Spring is a great time to literally turn over a new leaf. By the time the snow is gone and the ground and trees are covered in new growth, most people who made New Year’s resolutions have abandoned them because they consider them to be failed attempts at reaching their goals.
Some stats show that over half of resolution makers give up by the end of January, and other studies suggest 80% are done by the second week of February. But our own growth and change should never be seen as a failure. I think reframing the way we approach change, improvement, and opportunity will go a long way in getting what we want. As a new season starts, let’s revisit those resolutions. But we can’t simply set goals; we need to set intentions, too.
An intention is a purpose that powers action. It is a great way to increase self-awareness and mindfulness. Intentions can help us reach our goals, but it is also about the vision we see to get to them.
Intentions keep us grounded in the moment and allow us to appreciate the process of working toward our goals. Setting a goal without an intention is like hoping to reach our destination with a flat tire. Intentions influence your experiences. And because of this, intentions can help you feel in control while you navigate life because your attitude and reactions to events — even when not ideal — are variables you can control.
Patience, positivity, and humor require work at times, but when we navigate life with intent, we are telling the universe that we mean business and we won’t let roadblocks or bad days steal our focus.
OK, this may sound like a lot of woo. But setting intentions sets the framework for achieving goals.
I am an alcoholic. I have been in recovery for almost three years. My goal is sobriety, but my intention is to stay sober. I can’t reach sobriety without a certain mindset. Staying sober means I need to be vulnerable, humble, and sometimes uncomfortable. But with that comes pride and confidence. I acknowledge that some days are harder than others, but I also practice gratitude for having the strength to get through those days. Intentions are active, in-the-moment decisions (choosing vulnerability over drinking) that help us reach future goals (sobriety). They are about the energy we give off and are about internal relationships with ourselves and sometimes others to achieve visible goals.
Intentions also allow us to enjoy the journey and not just the destination. We don’t have to enjoy every step of the process, but when we stop looking at success or achievement as an all-or-nothing situation, we are more likely to keep working and to appreciate our progress. The finish line will always be there. Instead of becoming victims to our stumbles or setbacks along the way, we can get to the finish line with positive thinking, visualization, and finding a new course if necessary.
Perhaps you don’t have any particular goal you want to achieve; just getting through your day can be done with intention. Start simple and get your friends, family, and kids in on the act, too. Introducing mindfulness is always a good idea, and you can do that by asking yourself or your kids basic questions.
Some questions to start with include:
- How can my day be successful?
- What will make me happy today?
- What will make me proud today?
- Is there something we can let go of today?
The answers to these questions keep us focused and give us permission to not worry about all of the things, all of the time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a long list of to-dos, but if checking off one or two things make the day a success, then we have reframed the day and our attitude. Intentions help keep us away from self-sabotage.
Sometimes my kids tell me that they want to have fun. That is a great goal. But I ask how they want that to happen. What can they do to have a fun day? What does it look like? What does it sound like? We can’t just say the thing we want, we need to plan for it, too.
When I coached high school rugby, I encouraged my players to see themselves making the perfect tackle. Before I speak in front of a room full of people, I see myself breathe and relax so that I can hit all my talking points. When my kids say having fun means eating ice cream for dessert, I remind them that they need to get through dinner without fighting with their siblings and by eating the meal I make for them.
The proverb from the poem “To a Mouse” tells us, “The best-laid plans of mice and men may go awry.” But with thoughtful intentions, we can get back on track, learn valuable lessons, and still achieve our personal and professional goals.
What intentions will you set this spring?