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Do you set new year’s resolutions? Decide to exercise more, drink less, or save more money? Or do you laugh at people who do this, not wanting to set yourself up to fail? The new year is a great time to change, to get a fresh start. However, if you set unrealistic goals, or even worse, not try, you are not very likely to achieve what you truly want. Instead, let’s explore the possibility of setting a New Year’s Intention, a guiding light for the year, that is much more likely to get you the results you want, long term.
Why a New Year’s Intention?
A new year’s resolution is something that we promise ourselves to do, no matter what. We resolve to drink less, start a new diet or exercise every day. We are often very aspirational in our goals, setting the resolution we think we should do rather than something we can and want to do.
What happens when you have resolved to exercise every day, but you miss one day because, well, life? You have broken your resolution so you might as well give up. You go back to your usual habits and not much has changed. In fact, you may actually be worse off than before because you have once again failed in your resolution, reinforcing any negative feelings you may have around your ability to exercise regularly.
What if instead we decide that our intention for the new year is to exercises more? That we will go through the year actively finding ways to incorporate more exercise in our life. In this case it doesn’t matter if you skip a day (or a week) you can come back to this intention at any time.
If you actively work on your intention, you can take small steps to incorporate a new exercise habit that works in your life. You can start with 10 minutes a day. Or with putting on your gym clothes as soon as you wake up. You can incorporate whatever small habits that takes you closer to being a person who exercises regularly and you will have set yourself up to win, rather than to fail.
This doesn’t just work with exercise but with anything you want to change in your life. My suggestion: try to find what would make the biggest impact in your life if you could improve it and make that your new year’s intention.
Not sure where to start? Let’s do an exercise.
Reflecting on the Past Year
Start by thinking back on the past year. Not about what’s happened in the public arena but what has happened to you. Take some time for this and use prompts to help you remember:
- Look through any photos you have taken throughout the year
- Take a look at your calendar
- Go back and review your social media feeds
- If you keep a diary or any other kind of notes, review those as well
As you go through and remember your year, consider:
- Is there anything you want to leave in 2021 and not bring into 2022?
- Is there anything from 2021 that has brought you value in life that you want to bring with you and maybe even explore further?
Set Your New Year’s Intention
As you consider where you are and what would really make a difference in the new year, it is time to set your intention. An intention is not a resolution or a specific habit like “I intend to go to the gym everyday”.
Instead, a new year’s intention is the area of your life you want to have a focus on in the coming year. The area of your life that you feel would bring the most benefit to your life if it you made progress in it like…
… your health
… your finances
… your movement habits
… your stress
… your sleep
If you still find it difficult to narrow down what intention would serve you the most you can check out the What can I do to change my life and become my best self? blog post or consider the areas below:
Here are some of my past intentions that I hope can help inspire you as well:
- Improving my physical health
- Recover from PTSD
- Changes my eating habits to be in line with my values
- Weight management
- Understanding my personal finances and making them intentional
- Improve my mental health
As you can see many of these overlaps like improving my physical health and weight management. It’s been important for me however, to work on them as separate intention. This is because I want physical health so that I can do more fun things, not just as a tool to manage my weight.
What would make the most impact in your life, if you could change or improve it in 2022?
Using Your New Year’s Intention
You have set your intention? Great! Now what should you do with it?
My first recommendation is to write it down and put it somewhere you can see if every day. You want your intention to be at the forefront of your mind throughout the year and out of sight out of mind…
Once that’s done there are two ways you can work on your intention:
Passively Work on Your New Year’s Intention
When you passively work on your new year’s intention you don’t actively try to change anything. Instead, you use the intention as your guiding star. Every time you need to make a decision you make the decision that is most in line with your intention.
Is your intention better mental health? Let’s say that some friends invite you out for drinks. When you decide what to do, you consider what is best for your mental health:
How is your mental health impacted by seeing these friends?
How is your mental health impacted by drinking alcohol?
How is your mental health impacted by not going?
By looking at very decision in the light of your intention you will be able to slowly nudge your habits towards your intention, towards the life you want to live, without having to make huge changes all at once.
Not sure which decision is best for your mental health? Try one way and evaluate how you feel, then you are in a better position to make a more informed decision next time!
Actively Work on Your New Year’s Intention
If you want to take a more active approach to your intention you absolutely can. But as with all behaviour change, it’s usually best to start small. With something that feels achievable. And remember to evaluate.
Not sure where to start? Use the personal management cycle to learn more about what you are trying to change, make a plan on how to move forward, systemise it, and finally, review how it serves you.
Read More: The Personal Management Cycle
Your New Year’s Intention is Not Limited to 1st of January
Every day is a great day to start a new habit. With the framework of your New Year’s intention, you are grounded you in your pursuit. You will have times during the year when you can actively work on your intention. During other times, a passive approach will work best.
Finally, remember that your New Year’s intention is something to be excited about. It is something that will take you into a better future. Make that a future you can’t wait to lean into. A future where you can try different things, learn as you go and even be excited to fail forwards.