OK, as I write this we are approaching the transition from one year to another.  This is the time we normally think about “new starts” for the “new year”.  This is normal as we see the new year traditionally as a time for new beginnings.

I have written before about the fact that we don’t have to wait till January 1 to set new intentions (link to article). In my way of seeing the world, we set intentions every moment with our thoughts and actions. If we want to effectuate change, we can do it at any time on any day. If we think that we only get one chance per year to change…..and we don’t stay with our desired changes, then we think “we blew it”.  Not keeping these big resolutions can inadvertently give us the false sense that we are somehow a “failure” and get down on ourselves.  Let’s release that false belief.

Yet, even knowing that we can always be an agent of change in our lives, I still always seem to take some time at the end of the year to set longer range goals, to reflect outward in my life and consider how I want to make any course corrections.  How about you?  No matter when you are reading this, you can consider your life and what you need to do to bring your actions into alignment with your vision.

As you consider your intentions, you may want to make sure that you review all areas of your life, not just the ones that come to mind initially.  One way to do this is to use the integral model of looking at life as popularized by philosopher Ken Wilber.  Here is a link to a longer overview of integral, but lets simply consider the basics here:

As a person, we experience life in four ways (this is integral’s “quadrants”)–those ways are: (1) within our minds and consciousness from our perspective as a distinct individual; (2) within our bodies and physical world interactions as that individual; (3) within our minds or consciousness in relation to other people (such as cultural and interpersonal understandings); and, (4) within our physical world in interrelationships with other people and things (such as our social systems–jobs, government, etc.).  Within these 4 perspectives of experiencing the world, we can also parse things into the different areas of our lives through which we develop and grow —much like our various “intelligences”.  These various intelligences/abilities are called “lines of development” in integral and can be such things as our cognitive ability, our social skills/intelligence, various physical skills and abilities, musical talent, emotional skills, our spiritual intelligence, etc.  This builds on (but is not limited to) the “multiple intelligences” described by Howard Gardner (link to Wikipedia article).  As we “grow” or “develop” upwards on each line, our growth moves us into higher “levels” or “stages”–generally permanent changes in our skills and abilities that we maintain from that point forward. (See note at bottom regarding other areas generally considered in integral theory).

So how does knowing about this integral way of informing my life come into play as I set my intentions? Let’s consider how integral supports our resolutions in three general ways.

One way is for us to remember that in each of the four ways of experiencing life, each of the developmental lines also has the potential for  “growth”.  For example, if I had as a resolution to learn to play the guitar and “grow my musical ability”, then I do so within my own consciousness by learning internally the notes and chords and how to read music, I do so physically in the outer world by developing my skill in actually playing the guitar, I develop an ability to understand internally what others are doing and saying as they show me how to better my skills and play with them, and I learn to actually physically play the guitar with others.  As I set an intention to “play the guitar”, it might be wise to consider all the ways that I develop that skill.  The same is true for each “resolution”. As you consider any resolution, consider how your actions play out in the four areas of your life.

The second way is to look at all of the four quadrants or perspectives and make sure that you have some goal that is key for development in that area of your life. Are you setting intentions for growth at the personal level internally and externally?  Are you setting intentions for growth at the interpersonal level with the world both internally and externally?

The third way is to review the various “intelligences” or “abilities” and make sure that you have considered all of the various areas of your life that you may want to grow.  The questions below will help you with this.

3 Step Process for Creating Integral Intentions

So now, lets briefly consider a 3 step process for setting resolutions or intentions…..new year ones or anytime:

Step One:  Sit down and brainstorm all of the various resolutions you have been considering.  Write them down.  (Examples:  Lose weight, exercise more, learn a foreign language, learn to play the guitar, spend more time with my friends and family)

Step Two:  Review these questions designed to have you consider all aspects of your beingness.  As you read through them, stop and add any new ideas that come to mind to your list of resolutions created in Step One.


For each of the resolutions that you wrote down, what actions or goals do you want to set as it relates to the four quadrants (or ways of experiencing life)?  

EXAMPLE:  See example above regarding playing the guitar.  Here’s another—considering the goal of losing weight— (1) What do you need to learn (personally-internally) in order to lose weight? (You may want to be familiar with what is a balanced diet, the calorie counts of certain foods, the exercises that you can do.) (2) What do you need to do in the outer world to lose weight (personally-external)? (These are the actual actions of your diet and exercise and any measurements you are making to mark your progress.) (3) What agreements with others do you need to make in regarding losing weight (interpersonal-internal)? (You may want to discuss with family members/spouse your goals and get their support and encouragement along with their understanding of certain behavioral changes they may see in your working towards your goal.) (4) What actions do you need to take out in the world with others in regarding losing weight (interpersonal-external)? (Maybe you are joining a fitness club or setting a schedule of walking or exercising with others?  Maybe you are buying new foods with your spouse?)

Have you set any intentions that relate to the growth or enhancement of your internal awareness/consciousness?

Have you  set any intentions that relate to the growth or enhancement of your physical body or worldly skills?

Have you  set any intentions that relate to the growth or enhancement of your interpersonal relations with others?

Have you  set any intentions that relate to the growth or enhancement of your interactions with the outer world of your career or answering your life calling?

Have you  set any intentions that relate to the growth or enhancement of any of the following areas of your life that call to you:  intellectual ability, musical ability, verbal ability, artistic ability, logical-reasoning ability, bodily movement ability, ability to relate to nature, spiritual growth?

Have you  set any intentions that relate to the healing of any areas of your life where you feel incomplete, unworthy or need to heal some limiting beliefs?

Step 3:  With the additions that you made to your list in step one by considering these questions, revise your list of resolutions.  If you believe that you have too many to focus on at this time, prioritize it down to a manageable number (whatever that is for you).  Take that list of resolutions and create a list of “actionable items” with “target due dates” for each one.  Transfer this list to your calendar or other system of tracking “to do” items.  If appropriate, post this list somewhere.

EXAMPLE:  Let’s say that you originally had a goal to learn a foreign language.  After going through the questions, you ended up with the following list of “actionable items” and due dates:

  • Obtain software/book for studying language by {date} (or sign up for class by date).  [external-individual goal]
  • Study language 5 times per week for 1/2 hour per time. [internal-individual goal]
  • Set agreement with friend to check in with you on your progress by {date}. [internal-interpersonal goal]
  • Meet with language coach or class support group to practice language once per week starting {date}. [external-interpersonal goal]

Finally—have fun with this!

Our time here is supposed to be fun as we move through our personal evolution.  Don’t see these goals as drudgery or something that you want to avoid.  See them as opportunities to experience life to the fullest and something to enhance your experience during this lifetime! Remember–if you get off of your goals, don’t beat yourself up—instead just get back on target!  And—as you accomplish your goals, don’t forget that you can always set new ones!

Happy evolving!


NOTE: Although integral also considers states of consciousness (awake, dreaming, altered, etc.) and the various typologies (such as whether you are male or female or your Myers-Briggs score and so on), for the purposes of our intentions we are going to keep it simple and only consider quadrants, lines and levels as briefly described above.


Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!