“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.”
― Edith Lovejoy Pierce
As we start the new year, which goals are on the horizon for you? For example, a family trip abroad? An island getaway for two? Or is a career goal on the cards, like a new promotion or job switch? Are you looking to get healthy by starting an exercise routine or making better food choices?
With every new year, comes the opportunity to reset and seize the chance to do things differently. As the saying goes: nothing changes if nothing changes. This is the perfect time to chart a new course for ourselves. And with that invitation to begin anew, we start to dream of new adventures that we want to experience, not only for our personal happiness but also for our personal growth. How exciting!
However… the problem with following the usual tradition of making New Year’s resolutions is that, more often than not, we fall short with the follow-through. That’s partly due to a mistaken focus on intensity rather than consistency, i.e. spreading ourselves too thin with ambitious goals instead of making small changes that will have a major long-term impact. When we start at an intensity that we cannot maintain, our motivation fails. So this January, why not change it up a bit by doing something that carries a little more power and promise?
Don’t just make a resolution. Set an intention!
What is an Intention?
Intention is the motivating factor or the underlying reason behind what you do. When you set an intention—whether for your wellbeing, your career, your relationships, or something else—it should be authentic and inspiring to you personally.
Intentions are different to goals, although they do go hand-in-hand. Goals are specific, concrete, external achievements you want to accomplish in the future. Intentions are what give those goals meaning beyond the end result. Intentions are independent of the destination; rather, they are connected to the feelings you want to experience. When your goals stem from deeper intentions you’ve set for yourself, this sets you up for a greater probability of success. Your intentions empower you, and they ensure that the journey towards realizing your specific goal will align with the emotional quality you deeply desire. Think of it this way – if your goal is the what, then the intention behind your goal is the why.
How to Set an Intention
So how do you go about setting your intention? First, give yourself some time and space (mentally or physically) to reflect. Focus on your values and the emotions you want to feel. Or, if you prefer, you may find it easier to tease out your intention through conversation with someone you trust.
However you find your intention, the next step is simple but essential. WRITE IT DOWN. Why? Because words have power. When you write down your intention, you are taking the first, concrete step toward achieving that dream. Putting pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard, if you prefer) is a courageous action that strengthens your conviction and commitment. By taking what was once just a notion in your head and solidifying it onto the page, you are already making it real.
Writing down your intention is the first step. Next, you’ll create small, achievable goals (or ‘stepping-stones’) that will help you get to where you want to be. Stepping stones will help you break down each step along the path to transformation into clear, specific actions. Give each step a due date. That way, you'll stay on track and accountable for your progress. And don't forget to celebrate your successes along the way!
Intentions and stepping-stones work together to empower you. They keep you motivated and focused on your big dream, which is the surest way toward living the fulfilling life you want to experience in the new year!
Still not sure how it works? Let’s say your goal is to exercise regularly and be healthier.
First, ask yourself: “What is my intention? What is the why behind this goal? How do I want to feel?” Your answer might be that your intention is to feel healthy, strong, and confident in your body.
Now, let’s work on building out and writing down your stepping-stones. For example:
- Exercise intentionally three times a week for half an hour.
- Reduce my intake of refined sugar. Eat fewer processed foods and choose more wholesome foods, like fruits and vegetables.
- Go for more walks.
- Go to sleep at a regular time, so I can get enough rest to function at my best.
As you create your list, you can even break down each stepping-stone further. Remember, the more concrete and achievable you can make these steps, the better! For example, building in more exercise could look like this:
- Yoga or stretching on Mondays and Wednesdays. Exercise with weights on Fridays.
- Walk three times a week. One day will be three miles around the neighbourhood; two days will be two miles on a treadmill during my lunch break.
To really give your intention and goal a super boost, write down a deadline (or at least create a time frame) for when you will accomplish each stepping-stone.
When you’re first starting out, you’ll want to read your intentions and stepping-stones to yourself often. Look them over at least once a day, every day, for the first month. One good tip is to read them every morning, so they’ll be present in your mind as you go through your day. It only takes a couple of minutes, and this regular reminder will help to keep you motivated and committed. After the first month, just check in with yourself to read over your intentions and stepping-stones once or twice a week.
Another good tip is to track your new habits. As I mentioned at the start, consistency is most important in making lasting change. You’ll find lots of habit tracking apps available to help you stay focused and remind you of the small actions you need to take each day.
We all know that achieving any dream or goal takes discipline and willpower. But you can do it, if you put your full heart and mind to it! Remember, the key is to start by putting your intentions, goals, and stepping-stones down in written form. There’s power in putting pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard!
I wish you all the best in your New Year, New You journey. Let me know how it’s going for you!