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Here comes another new year, and with it, the promise of a clean slate. We love to imagine how our lives will improve when we make new year’s resolutions. Somehow it seems like turning a calendar page is all it will take.

Do you realize that New Year’s resolutions don’t work? Think back over the years and gather your own personal data. Did you establish the regular workout routine? Did you lose the 20 pounds (or more) that you’ve been cursing since who knows when? Did you organize the garage and basement? Write letters to your relatives on a monthly basis?

According to U.S. News & World Report, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February – often sooner! But why?

Several issues come into play:

  • Did you have a specific idea or plan for the goal?
  • Did you overwhelm yourself by creating an arm’s length list of way too many changes?
  • Even if your intellectual self knew the change would be the better thing for you, were you really willing to do it?
  • Is it possible your resolution is someone else’s “should” for you?
  • Might you be assuaging guilt or low self-esteem?

It’s important to consider these questions before you enter a wormhole of disappointment and dread as well as excuses and evasion.

Most people use a shotgun approach to resolution setting – spouting off a list of all the things they want to accomplish, change, take care of, and get around to. It might work for a short time while the faucet gasket gets replaced or the ceiling fan blades get cleaned.

But most of the time, those long lists of half thoughts are soon pushed aside for other priorities.

It’s better to choose one major goal that is well considered and give it an ongoing priority for the next 12 months. Here’s how…

1. Look at Your List of New Year’s Resolutions (That Don’t Work)

If you haven’t already, jot down all the ideas you have floating in your head as resolutions for the new year. Then take a step back and study your list.

Do some critical thinking as if you were looking at someone else’s list:

What common themes do you find on the list? For example, eating healthier, establishing a workout routine, losing 25 pounds are all related to taking care of your physical body. Could you lift the focus to a higher level before setting the goal, knowing that those three things are all components of the bigger picture?

What things on the list are priorities? Maybe the organization of different areas at home are not priorities so much as getting clarity about your life. It’s a fact that a cluttered environment leads to cluttered thinking and scattered behavior.

Find what is most important and how some of those things are related to help you find an area to focus on for success because remember, those new year’s resolutions don’t work.

2. Create an Intention for Your Areas of Focus

Intention is a powerful tool and a skill that takes some practice. You are intending – consciously or unconsciously – all the time. It stands to reason that conscious intention puts you closer to a desired result than letting an unchecked subconscious run the show.

After looking at your list, what one or two areas jumped out for you? Once you have those ideas in your mind, use the following steps to set the intention:

  • Sit comfortably in a chair where you will have no distractions. Let others know you need some quiet, alone time for a short while.
  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, letting your body relax and your mind open up.
  • Form an image in your mind’s eye of the thing or state you want to achieve. It must be an image of the ultimate result. For example, if you want a thinner, healthier body, imagine what you look like as that person.
  • Consciously use your senses to tap into the result:
    • Visualize the colors, shapes, people around you
    • Listen to what is being said and the variety of sounds in the environment
    • Smell any aromas, no matter how subtle
    • Taste what is there. Remember, the senses of smell and taste are closely associated. Perhaps you can taste your own fresh breath.
    • Feel the emotions of the experience of being at the end result. Do you feel proud? Satisfied? Joyous? Savor the positive emotions of that moment
  • With that experience in that moment, consciously intend your commitment to being in that end state. That place of achievement, satisfaction, pride, peace – whatever you are feeling.
  • Sit with your new resolve and notice the sense of determination, enthusiasm, and commitment that your intention gives you.

You now have a clear commitment to a focused goal for the new year instead of that random list of new year’s resolutions that don’t work!

3. Write Your Intended Goal

The mind work you just completed is the biggest part of the process, but there’s more to do. Write down your intended goal to make it more concrete and to enhance your commitment to it.

Use language that is affirmative and in the present tense. People often write goals in terms of what they don’t want instead of what they do want. It may feel odd to write the goal as if it’s already accomplished, but that’s the most effective way to actualize it. Follow the old quip, fake it ‘til you make it.

For example, you could write an intended goal for good health:

I am healthy, thin, and fit. I eat a vegetarian diet daily that is often vegan with fresh vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. I engage in physical movement at least three times per week by walking, swimming, or doing Tai Chi. My body weight continues to normalize as I consistently follow this routine, and my health is improving with it. My blood pressure is at the correct level, A1C is in the normal range, and any inflammation-related symptoms are gone.

If you are familiar with goal-setting methods like the SMART goal technique, by all means, use it for your intended goal. Adding specifics and milestone dates or timeframes makes the goal more tangible and concrete.

4. Commit to the Intended Goal and to Yourself

You’ve done the leg work. Intending and writing your focused goal is complete. Check your commitment once again. Your mindset is critical to ongoing growth and success.

Create affirmations that you use as mantras to keep the focus. Write them on post-it notes and put them in places where you’ll see them throughout the day. More important, speak the affirmations out loud….to yourself and especially to others. The more you utter the words into the universe, the more powerful your intention becomes.

An unwavering focus on your intended goal is mandatory. A single, intended goal is much easier to keep focus on and more likely to become reality. If you find yourself straying toward other worries or feelings of obligation, check in with yourself to make sure you aren’t straying too far from the central goal. While you must tend to the matters of daily life, making significant change won’t happen when you become scattered.

This change is what you are doing for yourself, growing toward greater happiness and satisfaction with each passing day that you intend it. Get in the habit of renewing your intention daily.

5. Watch the Change as It Unfolds (Intentions Work!)

Keeping your intention front and center can be challenging at times and may seem like it’s not going as you hoped. Don’t give up. At those times, examine what’s happening and make course corrections if necessary.

Your intention doesn’t have to change unless you have a change of heart. The key is to keep going. Be creative in your approach. Use your best critical thinking by stepping back and objectively observing the situation. Periodically check in with yourself to ensure everything feels right.

One last note about new year’s resolutions versus intentions and goals….changes are not just for the new year. Making change for growth and self-improvement is ongoing, so free yourself of the new year’s resolution mentality by being open to new challenges and opportunities year-round.

You are in charge when you intend your life instead of going in circles with new year’s resolutions that don’t work.