragement.”
Heart full, y’all.
Clearly, we had no choice but to bring our intentions document back for 2024. Once again, our intentions guides include monthly prompts, solo and buddy versions, and tips to make the most of the guide. This year, we’ve added some other perks, including an exercise to help you reflect on the year and those seasonal Zoom calls — more details to come in the months ahead.
I hope you’ll consider joining us next year. I really have found so much benefit from keeping weekly intentions and so much joy from reflecting on those intentions with others.
Are you ready to dive in? Without further ado, here are our 2024 intentions documents.
And for those of you who want to try this practice out for a season, our Winter 2023-2024 version is available (and Summer 2023-2024 for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere!).
I know Becca and I both are excited to keep this practice going. We hope you are too!
Here’s to living an intentional year.
Editor’s Note: Now that we’ve removed the paywall, here’s a glimpse at the other extras paying subscribers receive:
Thank you for being a paying subscriber and making this newsletter possible.
💌 Community spotlight
Thank you to everyone who gave our intentions guide a go this year. Your encouragement and feedback made next year’s offerings even better!
👍 Good job, brain
I'm reading: Money and Love: An Intelligent Roadmap for Life’s Biggest Decisions, by Myra Strober and Abby Davisson. Co-author Abby, who also happens to be a My Sweet Dumb Brain reader, sent me a copy of this book, which I’m finding very interesting and helpful. I think it’d be a particularly useful book for someone who’s just starting to think about things like moving in together with a partner or getting married.
I’m inspired by: The example that folks likeare leading. Atlanta friends: Please consider attending this silent vigil on Saturday for the 60+ journalists killed in the war in Gaza.
I’m grateful for: The various freelance work I got to do this year, and the smart people I got to work with. Freelancing can be unpredictable and money worries can be stressful, but this year was a good one for me work-wise. I’m very grateful for that.
I'm aiming to: Get all my work projects and to-dos to a point this week that allows me to pause, put up my out-of-office messages, and focus on time with family, friends and other fun things until the new year.
(Ha, can you tell what’s on my mind lately? Work, work, and a break from work. That end-of-semester feeling is definitely here!)
✅ For your sweet dumb brain
If you’re reading this and have zero interest in participating in weekly intentions, that’s fine! Thank you for being here all the same. I’m constantly thinking about ways to make this newsletter useful and valuable for paying subscribers, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have ideas.
My Sweet Dumb Brain is written by Katie Hawkins-Gaar. It’s edited by Rebecca Coates, who spent 30 minutes of her hour-long therapy session this week gushing about the Sweet Dumb Brain Intentions doc and why she’s grateful to have such a mindful self-reflection tool in place (even though she’s not always consistent in using it!). Join us!
A portion of subscriber proceeds this month will benefit Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit working to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while advancing sustainable climate solutions.
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