Does anyone make New Year's resolutions any more, or have they gone the way of rotary phones, typewriters, and record players? Given the current flood of change in our lives would most of us simply resolve to not be over-whelmed by change?
Recently someone said to us, "I no longer have goals, only intentions." This got us thinking: what's the relationship between resolutions, goals, and intentions? We were particularly curious which of these would be the most helpful as we said goodbye to the world-as-we-know-it (Thank you, Mayans!) and embraced the dynamics of this brand new era.
So we did a little research.
Between 40 and 45 percent of us still make New Year's resolutions, but—surprise, surprise—very few of us keep them for long. Most of us barely get past a few months before abandoning them as folderol. However, people who do make resolutions are more likely to achieve them than those who don't. This falls into the "Duh!" category, and it is something to keep in mind when not making your resolutions this year.
The big problem with resolutions is we tend to focus on what we think is wrong with us when making them. The top three resolutions are to loose weight, get organized, and spend less money, in other words, we see ourselves as fat, disorganized, and poor. No wonder we send that finger-wagging nag packing by the onset of spring. Several years ago we made a resolution to drink more champagne, and honestly it is the only resolution we've kept (and still keep years later).
While goals can be rooted in our dissatisfaction with the present, they tend to focus more on a vision of a positive tomorrow (i.e. I will be svelte, ordered, and rich). They reflect our hopes and dreams of a better future. Good goals are SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. When we achieve a goal we either live happily ever after, or, as is more often the case, we go about setting another one. Hopefully we take time to drink some bubbly before moving on.
But what about all of those bigger lifetime ambitions, like being healthy, patient, open-hearted, and enlightened? Intentions reflect these deeper aspirations and arise from our commitment to act from our better selves today. They express how we want to be in the world. We may have broad intentions like to be patient (a life long intention for some of us), as well as specific intentions like to be patient at this meeting with this person (name withheld).
Because intentions are about focusing our awareness in the moment, we are in charge of them regardless of what is going on around us. So if we maintain our intention to be patient no matter what she says or does at the meeting, we have been successful (pop the cork!). While there may be challenges beyond our control as we pursue our goals, when it comes to our intentions the joy stick is on our hands—and minds.
At the risk of making a camel-like proposal, we suggest making inten-goal-utions for 2013: commitments to positive goals reflecting your deepest intentions.
Intend-goal-utions start with intentions. How do you want to be in 2013? Healthy? Connected in authentic ways? Bringing your gift of fill-in-the-blank to your work and others? Dig deep. Ask yourself, "What really matters now in my life?"
Next, create a couple of goals that reflect your intention. Make them as positive and fun as possible. For example, "To be healthy I will eat well for my body." I will:
~ check in with my body to sense what it needs before I eat.
~ stock the kitchen with healthy foods I really enjoy.
~ take time once a day to prepare a delicious and healthy meal.
Finally, as studies and common sense indicate, if you don't resolve to change, your chances of being successful drop to almost zero. In the words of Woody Allen, "Eighty percent of success is just showing up." Combine showing up with intent and goals, and you are almost guaranteed to be a winner.
Remember when the teacher told you to take a piece of paper and fold in half lengthwise? Let's start there. In the left column write your intentions for this year. What really matters now? Highlight three of them. In the right column list a couple of specific goals for each starred intention. How appealing can you make them?
Pick the goal(s) that speaks to you the most. For the month of January see how successful you are in pursuing it. What are the challenges? What support do you need? At the start of each new month in 2013 (or on the new moon) review your list of intentions, make any necessary changes, and pursue a few of your top goals for that month.
A toast to all of you and your 2013 inten-goal-utions!
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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