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Set Intentions, Not Resolutions

Annual happenings like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and the beginning of a new year are times that lend themselves to reflection and goal setting.

As we all know, the last few calendar years have looked quite different for many people, and they have been filled with waves of uncertainty and tension. While this uncertainty can sometimes build, uncertainty offers an opportunity to reevaluate and examine what we want our lives to look like as we move forward.

As we step into this next chapter of a brand new year, here are some tips to set yourself up for success:

  • Switch from Resolutions to Intentions:
    Resolutions are often set in things we think we should do (lose weight, eat better, etc.). Research shows this extrinsic motivation can lead to change, but usually not sustainable change. The reality is by Feb 1st, most resolutions have dropped off.

    On the other hand, clear intentions are plans or aims you prioritize, which are more aligned with intrinsic motivation that are worked towards over time, and offer a much more realistic approach to personal growth. For example, a resolution of losing weight or eating better can be changed into an intention of seeking more vitality in your day-to-day life 
  • Set Realistic Goals:
    New Year’s resolutions are commonplace at the beginning of the year. As you think about aspects of your mental and physical health, it is important to set realistic goals that matter to you. Don’t let others, social media or culture pressures dictate your specific goals and expectations.  
  • Be Kind to Yourself:
    Self-compassion is a critical capacity that allows us to grow. Have grace with yourself and you work towards achieving your goals and remember that things change and there is only so much you can control. 
  • You Know Yourself Best:
    There is no better expert on your deepest desires than you. Trust your inner voice and prioritize it in the coming year.

Here are some questions to help you reflect, learn and grow into your best self in this next chapter. 

  • Who do you aspire to become in this next chapter?
  • What thoughts, mindsets, or attitudes from this past chapter do you want to continue to serve you in the future?
  • What relationships can you invest in, create and redefine in this next chapter
  • What would it look like if you were the best version of yourself at the end of this new chapter?

These questions are just a starting point for setting your positive intentions. To further develop these ideas, find some quiet time and try the following: 

  1. Plot and Plan:
    Writing down goals is more effective than just thinking about them. Prioritize your goals and intentions by breaking them down into short- and long-term aspects of your life, or another logical categorization. 
  2. Check In With Yourself:
    Make sure the goals you write down are congruent with your actual values and not what you think you should do. Do not “should” on yourself.
  3. Anticipate Setbacks and Changes:
    Use if/then thinking when it comes to goal-setting and intentions. Things rarely go exactly to plan. Create a plan like: If “x” happens then I will use “y” to get back on track. Create contingency plans to bolster your resilience and promote the likelihood of success. 
  4. It’s OK to Pivot:
    If plan A is no longer what you want or isn’t attainable, don’t let perfect get in the way of good. You know yourself best. Constantly evaluate if your current intentions are in line with who you are and who you want to be. 70%, 50%, or even 30% improvement is better than none at all. 
  5. Savor the Process:
    This process is for you and you alone. Embrace it, celebrate it, and fine tune your intention setting as you go.  

Time and change can be scary, and so much going on in today’s world can feel overwhelming. But it is important to remember that with change comes opportunity. Using these questions and strategies can aid in your personal growth now and into the future.

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