Back to school time is a natural demarcation of a new year for many of us, especially those whose children are in school or are involved in work that revolves around a school schedule. The changing seasons, the upcoming holiday, and the new year are not far away, providing a natural time to pause and reflect on the next few months.
Setting intentions, making goals, or creating a “bucket list” for a particular season is a trendy topic. How many times have you told yourself, “Fall is coming, I would love to take the kids apple picking!” and before you know it, it’s Thanksgiving and you realized you missed your opportunity for this fun family outing?
One way of making the most of a particular time period in your life, like a season, is to set specific goals that will happen during this time. Looking 3-4 months ahead can often feel less overwhelming than looking years into the future. This way, you will feel like special activities that only occur in this particular season haven’t passed you by.
Goals and intentions work together. Setting a goal is simply deciding what you want to accomplish or doing a particular task, like going apple picking with the kids. Setting an intention is being “mindful” while doing that activity. Mindfulness is a skill that I often teach in counseling because it can be helpful for a wide variety of problems. It’s also been proven to reduce stress, making it applicable to many people.
Here’s one easy way to practice mindfulness while doing one of your fall-themed activities: focus on how your five senses are engaged in what you are doing. Going back to the apple picking example, you could focus on how the sun feels on your skin, how the apple trees smell and observe the smiles on your children’s faces.
You set a goal, and now you are setting an intention to be present in the moment and hopefully have a positive experience. This is in contrast to our tendency to focus on the past and the future (for example, thinking about how we are going to get everything done on our “to do” list) when we are doing enjoyable activities). Another way of thinking about the word “intention” is thinking about how you want your experience of the goal to go.
Whether it’s apple picking, going on a hayride, or observing the natural beauty of the changing leaves, I hope you take time to be mindful and enjoy the unique activities of this upcoming fall season.
Alison Pidgeon is a licensed therapist and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a person-centered private practice offering therapy across Pennsylvania.
Visit Alison’s biography to learn more.