Making New Year’s Resolutions: Tap Into the Power of Intention
Originally published in the Huffington Post – December 31st, 2013
Have you ever set your New Year’s resolutions only to find a few months after that you lost interest, moved onto something more urgent or just ditched the idea altogether? It’s not enough to set goals — what’s missing is tapping into your intention. Here are five ways to help you achieve your resolutions, and enjoy the journey along the way.
The Myth of New Year’s Resolutions
A new year indicates a new start, and it’s easy to get excited about that. Out with the old patterns that did not move us forward and in with brand new goals that will change everything. What is often overlooked is that the reason resolutions often do not work is because you are starting out from a place of frustration or judgment about the situation you wish to change. “I want to lose 10 pounds… and I’m so fed up with how bad I feel in my clothes, and how I can’t resist eating late at night.” Every new year, while there’s often a honeymoon period where your motivation is high, when the inevitable challenges or setbacks appear (life happens), the critic’s mind is primed to chime in with negative messages. “I knew you couldn’t do it, there are too many distractions, it’s too hard…” What is really hard is fighting back the discouraging and constant messages of the inner critic. That’s where intentions come in.
Why Intention Matters
Your intention is far more than the goal or objective you have set. It also includes how you want to feel along the way. Let’s say your goal is to finish a marathon next year. Your intention could be to make the training fun and social. If your goal is to learn a new sport or instrument, your intention could be to feel alive and joyous just because you are making time to practice it. Ask yourself: What kind of experience do I want to create as I’m moving towards my goal? Can I be on the lookout for my own self-critical messages and set it up so that I appreciate just showing up, which is half the battle anyways? Here are five steps to move forward:
1. Accept where you are
When thinking of a resolution, self-acceptance goes a long way. Instead of coming from a place of judgment and pressure, come from a place of curiosity and meaning. “What would it be like if… This matters because…” Instead of making lofty and long-term goals that are not sustainable, set up some baby steps which allow you to feel good about being in the process of moving forward. Focus on something for a month or two. Some research says it takes 21 days to change a habit, some suggests 66 is the magic number. The point is, you get better at whatever you practice. Give yourself some love for even little victories.
2. How you want to feel inside yourself
Deliberately set an intention of how you want to feel while moving towards your resolution. Realize that challenges are part of the journey. What will you say to yourself when they come up? Do you want to focus on and appreciate your efforts, rather than only your results?
3. How you want to feel with others
How you interact with the people around you, also contributes to how you will feel while you are working towards your goal. If there are other people around, set your intention for the kind of interaction you would like to have with them. (calm, harmonious, fun, etc.) What would that look like?
4. A tip from top athletes
Top athletes are taught that doing their physical practice sessions is not enough. They have to visualize themselves doing their best and actually experience how they would feel in that state. They are encouraged to run a mental movie of what they would be like as they work towards and finally achieve their goal. Imagine yourself achieving your goal. In your mental movie, how do you feel? What would you say to yourself in your mind, what emotions would you experience in your body? Research from University of Chicago has shown that athletes that visualized their progress had very similar results as those who physically practiced. Visualization activates new neural pathways. This is powerful!
5. Relax in your intention
We’ve all heard that it’s the journey, not just the destination. While goals can be specific and set, intentions should be more fluid and relaxed. Create your intention, the way you want to feel while moving towards your goal, and let it go. You are setting an energetic foundation for progress. By building in your intention with your goal, you give yourself a huge advantage in reaching it. If you can detach yourself from the minutia of reaching that resolution, and surrender to the feeling of achieving it, you may be surprised at how easy it becomes.