For most, January 1st always starts with a full page of wishful goals. Things like exercising more, getting organized, increasing family time, building my business, and something vague like “live life to the fullest are always on that list.
Either I’m having mega déjà vu, or these resolutions look pretty similar to last year’s…and the year before that.
If resolutions were easy to keep, then I wouldn’t be writing this piece right now, and you wouldn’t be reading it—which bodes the question…
Why can’t we just set goals and meet them?
Resolutions can be great starting points to set us off on the right path at the beginning of each year. But the truth is, they won’t do much good if we can’t focus to get them done.
So I’ve decided to put the long list of goals aside and I think you should too. Don’t make this year’s resolutions a plate of last year’s leftovers, instead, set intentions.
It might seem like a matter of semantics, but the difference between resolutions and intentions runs much deeper than the dictionary definition.
Intentions switch our focus from the what (like losing 10 pounds) to the why (to feel fantastic). While resolutions usually look like short-term actions, intentions are about shifting our mindsets to reach long-term desired outcomes.
Your intentions like to be in the lead. When you set good intentions, your actions will follow. If you’re a yoga-lover, you may have heard the wise phrase, “righteous intention creates righteous action.” If you let intentions lead your actions, change will follow.
Compared to short-lived resolutions (did you know that almost all of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February?!) intentions are durable and resilient. By getting at the heart of your goals, intentions will serve you throughout your life, not just for a season.
While resolutions are fixated on the future, intentions are grounded in the present moment. The resolution “I want to become more organized” directs your attention to what you hope to be like sometime in the future. While future goals aren’t bad, it’s intentions that can actually get us there. As John Spence said, “What you do today determines who you will be tomorrow.”
Oftentimes, our resolutions are stuck in categories like our health, our job, and our finances. But intentions reach beyond these categories.
For example, one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. But, if you dug down to the heart of that resolution, you may realize that what you really miss about being healthy and fit was the energy and confidence you had.
While losing weight might be part of the solution, there are a lot of other ways you could win back that energy and confidence, like joining that adult group or team, diving into a topic you’re passionate about, or spending more time with people who bring that positive energy.
Setting intentions takes more reflection than writing down resolutions. Let’s break it down in a few steps::
The first step in setting your intentions is to dig deep into the motivations that are driving your goals. These deeper drives propel us forward and keep us motivated.
To get to know the “why” behind your goals, sit down with a notebook and pen, look over the resolutions you’ve made, and ask yourself why you want to reach each goal. Don’t stop after asking yourself “why” once. Keep asking until you feel like you’ve landed on the base motivation behind your goal.
For example, say you have a resolution to find a better job in 2021. After asking “why,” you may answer something like, “because I’m tired of feeling super bored at work.” After digging a little deeper, you may realize that you’re not spending much time at all, whether at work or not at home, doing what you’re passionate about.
The deep desire behind that resolution could be that you want your life to feel more exciting, driven, and purposeful. Getting a new job would certainly help, but so would volunteering for an organization that inspires you, spending your weekends invested in old hobbies you used to love, or taking a class on a subject you’ve always been curious about.
When writing New Year’s resolutions, it can be tempting to focus on the things we don’t like about our lives and what we wish was different. By identifying the “why” behind your goals, however, you can turn negative resolutions into positive intentions.
Using our example above, the resolution to “find a better job” only emphasizes how much you don’t like your current situation. On the other hand, an intention that gets at the heart of the issue sounds much more intriguing and positive: “In 2021, I will pursue what makes me excited, feel driven, and gives me a sense of purpose.”
Now write them down. Write each one down by hand on sticky notes and slap them anywhere you’ll be sure to see them every day. Imagine how much more encouraged you’d feel seeing “pursue what makes me excited” versus “get a better job” stuck to your bathroom mirror every morning.
Every day, meditate on your intentions, even if it’s just for two minutes (like while you’re brushing your teeth). Now and then, reflect on your progress and see how your intentions have guided your actions in ways you couldn’t have foreseen on January 1.
This year, I’ll be right there with you setting and meditating on my intentions. My biggest intention is to stay enthusiastically consistent with my goals and not give up even when life shifts and changes throughout the year.
How can you focus on your “why” instead of your “what?”
Give intentions a try. Choose 2 or 3 and stick to them. And if you want to lean on some support along the way, join the LEAN program, where we work together to build the foundations for the healthy life you’ve been wanting.