4 easy intentions to set for 2021

Shauna Niequist, one of my favorite writers, was featured on a recent podcast. She talked about an angel visiting Mary and leaving her with a special assignment.

“I want an assignment,” said Niequist. 

I want can’t-miss-it clarity, a special purpose, the certainty that I’m on the right path doing the right thing, and that it matters.


Most of us want purposefulness and a reason for our lives. We want to make a difference. We want our life’s work to matter.

As a young mom, I drafted a chart that included space for relational, physical, spiritual, mental/emotional, educational, and financial goals.

I wanted to be a better wife, and mom, and friend. I wanted to handle my emotions and finances wisely. I wanted to learn and grow. Continually.

And so, at the beginning of each year, I filled in the chart with goals … because we were encouraged to set goals back then instead of making New Year’s resolutions.

And then last month I stumbled across an article by Elle Harris about setting intentions.

Her point is that the end-of-the-year holiday season tends to bring out the goodness and generosity in us.

And wouldn’t it be better to start the new year with all that kindness instead of waiting until the end?

“But,” you say, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

By intention, I don’t mean something I hope to get around to someday. I mean, “Here’s the target. Here’s what I’m aiming my life and decisions and habits toward.”

Inspired by Elle Harris’ article, here are 4 intentions that will dominate my target practice in 2021:

1. Grow kindermore compassionate

This is a long-term thing. God is working to shape me into this person every day. It won’t happen overnight. 

But it will happen—little by little—as I practice kindness and compassion.

2. Appreciate better

I want to pay better attention to the gifts in my life—people being at the top of that list. 

I want to speak gratitude more frequently, to notice the kindness in others and remember to say, “Thank you.” 


3. Improve my eyesight

How many homeless people do I not see in this affluent, mostly white, destination resort town where Dan and I live? Too many.

My eyesight needs improving. I need to pay better attention to God’s gentle prodding when we intersect paths with someone carrying a heavy load and we’re able to lighten the load. 

4. Create more

This is something I do regularly, but there’s room for improvement. What if we created more, not only for the joy of it, but for the double joy of giving away our beautiful, imaginative handiwork as gifts?

Do you build birdhouses, doll houses, or people houses? Conceive delicious, edible concoctions? Write poetry or write songs? Design wedding gowns or design furniture? Knit or embroider? Repurpose old junk into cool new stuff? 

What can we make in 2021 that will be an astonishing gift for someone?

There’s a verse—1 John 3:18—that sums up my intentions for 2021:

My children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

What if …

Dan and I talked about continuing our 25 Days of Christmas throughout 2021. 

Not that we’d have the capacity to give gifts or do an act of service 365 days in a row. 

But as a point of accountability, a goal, an intention to help us notice the lonely and hungry and heartbroken among us. 

Shauna Niequist, in her podcast, asked if it’s possible that our divine assignments are where we are at the moment: 

Today, right now, use what you have and who you are and what you love and what you’ve learned.

Use your bruises and your scars and your dreams to serve and heal the world today. 

And then do it again tomorrow.

For the goal setters among us—and my hand is raised—what if we also set a few intentions and practiced hitting them? 

What if we catalogued the results? And what if in the process we get soaked in deepest joy?


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  1. Kristen Johnson

    I love this!! I guess I kind of started this. I took a planner I wasn’t going to finish and every night I’m writing down one thing that I’m grateful for about my girls each day. They are adopted and came with some issues, so they can be a challenge, but I wanted to remember to be grateful for them even on the hard days. Here’s to a 2021 full of intentions that we strive for every day.

    • What a wonderful idea, Kristen … and an excellent way to push through the challenges. I love it! Yes, here’s to 2021 intentions and the ongoing “target practice”!

  2. Tanya Neelon

    This looks like a wonderful organization to help throughout the year!


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