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Setting intentions: How to create real and lasting change once and for all

Another year, another long list of resolutions. If you’re anything like the rest of the planet, you’re ready to take on the world! You plan to join the gym, stop eating out, get a full night’s sleep, cut...

Another year, another long list of resolutions. If you’re anything like the rest of the planet, you’re ready to take on the world! You plan to join the gym, stop eating out, get a full night’s sleep, cut down on technology and get a promotion — all before the month is up!

The thing is, if 2019 is anything like last year (and all previous years), you may find it a little too challenging to stick to all those lofty resolutions. In fact, fewer than 90% of us will achieve our New Year goals. Why? Because we tend to set ourselves up for failure before we’ve even begun, with resolutions that are too vague, too numerous or too grandiose. Or we’re simply unaware of the science behind how to break a bad habit. (Spoiler alert: You simply need to replace your bad habit with a good one.)

The stats may be against us, but that doesn’t mean there’s no hope when it comes to making positive changes in our lives this year. We’ve just got to shift the way we think about goal setting first — which is as simple as removing the word “resolution” from our vocabulary.


Resolutions versus intentions

When you think of the word “resolution,” what comes to mind? January 1st? New year, new you? Whatever the case, our resolutions are more about the time of year, than they are about self-improvement. And you know what that means? We’ve unconsciously turned them into obligations. Uh-oh. It probably goes without saying, but we’re more likely to stick to a goal if it’s a change in our life we truly desire to make.

Not to mention we’re resolving to make changes that address the symptoms of a problem, rather than the root of our unhappiness. And we’re expected not to deviate from our plans. The term “resolve” is an inflexible word that doesn’t leave much room for small setbacks or changes along the way. That’s a high standard to hold ourselves to! Plain and simple, resolutions lack intention, which is why they tend not to last past January 31st – if they even make it that far!

Intentions, on the other hand, are flexible — and a lot more forgiving. They’re a positive way of acting on something you want to do, rather than begrudgingly doing something you know you should do. Sure, the end result may be the same, but you’ve turned the narrative on its head. The best part? Intentions can help you feel congruent with who you believe your true, best self to be and live according to that.

Consider this intention: I’m going to start drinking green tea every morning.

Versus this resolution: I’m going to stop drinking coffee in the morning.

The result is the same (no coffee in the morning), but your intention is a positive call to action, rather than a focus on the negative. It’s also replacing one habit with another, which means you’re already halfway there. The goal is specific and attainable, making it that much easier to succeed. You can come up with monthly, weekly, or even daily intentions — since your desires are bound to evolve month to month.


Dig deeper to pursue meaning

Another idea is to check in with yourself to better understand what sort of change you wish to accomplish. Remember, we need to understand the root of our dissatisfaction if we want to succeed in our goal setting. That’s all about digging deep, my friends. But keep in mind that the pursuit of happiness is much less achievable (and sustainable) than making changes that cultivate meaning and purpose. If you’re ready to dig a little deeper this year, start by asking yourself these three questions:

  1. What is my purpose?
  2. How can I cultivate it?
  3. What steps do I need to take to bring about positive change?

Another important part of working towards our goals is to take a few minutes out of the day to celebrate our accomplishments (no matter how small) and allow ourselves to feel gratitude. Otherwise, we’ll fall into the unhealthy pattern of wanting more, which can happen when we hit a milestone and move onto the next goal without acknowledging our hard work. Be mindful of each small success before taking that next step.


Set intentions, not resolutions

Still confused about the difference? Here are some good intentions that can help you achieve healthier habits. Now that you’re clear on what changes you want to make, get them down in writing. Follow each intention with action items or measurable steps you can take to achieve it.

If your intention isn’t measurable, simply commit to doing one thing each day to work towards the intention. If, for example, you want to cultivate patience, think of small ways you can accomplish this each day. Whether it’s taking deep breaths when the bus is late (again!), or counting to 10 before you lose your temper with your spouse or kids, write your action item down before you go to bed each night, or have a list ready to go at the beginning of each week. Try this: set a daily alarm that reminds you of what your intention is each month so you’re more likely to remain consistent in working towards it.

Once you’ve achieved your first intention (i.e., turned it into a habit that comes naturally), you can move on to the next. Doesn’t that sound a lot more attainable than diving into all your resolutions at once?


Live consciously and compassionately

If you still haven’t settled on an intention, we’ve gone ahead and chosen one for you. This one mixes living in the moment with a little bit of self-care, so in our opinion, you just can’t go wrong!

Get to know yourself again by listening to your body’s cues and acting accordingly. Our friends at tiny buddha share some great examples of how to do just that:

  • Rest if you feel tired
  • Nourish yourself when you feel hungry
  • Silence your inner critic

That’s right, give yourself permission to slow down, re-discover quiet, experiment with meditation and allow yourself a bit of self-compassion, In short, live mindfully.


Looks like it’s time to ditch those resolutions, and start thinking about your good intentions. If you need some extra motivation, check out League’s health rewards program this month: Weight Management. Plus, stay tuned for the release of our new low-carb recipe books!


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