It’s that time of year again, (December), where we start taking stock of the year and planning for the coming year. If you didn’t achieve your goals there will inevitably be feelings of failure, followed by a quick justification. That’s IF you are being nice to yourself.
For many, it can turn into a mini internal tirade about being undisciplined, weak, or much worse. (We tend to be harsher on ourselves than we are with others). Another reaction, one I got really good at, is numbing out. Basically you just stop – stop caring, stop trying, stop planning and just exist.
Yes, maybe you do need to give yourself a little nudge every now and then, but maybe you need to reconsider your goal setting ways and look at things a bit differently. There are a ton of articles you can read online about setting realistic expectations, reassessing, creating dream boards etc. but have you ever considered focusing on setting intentions instead?
Setting Goals vs. Setting Intentions
There is a difference. Many of us have a tendency to overreach with goals. If this wasn’t the case there wouldn’t be books, articles and a gazillion posts on pinterest about how to set realistic and attainable goals. Goals are great and necessary, but it is a skill and something you need to learn to do. When we set goals we tend to channel our inner Rick Astley and think we are ‘never gonna’, (those of you born pre 2000 will know what I’m talking about), and the lyrics go a bit like this this –
Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you …
Thing is… you are gonna! You are gonna have challenges, you are gonna have ups and downs and, sometimes, you are gonna have to abort your goals and desert them. The trick is to not look at the direct issue like: the dog getting ill and draining your savings so you couldn’t go on that holiday, or the unexpected crisis at work that required longer hours and totally messed up your exercise routine.
Fact of life is that there will always be something, but how do you deal with that ‘something’ if it’s what knocks you off course or creates massive detours? Having goals are great and I’m not saying you should do away with them, but, it isn’t as simple as making a list. The building blocks of a goal are intentions. Intentions are the secret sauce.
How Does This Work in Real Life You Ask?
Since health and wellness is my focus, let’s use meals at work as an example. You want to stop buying lunch everyday because you want to eat healthier meals, save money, eat less junk food and as a bonus, reduce your environmental footprint by using less plastic. One could argue that these are both goals and intentions, you intend to do all of this and technically yes you do, but goals are results based, whereas intentions are action based.
make your own lunch every day
use less plastic
So you know what you want to achieve, the question is how do you intend on achieving them – What are your intentions? Simple you say, I’m going to get up 30 minutes earlier and make my lunch. Or, I’ll make a bigger dinner and dish up the extra for lunch the next day. Or, I will meal prep on Sundays and make my lunches for the week. One and all great strategies – BUT… What are you going to do when you only got to bed at midnight and you cannot get yourself up at 5:30am to make lunch. Or, what if you ate out with clients the night before and there is nothing to set aside for lunch the next day. Or, you spent your Sunday sorting out the burst geyser.
This is where the beauty of intentions lie. In moments where things are going wrong, goals can seem or feel like they are a world away and unattainable. The more challenges we face the more distant the goal can seem, until we eventually give up. Intentions are about the journey, they focus on the spirit of your goal. Not making your own lunches due to an unavoidable circumstance in no way undermines your intentions.
Your intentions remain and can be attained in other ways. So today you managed to take an apple and topped it up with something small from the local health store. You also managed to eat at the health store. You honored your intentions of eating healthier, using less plastic by not doing take away and saved some money by taking an apple to supplement your meal.
Another benefit of intentions is progression. When we focus less on a single goal and more on our intentions we can’t help ourselves, we progress. Each day, we reaffirm our intentions and commit to them and before we know it, we are getting through an entire week of keeping to the spirit of our intentions. Then suddenly it’s been 2 weeks, a month and dare I say; a year!
Long term consistency trumps short term intensity
– Bruce Lee
We generally set goals because something has to change. Whether that means moving to a new home or eating a healthier diet, it will inevitably boil down to giving up or doing more of something. Change is challenging and for most of us very uncomfortable, which is another reason why setting intentions can be so effective. It is a consistent effort toward a bigger cause, it is not all or nothing and torturous lists. While I love lists, I just don’t see this as helping, which is why a few years ago I changed strategy. I still have lists, but they are far more thought out, and nothing like that time I was clearing out a cupboard and found a list I made in 2005 only to realize it was the same as that years list. Talk about soul destroying.
Whether you are facing the year ahead or trying to make some positive changes, consider expanding on that list of goals. Take a moment to think not only what your intentions are, but how they will serve you and those around you. Change has a ripple effect and can inspire others.
If you are feeling a little stuck, join the Nutrichologist community for access to our free downloadable Setting Intentions Workbook and many other great resources.
PS: Just in case eating better lunches at work is on your list, check out the Meals@Work recipe book!