By adjusting your approach to goal setting and changing how you respond when you are faced with an obstacle, you can use the new year to grow stronger, feel more inspired, and become more empowered. Here’s how.
1. Release the Need to Follow Arbitrary ResolutionsAt this time of year, people are setting goals and resolutions and posting about them all over social media, which can sometimes inspire but other times deflate your mojo for making positive change. One of the most important things you can do to pave the way toward a successful shift in the new year is to make sure your intentions are personal and come from your own desire to grow. Goals that are set because they sound good or because other people in your life are setting them will not stand the test of time, nor will they provide the happiness you seek. Just remember to be realistic when setting goals so it is easier to hold yourself accountable and accomplish them.
For example, if your goal is to wake up an hour earlier for meditation every morning, but you are only setting this goal because you feel like that is what “good meditators” do, your inner ambivalence will prevent the change from taking root. You’ll likely flounder when the going gets tough because you aren’t connected to why it really matters to you. Perhaps meditating in the evening or during your lunch break really would suit you better. Or perhaps, if you are being honest with yourself, meditating isn’t actually high on your personal list of priorities right now. Just because articles and books say you should do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Do a little soul-searching to make sure you are following your own inner desire, not just following someone else’s prescription.
At the same time, watch out for goals that once lit you up when you set them, but have become arbitrary and less compelling. As a writer, I once set a goal to write a new blog post every day of the week; however, when it came time to review that goal, I realized there was no reason to maintain such high expectations of myself when the work wasn’t flowing easily anymore and I wasn’t truly enjoying it. I realized the goal was an arbitrary expectation I set, and there was no reason for me not to scale it back to a few posts a week or month. Once I cut back, I enjoyed the work so much more. Sometimes you can get so hung up on checking off the boxes that you may forget why you are doing it in the first place.
2. Set Intentions Instead of ResolutionsAnother really important consideration might just sound like semantics but makes a big difference in your attitude. When you clarify what you want and call it a resolution, there is an expectation and rigidity about the outcome (e.g., lose 10 pounds). When you enter into a new year with an intention, however, you shift the focus from the outcome to the actions you are willing to take to get to where you want to go (walk for 30 minutes in the morning before work). Perhaps instead of trying to lose weight, you eliminate 10 pounds of fat and replace them with 10 pounds of lean muscle. If you only measured your success by the numbers on the scale, you would not have met your goal. Setting intentions instead of resolutions is more empowering because it speaks to what you can control, while also creating some breathing room around the results.
You also leave room for the magic of the universe when setting intentions rather than resolutions. If you are so attached to your resolution that you aren’t open to other possibilities, you could miss out on something even better than you had imagined.
When I was a senior in high school, I met a monk on the train on my way home from visiting the college I really wanted to attend the following year. While I believed with all my heart that I was meant to go to that college, my conversation with that monk shifted something within me, leading to me apply to a university that was completely different from any I had ever considered. Had I been so attached to the outcome of my goal to go to XYZ university (or had I been so attached to the book I was reading, I wouldn’t have indulged in the conversation with the monk in the first place), my life would have taken a radically different route. I wouldn’t have the incredible life I have now, that is for sure. Set positive intentions and show some love for yourself and the mysterious ways of the universe.
3. Make Your Goals MeasurableIntentions are not the same as wishes. You can’t just “intend” to pass the Bar Exam, without “resolving” to study with diligence. Treat each item on your intention list with care as you assess what is needed in order to bring it to light.
It can absolutely be your intention to “be kinder to animals”; however, it would be of greatest benefit (to you and the animals) if you consider what that intention really means. Does it mean stopping to pet more dogs you see in your neighborhood? Or does it mean eliminating meat from your diet?
Get clear about the small steps you want to take and make them measurable. If you decide to try meatless Mondays with your family, you can clearly check off when you achieve the goal. Each time you reach your goal, you fortify your commitment to that which matters most. Vague intentions like “be kinder” can be a great starting point or guidepost, but you are only really going to see results if you set measurable milestones along the way.
4. Make Your Intentions Visible and Review Them OftenYou’ve probably heard of vision boards, but if the thought of creating one feels overwhelming, try simply writing your intentions on Post-It notes and hanging them on your mirror or desk to stay motivated.
Have some positive intentions around your nutrition or health goals? Post a picture or love note to yourself on your refrigerator door. Do you want to develop your meditation practice? Set alarms on your smartphone with affirmations and prompts to slow down and breathe. Or make your laptop wallpaper your intentions for 2020 so you see them every time you sit down to work.
It is crucial to keep your intentions at the forefront of your awareness, so they don’t fall by the wayside and you can see your progress. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Set yourself up for success by reviewing your intentions regularly and visualizing them coming to fruition. Yearly, monthly, or even weekly vision/inspiration boards can give you just the focus you need to stay on track.
5. Cultivate Self-Compassion for When “Life” HappensAs you sit with all you desire in the coming year, practice connecting to the greater intention of self-improvement and personal practice. When you aim to make positive changes out of love for yourself, the universe shifts to support you. When you practice compassion toward life’s obstacles or slip-ups, you actually strengthen your ability to succeed.
You will fall at some point. In fact, you might fail. But will you find the motivation to get up again? Will you dust yourself off, thank life for its lessons, and get back on the metaphorical bike? Love yourself the way you would a small child and see if your world doesn’t feel just a bit sweeter.
May your New Year’s intentions be born of a desire to benefit all beings everywhere.
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