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Goals vs. Intentions: How to make resolutions that will last all year

Do you start the New Year with resolutions that you are super committed to keep, just to have them slowly dwindle and die within the first few months? You're not the only one. And really, the problem isn't with you, it's with the goals themselves. In this post, you will learn how to make goals that will last the whole year, so that you can make this year the best one yet!

January is the time of setting goals and thinking about the possibility of the new year and while I am all about striving for more, I am not a fan of New Year's Goals.

I used to make New Year's Goals every year. I'd have a list of 5-10 goals that I wanted to complete by the end of the year and I always felt so certain that I would accomplish them. But I never did. They'd drop off around February or March and then I'd forget all about them until the next year, when I would recommit to them with certainty that this would be year I'd accomplish them...and the cycle continues. Maybe you've been in that place too?

As I've been on my daring life journey, it's been hard to make long term goals because my Inner Compass is often leading me to places not even on my radar. So, many of the goals I think up with my mind don't get achieved, not just from a lack of following through, but simply because my goals change as more of my path is revealed to me. The things that I think will get me where I want to go, don't end up being what I need or even want. On top of that, life is always changing. What seems like a realistic goal one month, seems totally impossible to fit into my life in the next. That has little to do with my motivation–it's just life! So, rather than make goals, I've started setting intentions and it has made a huge difference.

What is an intention?

An intention is the purpose behind a certain set of actions. When you set an intention the focus is on a broader goal rather than a specific end result and most often can be reduced to a single word. With any goal that you can think of, there is a deeper meaning or desire that relates to who you want to be at the root. So much of traditional New Year's Resolutions focus on the doing part without actually trying to figure out what the being part of that goal is and that is why they often fail to last the whole year. When life doesn't go to plan or your priorities change, the doing part can lose meaning and seem less important. When you're focused on who you are trying to be, it stays a priority, even if the actions look different.

For example, let's say you make a goal of working out every day. If I dig deeper and ask myself why, I might say so that I can feel better about myself or fit into my pre-mom sized jeans. If I dig deeper than that, though, ultimately maybe I want to feel more confident or I want to be healthy and able to actively do things with my grandkids someday.

If I only go off my specific result goal of working out every day, when life gets crazy (and we know it always does) when I can't get to the gym as often as I could before, I feel like I have failed and eventually stop doing it all together. Not because I stopped caring, but because other parts of life crept in and took priority over the doing part of this goal.

But if I set the intention of confidence or health, when I can't get to the gym, I can adapt because I don't have any rigid rules. I can think about other ways that I could fulfill this intention that's more conducive to my life at that moment. Maybe it's finding a workout app to use at home or cooking more meals at home rather than eating out. Whatever it is, I have more options because I'm more focused on the being healthy or confident and I can still be successful in that without going to the gym. Basically, with intentions, you no longer have to be boxed in to certain actions and your goals can easily adapt as your life shifts and changes, which means that you don't feel bad, which means you don't feel like you're failing, which means that you don't quit.

Why does this matter?

I believe that personal growth and creating a life you love go hand in hand. Daily striving towards being your best self is vital and having sustainable goals can help you get there. This is why it's upsetting for me to see women, who are genuinely striving for growth, not accomplish their goals–not because they aren't capable or motivated enough–but because they are creating these goals backwards. Not only do they lose out on the personal growth they seek, but they also lose trust in themselves and their abilities along the way too, which affects their life as a whole.

With an intention, you are more focused on the deeper desire or meaning behind those specific goals, making all the work you're doing more meaningful. It is not just checking goals off a list, but a process of becoming something better. As you see yourself sticking with your intentions and growing as a person, you will trust more in your abilities to accomplish what you set your mind to and when a woman has that kind of confidence, she can do anything!

If you have struggled with accomplishing your New Year's resolutions in the past and you're frustrated by fact that you can't seem to keep them going for more than a few months, it's time to try something new. Let's set some intentions right now.

How to set an intention

1. Make a list of goals

Make a list of everything that you'd like to focus on, change, or start doing this year. Don't judge it, just write down whatever comes to mind. This will probably look very similar to your traditional New Year's Resolutions.

2. Group them into categories

Take a look at what you've written down. Can any of them be grouped into categories? For example, working out and eating healthier, might be grouped together because the end goal for both is taking care of your body. Maybe there will be some that don't seem to go together in anyway. That's ok. Just do your best and move to the next step.

3. Uncover the "why" behind your goals

As you look over your goals, ask yourself why you want these things. What will they give you that you don't have right now. If you did these things, what kind of person would you be? Look at your different groupings and see if there is a word that you can use to describe it. For example, working out and drinking more water might be under "Healthy" or "Take care of my body". Take a few minutes and write down all the words that come to mind. The words that come into your mind can vary. Some (but definitely not all) examples are:

Feeling Words: Peace, Patience, Happy, Courageous

Action Words: Serve, Love, Heal, Intentional, Present, Learn, Healthy

Being Words: Patient, Strong, Fun, Aware, Responsible, Compassionate

Write down as many words as you would like. You could set a timer or just write until you run out of ideas. In this uncovering process, try not to edit. Just let the words flow and write them without judgement.

4. Pick your intentions

Depending on how many words you have, you may want to narrow it down to a few. I know many people who like to narrow it down to their "one word," but I personally can't ever narrow it down to just one. This year, I settled on five words. This is all personal preference, so pick however many you want and write them down. How I like to do this is read through all of them and circle the ones that stand out to me above the others. I think about the ones that are left and repeat the process until I've narrowed it down to the ones I want.

4. Expand

This part can take a little bit of time, but I highly recommend doing it. As the year goes on, you may forget why you picked certain words. While it's fresh in your mind, sit down and journal the why behind your intentions. Describe them, what you're hoping to gain as you work on them this year.

For example, as one of my past intentions I chose the word "trust". That could mean a lot of things, but for me in what I was going through at the time, I wanted to trust more in God and in myself, both my intuition and my ability to get through some hard things. Writing that down and having it on hand to guide me throughout the year was helpful and I referenced it many times, especially in the really hard times when living that intention was difficult. It reminded me of who I wanted to be and why I chose this word and helped me to step up when it counted the most.

5. Reflect often

Write your intentions down and display them somewhere you'll easily see them often. Reflect on them whether it's every week or every day and ask yourself how you can live these intentions in your present life.

What do you think? Are you going to try making intentions instead of goals this year? Whatever you decide to do, make sure you set aside some time to intentionally think about the upcoming year and what you want to accomplish, so you can make this the best year yet!

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