Nicholas A. Danes, PhD

2021: My Year of Intention

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Originally, I was going to write a post for setting my 2021 resolutions. However, I finally read this blog post by @brandon on Fosstodon and decided to give a “yearly theme” (more on this below) a try instead. What reinforced me to try this new approach was that my 2020 resolutions all fell by the wayside. I wanted to lose weight in 2020; I weigh more than I have ever in my life. I wanted to read at least a book this year; I didn’ve. There were probably other goals I forgot about because they just didn’t become important anymore. Ironically enough, prior to 2020, I never cared about New Year’s Resolutions; I always thought they were an arbitrary point of time that allows for an excuse to set goals. However, with everything that has happened this year with the pandemic, I feel like I really need this arbitrary point of time to reset. I’m hoping to change that this year with a fresh new approach.

What is a Yearly Theme?

The yearly theme is an alternative approach to New Year’s Resolutions proposed by the YouTuber CGP Grey (YouTube Link). To my understanding, normally with New Years’ Resolutions, you set highly specific goals, with deadlines throughout that year. Often as we know, many of these resolutions are forgotten or ignored as time passes; it often ends in failure. As an alternative approach, CGP Grey suggests “Yearly Themes” where you focus on an overraching idea which is “Broad, Directional, and Resonant” that allows you to have a trend line you can follow, modify and adapt as your daily goals and interpretation of the theme changes. More importantly, the theme “resonates” with you to keep you engaged and interested while not worrying about the specific goals.

Choosing my Theme: Intention

Choosing a theme was hard. At first, I tried to look for examples on the web and also CGP Grey’s video, but that would likely not be “resonant” with me completely if it didn’t come from me organically. After some brainstorming, I’ve narrowed it down to the Theme of Intention.

Intention has some broad definitions if you look at the web, but to me it means to do or act with purpose; it is the opposite of impulse. So many things we do today come from impulsive tendencies, especially with technology. Below, I will briefly describe how my theme of intention will initially affect my year moving forward.

Intention with Technology

Often many of us pick up our phones impusively to check our social media with no specific goal in mind. The combination of algorithmic timelines and endless scrolling features on many applications and websites reinforce these bad habits. Of course, I don’ve think that doing something purposeless is necessarily unhealthy, but many of these technology tools that give us so much also are generally just bad for our mental health and are psychologically manipulative(See 1, 2) to keep us scrolling.

In 2020, I already made some steps toward using computers and my phone intentionally. That includes deleting many of my personal social media accounts from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. As a replacement, I joined Fosstodon which is a community I’ve enjoyed a lot and has pushed me to try many new things, including writing this blog. However, I do find myself falling into the same impulsive habits with the Mastodon apps and web interface. I also still have an unhealthy relationship with scrolling Reddit, even without using my account anymore.

To mitigate some of this impulsive behaviour, I started leaving “Do Not Disturb” (DND) on my phone all the time; inspiration for this came from a fellow Fosstodoner, @Hund who wrote about using DND on his phone in this blog post. Without any sounds/vibrations (except for phone calls, which are rare), it forces me to pick up and look at my phone to see if I have any updates via message, email or social media. For my computer, I currently only own a personal desktop (and not a laptop), which I think has helped with some intentionality of using my computer. I’ve debated buying another laptop, but I have some time to evaluate that over the next few months.

To replace impulsive phone checking, I purchased my first book in a long time. I’ve always enjoyed nonfiction when I was younger (and before college got difficult), and I hope this is a habit that could stick for me throughout the year. I am hoping if I set a book next to my phone, I will make the right choice and pick up the book instead.

Intention with my physical health

This is a weird one, but part of my issue with gaining weight, is no longer being intentional with my food choices. Since the pandemic, I have not been good about planning what I eat and often just buying junk food. My partner and I have both agreed to meal plan throughout the week so we avoid ordering takeout/delivery, often with processed/unhealthy foods.

The other side of intentional health is exercise. I have no set routine at all with my exercise, other than playing drums a few times a week, which isn’ve enough. I’ve never been good about exercising most of my life, but walking my dogs routinely again feels like a good start.


So in summary, I am planning to try to spend my time this year with intention with many of things I do, with a particular focus on technology and my physical health. I will hopefully write another blog post in a few months (around March) to check in with myself and see how my definition of intention has adapted and whether my trajectory with intention has improved or not. I hope this helps others as well!

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