I have never been a fan of New Year's resolutions — mostly because most people make a habit of giving up on their goals. I like setting goals based on my birthday -- a private date that’s just for me and not for anyone else.
I used to work in a business that derived a lot of its sales from customers making New Year's resolutions. You could always tell when people would give up on their goals, based on when sales in the new year would drop.
In that business, it was March 15th. After March 15th each year, sales would drop like a rock. I guess that was the date most people gave up.
In addition to changing the day of the year by which to base one’s goals, I’ve also been playing around with not setting goals at all. Instead, I’ve been experimenting with setting “intentions.”
So as opposed to setting a goal of “losing 10 lbs by X date,” I’ve been focusing more on setting the intention of being healthier in every aspect of my life every day.
The problem with goals is if you miss it or you run into a setback, it’s very easy to get discouraged and to give up. In fact, getting discouraged and giving up is so common it’s the norm.
What I like about intentions is that every day is a new day when it comes to intention. If my intention is to be healthier in every aspect of my life, even if today was a bad day or last month was a terrible month, it’s okay.
That’s because today is a new day, and the same intention can be applied to today with no spill-over effect from whether you fulfilled your intention yesterday or not.
I had an incredibly busy and stressful year end. Despite my intentions, I did not get much exercise in at all. But today, my situation has changed and I followed through on my intentions and was able to make it into the gym.
It felt good to exercise again. It was hard. My body fought me on it. But it felt good by the end.
I know this idea of intentions contradicts my prior comments on setting specific goals. But hey, this is the real world and I go with what works -- as opposed to what can be elegantly defended in an intellectual sense.
My current take is to set specific goals when the specificity of the goal is important and the objective has a definitive deadline. I like the idea of setting intentions when you’re focused on something that is more a way of life and/or a way of being.
For example, it is my intention to be emotionally available, safe and present to the important people in my personal life. It’s hard to set a numerical goal on something like that. I suppose I could set a hard target on having three meaningful conversations with family and friends each week.
But how exactly would you define what’s a meaningful conversation versus what's not? Also, what if you only had two meaningful conversations this week. Does it mean you “failed?”
I tend to think not.
So what are your intentions for this year?
It’s worth thinking about now... and re-asking yourself this question at the start and end of each day.