Archive of ‘Being Present’ category

Instead of New Year’s Resolutions, Try Intentions.

We made it! The year is wrapping up and we are looking onward to the clean slate and potential of a brand new year! No matter what the past year held, many are ready for a fresh start. We are in a season of optimism, hope, and commitment to change.

With the new year comes the New Year’s resolutions. I’m not a fan of the New Year’s resolution and I’ll tell you why in a moment. But first, a small disclaimer: I believe we mean well when we set resolutions. Looking at life with a fresh lens and committing to making changes we want to make is healthy. When we set resolutions, we mean to commit to ourselves that this is the year that things will be different. This is the year that we will do the thing, take the leap, start new, and close the gap between who we are and who we want to be. Believing in our highest potential is a gift to ourselves.

But here is the problem with resolutions: They set us up to fail. They are outcome-dependent, often designed to be pass or fail, black or white, all or nothing. We either did the thing, or we didn’t. Sure, it is good in the beginning. The first three weeks of January go smoothly. These new habits are hard, but we are adapting. But what happens when life gets messy or we get busy? We start to slip. Regression is a natural and expected part of the change cycle, but it sure doesn’t feel that way when the commitment we made to ourselves was do or do not. There was no try.

For some, resolutions work. I have heard a few stories about people who stuck with their resolution for the full year, reached their potential, and didn’t look back. But by and large, the experience with resolutions is this:

  • At their best, resolutions become something we feel that we “should” do, a pesky little reminder that we are not living up to the dreams we had for ourselves.
  • At their worst, resolutions can make us feel downright horrible. What messages do you send yourself when you are letting yourself down? I doubt any of us are hoping to highlight or strengthen our feelings of inferiority in the new year. Who wants that?

How do we preserve the part of resolution setting that is helpful while ditching the part that can create anxiety, feelings of failure, and inadequacy? I propose we set intentions instead. Intentions are a mental state that provide a framework for the future. An intention is not what we want to accomplish, but rather how we want to accomplish it. Setting an intention is like setting a reminder to yourself of how you want to live your life.

Intentions are different from resolutions because they are disconnected from any specific outcome. When we focus on how we want to live and the traits we want to embody, the decisions we make will align with our intentions. We will grow to choose what is best for us because we are rooted in honoring our ideal selves. Naturally, we will progress toward our goals.

In three steps, here is how you can get started on setting your New Year’s Intentions:

  1. Brainstorm. The answers to these questions will help you generate ideas and clarity for your New Year’s Intentions:
  • What type of a person do I want to be?
  • What words do I wish people would use when they describe me?
  • How do I want to move through life, work, and my relationships?
  • What do I want more of in my life?
  1. Refine. Now that you have a few ideas percolating, try plugging your intention into this sentence: “When given the choice, I will ____________.

Examples of intentions may sound something like this:

  • When given the choice, I will choose peace.
  • When given the choice, I will choose kindness.
  • When given the choice, I will love myself.
  • When given the choice, I will honor my body.
  • When given the choice, I will celebrate my progress.
  • When given the choice, I will be gentle with myself and others.
  • When given the choice, I will be patient.
  • When given the choice, I will listen to my intuition.
  • When given the choice, I will trust the process.
  • When given the choice, I will move with grace.
  • When given the choice, I will follow through on my commitments.
  • When given the choice, I will be present.
  • When given the choice, I will balance ease and effort.

Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Play around with the language. The language I suggest may seem foreign, and that is okay. Modify it it something that fits you.
  • Seek clarity and specificity. There is power is precision.
  • You can have more than one intention, but there is also value in hitting the nail on the head. It will be easier to remember and honor over time if you have one sentence to go back to.
  1. Remind. How will you remember your intention? I suggest writing it down in multiple places. A few ideas could be a note in your phone, in your planner, on your bathroom mirror, a post it note on the refrigerator, taped to your computer monitor at work or under your keyboard if you would like privacy. Writing it down where you will naturally see it will position you to gently guide yourself back throughout the year.

How does your New Year’s Intention compare to the resolutions you have set in past? I would love to hear! Connect with me at [email protected] or on instagram @counselingandyoga.

About the author: Katy practices at Austin Family Counseling where she provides relationship and couples counseling, and counseling to individual adults and teens navigating life’s many challenges.
Katy Manganella, M.A., LPC-Intern is supervised by Susan Gonzales, LPC-S, LMFT-S.


3 Ways to Help Get More Communication from Your Teen

Part 2: Make the Car a “Safe Zone”

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S, CPDT

One of the biggest no-no’s that parents are regularly committing is making the car a place where they connect with their teen.  Your kiddos rely on you for regular transportation, and in the car, there is nowhere to hide! The car is the perfect place to talk, right?

Imagine your teen’s perspective: she’s been “on” all day at school, learning, working, and socializing.  She had to remember her homework in Algebra, her project from Spanish, and her orchestra instrument.  She took a test in Language Arts and a quiz in World Geography.  Her best friend cried at lunch because her boyfriend was being distant, her friend group had some drama about a SnapChat post gone wrong, and her favorite teacher is out for the rest of the year because her mom is sick. Her head and heart are full from an exhausting day.   She gets in the car at the end of the day and shuts the door, ready to relax. Finally, no one is needing her or asking her to do anything.  

Instead, there you are, eager to talk – “How was your day?” “Did you do well on your quiz?” “Is Sarah still mad at Craig?” “Did you remember your project?”  You may have been thinking about her all day and wondering how she is doing, so when you see her, it feels natural to want to check in about all of these things, to show her you care, and to connect.  

However, it is critical that you give her the time and space she needs to decompress first, and that is different for every teen.  Most of them need at least a few minutes to stare out the window or listen to their music, and many of them need much more than that.  Notice their body language and cues – do they seem eager to talk right now? If not, respect their boundary and wait.  Nothing is worse than feeling cornered, even if you have the best intentions.  

And if you do have something import you need to confront your teen about, say their lack of studying in the evenings or refusal to follow your rule of no food in bedrooms, ask them when a good time would be to talk.  Find them at a neutral time at home, such as after dinner or during breakfast, and say “Hey- I want to check in with you about studying.  Would tonight or tomorrow night be better for you? What time?” Give them choices and some power to say what works for them.  Just because the issue feels urgent to you doesn’t mean it actually IS urgent.  Take a few deep breaths and seek cooperation and connection with your teen, not conflict and control.  

For more insight, consider signing up for our Positive Discipline Workshop for parents of teens and tweens!  Click HERE for more info. To read part 1: Why Won’t My Teen Talk to Me?, click HERE.


Sibling Rivalry: Tips for Surviving the Summer

Summer break is here, and if your family is like mine, it didn’t take long for the kids to start getting cranky and fighting with each other, stimulating that sibling rivarly. As the long days of summer stretch ahead, do you find yourself wondering how you’ll survive this sibling rivalry until August? Or, more importantly, whether the kids will make it back for the first day of school in one piece?

By: Julia Fazio, LMFT-Associate; Supervised by Billy Lee Myers, Jr, LMFT-S

By: Julia Fazio, LMFT-Associate;
Supervised by Billy Lee Myers, Jr, LMFT-S

I’ve been thinking about some helpful lessons I learned from Susan Stiffelman’s wonderful book Parenting with Presence that might make it easier to negotiate the dog days of summer with your children.

  1. Let tempers cool first. Giving the kids some time to calm down before you address the problem makes it much easier for them to express their perspective on what happened. Make sure this time is not perceived as punishment, but rather as an important time that they need to feel like their best selves.
  2. Congratulate yourself, this is healthy! Children fight because they need to learn something, even if they’d rather not. Fighting teaches them important skills. However, sibling rivalry undermines their healthy relationship. Try to avoid being the judge and instead focus on facilitating. Ask each kid the same question until they manage to come to a resolution. “Why are you upset, Jack? Emma, why are you upset?”
  3. Avoid comparisons. Comparing kids to one another makes them feel unloved and angry, rather than motivated to change their behavior. Comparison might even escalate the fighting. Instead, try to focus on the unique talents of each child using specific praise, like “Wow, you sure are persistent, you have been working on that Lego building all afternoon!”
  4. Be good enough. You don’t need to do a brilliant job every minute of the day. You just need to be good enough. Try to silence those critical voices in your head that are telling you that you aren’t living consciously enough because you yelled at your kids. Give your heart a forgiving pat and start again.
  5. Prevent problems before they happen. Help your children understand their triggers, and the situations that will really upset them or set off an argument. Once they know what situations will lead to disputes, you can help them identify ways to cope or avoid them altogether.
  6. Remember to Breathe. Arguing children can trigger big reactions in parents, especially when the arguing seems to go on all day, every day. It’s important to recognize when you need to step back and take a breath before intervening in a state of high emotion. Even a minute or two of focused deep breathing can calm you down and clear your mind so that you can act versus react to the conflict.

For lots of helpful scenarios written with a great sense of humor, take a look at Sibling without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. And remember, summer will be over before you know it. All the rough spots will smooth over into one happy memory of the time you spent together as a family.


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