Happy New Year!
I have to admit, like most people, I've never been great at New Year's resolutions. I would set goals that weren't quite attainable, based on an arbitrary start date, and it all became too much. And then I'd give up.
"I will go to the gym seven days a week."
Oh wait...that would mean going in at 4am on Thursdays.
These things are LOUD. It makes them simultaneously effective and from the devil.
"I will never yell at my kid again."
"I will stop drinking coffee."
Laughter is better than abject terror, which is what a life without caffeine looks like to me.
"I will complete coaching training, launch a new business, get certified, create a website, write a weekly blog post, learn all about marketing and sales, and fill my practice within six months."
(If any of you has done one of these things successfully, congratulations!! Please realize you are a unicorn and need to share some of your magic dust with the rest of us, ok?)
So I'm moving on from resolutions and replacing them with intentions. Intentions are similar to resolutions, in the sense that you are planning to make a change, but they're more focused on a conscious purpose than a specific act. Perhaps even more importantly, intentions acknowledge that you may never get to perfection, and that's okay. The meaning is in the journey, not the destination.
You might not actually get to the summit, but the view here is pretty great too, right?
"I intend to be more present - to notice what gifts are right in front of me instead of always focusing on the future and what I don't have, so I don't miss out on experiencing the true joy of living a good life."
This intention statement allows you to experiment until you find what works best for you in fulfilling your purpose, instead of focusing on one specific act that will supposedly solve all of your problems. For some people, starting a mindfulness practice might help here; for others, throwing their phone in a lock box during family dinnertime could be the ticket. It could take a few failures or tweaks before you learn what will truly work for you in a more permanent way.
But isn't that just a wishy-washy way to let yourself off the hook?
Some might say that if you don't have a specific goal, you won't achieve your purpose...but having and connecting with your purpose naturally draws you to change your behavior in a meaningful, lasting way. You are pulled towards better behaviors by your purpose, rather than pushing through a behavior change to meet some measured goal.
This concept has been a bit of a mental game-changer for me in the last few months, and I'm still working through it. My former engineer / project manager / corporate self is still telling me that only SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, results-based, time-bound - goals will work. In the corporate world, everything must be measured, assigned a value, and tracked. SO. MUCH. TRACKING.
My current self is realizing that when you spend all of your time setting and tracking SMART goals, you miss out on actual life and can even repel the things you want to achieve (success, happiness, health) because you're too focused on measurement. You never step back and actually think or dream about what your business or your life should actually look like. The thinking and dreaming are important - they ignite your purpose!
Enough about SMART goals. Back to intentions.
These last two examples are a little more specific, for those who can't quite let go of the goal idea (I get you!) and need something to measure. You need to include that purpose, though (in italics).
"I intend to participate in some sort of physical activity every day, even if it's just a 15-minute walk around the block, because it makes me feel healthier and more alive."
"I now realize how important rest is to my mood, focus and productivity, so I intend to go to bed by 10:30pm most nights."
Life goals, right here.
Note that both of these are attainable - they don't expect perfection, and missing a day here or there isn't failure. But when you do miss a day, focusing on the purpose can motivate you to try again - and again - and again - because there is real meaning in what you're striving for.
The bonus to all of this? Intentions aren't tied to any specific date. You can start today, if you know what you'd like to improve in your life. Or you can step back and really think about it for a few weeks to hone in on that purpose, and you'll be surprised at the different ways you'll discover to fulfill it.
So - what do YOU intend? Leave a comment!