New Years is a time most people reflect on goals and resolutions. It is also a time when we jump into new endeavors only to find they are short-lived. What goes wrong? When we are too caught up in a specific behavior change we forget to acknowledge the overall reason we want to make the change in the first place. Is it based on what we’ve heard would be good for us or is it based on what we need or value in this moment in our lives?
Goal setting helps us see the future, understand what we want, create a plan and stay on track. The downside is that it takes us out of the moment and emphasizes what we don’t have in our lives. We tend to set goals we hear are good for us and force it upon ourselves, hoping it will lead to greater health and happiness. Setting goals that are not aligned with our truth and values will oftentimes lead to failure. When we experience failure, our self-esteem and motivation tend to decrease, leaving us feeling stuck and hopeless.
Intentions, on the other hand, are about who you want to be, what you value, and how you wish to contribute to the world. So, if the specific habit doesn’t stick, the general intention will. For example, an intention could be to be more physically active. If you join a gym and hate it, there is no need to abandon the idea completely. You might try hiking instead. Selecting an intention will also stimulate your brain to look for other opportunities to engage in this behavior, whereas only focusing on a single way will cause your brain to shut off once it is marked off your checklist. Intentions allow flexibility, focusing on the overall theme instead of the specifics.
Setting and living your intentions based off your values allows you to focus on who you are in the moment. This raises your emotional energy which in turn raises your physical energy because you are meeting yourself where you are – not where you think you should be. When our intentions reflect our values we can let go of outcomes. If we value expressing ourselves through writing we can let go of perfectionism by just showing up to write that blog or that difficult email. We don’t need to get caught up in self-judgment or high standards. Mastering the “art of showing up” helps make this behavior into a habit. By continuing to write, even for two minutes a day, you become the person who writes every day.
Sometimes we become preoccupied with goals because we are deeply uncomfortable by feelings of uncertainty. Not knowing what the future holds can be anxiety-provoking leading us to invest more fiercely in our “preferred” vision of our future – not because it will ultimately help us achieve it but it gets rid of uncertainty right now. What would it mean to turn towards uncertainty and embrace it? We can have a broad sense of direction without a specific goal or precise vision of the future. We can drift with purpose. Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where opportunities for success, happiness, and growth are waiting.