In this previous webinar from 2018, I talked about tackling the problem of failing to stick to our goals and resolutions … and how to structure our lives so that those intentions are held and not just dropped.
I’ve broken the webinar into two parts: 1) my talk, with video and notes, and then the Q&A part at the bottom.
Please take time to watch the webinar and the Q&A.
Part 1: Leo’s Talk
Notes for the Webinar Talk:
As we do our Sacred Bow Challenge, reviewing our year and letting go (hopefully youâ€™re doing that) â€¦ weâ€™re getting ready to start setting up intentions and plans for 2019.
But many of you know that the problem with goals and resolutions is that we very rarely stick to them. Resolutions rarely last more than a month for most people, and even the most determined donâ€™t usually last two months.
The people who donâ€™t break their resolutions or goals usually fall under three categories:
- They donâ€™t make resolutions or goals in the first place. But not doing resolutions or goals at all isnâ€™t always ideal, if we just let ourselves be aimless. (More on intentions vs. resolutions or goals in a bit.)
- They set such easy resolutions (or easy goals) that they complete them in a couple weeks (read one book this year) â€¦ or they drop the goal for awhile and then remember later in the year and are still able to achieve them. This isnâ€™t a bad idea â€” setting achievable goals is always important. But setting the bar too low for ourselves means weâ€™re not challenging ourselves, not pushing into discomfort, not growing.
- The last group sets up some kind of structure to achieve the goal or resolution. Weâ€™ll talk about ways to do that today
Intentions vs. Goals & Resolutions
But first, letâ€™s talk about intentions vs. goals and resolutions.
Resolutions are things you resolve to do at the beginning of the year. They usually donâ€™t have a mechanism for making it happen â€” theyâ€™re just things youâ€™d like to happen (there are exceptions â€” some people create structure and do much better).
Goals are an outcome that you set for yourself in the future. Similar to resolutions, but most people usually have some way to achieve the goal â€” maybe they break it down into smaller steps, maybe they have a goal tracking system. These are good examples of structure that work.
Intentions are not as much future oriented. Theyâ€™re what you want to practice in the moment. Theyâ€™re how you want to show up, moment to moment. Examples: I want to be mindful as I run, I want to be open hearted in my conversations with my spouse, I want to put nourishing food into my body, I want to be present with my kids when we go outside to play together. You might have intentions for the future â€” I want to be more active all year â€” but theyâ€™re not as much tied to a specific outcome in the future.
I am not against goals or resolutions â€¦ as long as we donâ€™t hold so tightly to them. Having some future outcome as a goal means we are tying our happiness on this specific outcome (having 6-pack abs, getting a 6-figure salary job) but we donâ€™t always have control over the outcome. And there are lots of outcomes where we could be happy.
So intentions are something we set in the beginning of an activity that weâ€™d like to hold during that activity. The outcome isnâ€™t as important. Being mindful during my meal means it doesnâ€™t matter what happens in the end â€¦ Iâ€™m just going to try to be mindful during the meal. Try is the key word â€¦ you donâ€™t have to achieve it. You just set an intention and do your best to hold that intention, without attachment to the outcome. When you notice youâ€™re not holding your intention, you try again. You keep coming back to it.
If you can keep coming back to your intentions, over and over, in my experience you grow. You learn. You get better. And you will likely achieve a decent outcome, though thereâ€™s no telling what that is.
For our purposes, you can choose to set intentions for 2019, or goals. It doesnâ€™t matter to me. You can even try both.
Structure to Hold Goals & Intentions
No matter which you choose, creating structure is the key to sticking to goals or holding your intentions.
Iâ€™ll give you a couple examples:
- I want to lose weight â€” so I become part of a group of people doing the same thing. Talking to them regularly keeps me reminded of my goal. Telling them my goal and plans helps me stick to them. Checking in with them weekly, and having a reminder on my calendar, helps me to stick closer to the goal, and to ask for support when Iâ€™m faltering. Having a calorie tracker and exercise tracker that I can share with them helps as well. Adding a personal trainer who meets me at the gym steps up my structure even more. I might not be perfect at my goal, but all of this structure helps me stick to it closer than usual.
- I set an intention to be more mindful as I work â€” so again, I join a small team where we check in with each other weekly and have a monthly video call. I set daily reminders, and put visual reminders up everywhere. I install a browser extension that reminds me to be mindful and take breaks. I set up a meditation session in the morning, a short one at lunch, and a 1-minute review at the end of the day (before I sleep). With this kind of structure, my intention is much more likely to be held than if I just say, â€œIâ€™d like to be more mindful at workâ€ without setting any structure up.
So letâ€™s dive into setting up structure.
Principle 1: Thereâ€™s no single way that works for everyone. So you start with structure but then you have to adjust it regularly. Set up regular adjustments (each month is ideal).
Principle 2: The key functions of structure are 1) to have you remember, 2) to hold you when you want to exit, 3) to give you support when you are faltering, 4) to help you to learn from your mistakes and adjust.
Principle 3: Donâ€™t overwhelm yourself with too much to focus on. Roll in one intention/goal at a time if possible, one month at a time.
Some ideas for structure:
Marked beginnings & ending
Setting intentions at the start
Weekly meetings or check-ins
Break into smaller steps or milestones
Schedule regular adjustments
Create a schedule, put stuff on the calendar
Limit the number
Make it very small
Do it first thing
Part II: The Q&A
Here are the great questions from members that I answered:
- Can you talk a little about what an intention for deepening relationships might look like in practice?
- I’m learning a foreign language. I find I have been given too many helpful AIDS, APPS & WEBSITES. I spend a lot of time on all these different AIDS and not enough time on actual study.
- Any thoughts on some structure for an intention of letting go of the fear of disapproval?
- You mentioned mindfulness as your suggestion for first effort. I would like to focus on setting a good foundation in 2019 for taking on several other areas of intention. More on this?
- I have a work project that I struggled with a lot this year and I need to finish it in 2019. It’s a project that makes me feel anxious about the outcome. Can you talk about that?
- Do you approach every habit change with just the intention of beginning? What if the the habits do not grow naturally from there over time, stagnating?
- My morning routine is – meditate, exercise, plan day, tidy and practice piano, I find that if I don’t wake up early enough I don’t do my routine. How can I structure going to bed on time?
- I’ve struggled with decluttering all year. I’ve learned lots from your sea change courses & others. But each time I try to do more decluttering, I face a huge emotional barrier. Advice?
You can watch the Q&A in the video below: