As the new year rolls around, a familiar ritual begins: the setting of resolutions. We promise ourselves to eat healthier, exercise more, or learn a new skill. Yet, more often than not, these resolutions fade away, leaving us feeling defeated. But what if there’s a more effective approach? Enter the world of intention-setting, a method that’s gaining traction for its transformative impact.
Unlike resolutions, which are often rigid and specific, intentions are more about the journey than the destination. They focus on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’ or ‘what’. It’s about setting a mindset for the year rather than a checklist of achievements. Dr. Samantha Brooks, a psychologist specialising in goal-setting and motivation, explains, “Intention setting is about aligning your actions with your values and inner desires, not just ticking off goals.”
Let’s talk about Wale, a 35-year-old software developer. Every year, Wale set a resolution to “get fit,” which typically meant getting a gym membership. By February, the enthusiasm waned; by March, the gym was a distant memory. This year, he tried something different. He set an intention to “embrace a healthier lifestyle.” This shift in perspective led him to explore activities he actually enjoyed, like hiking and cycling. The pressure to ‘achieve’ fitness was replaced by a desire to connect with his love for the outdoors.
This example illustrates a key benefit of intention-setting: flexibility. Life is unpredictable, and our goals need to adapt to changing circumstances. When you set an intention, you’re committing to a mindset that can encompass a range of actions and adapt as needed.
Intention setting also fosters self-compassion. It acknowledges that we’re humans and that our paths to our goals might be non-linear. “When you set intentions, you give yourself the grace to make mistakes and learn from them, rather than beating yourself up for not meeting a rigid goal,” says Dr. Brooks.
Intentions can also be incredibly powerful in bringing about real change. Research in positive psychology suggests that aligning our actions with deeper values and beliefs makes us more likely to feel fulfilled and motivated. This intrinsic motivation is what keeps the fire burning long after the initial excitement of a New Year’s resolution has faded.
Another key aspect of intention-setting is mindfulness. It’s about being present in the journey and recognising the small steps you take towards your larger intention. For example, if your intention is to “be more present in relationships,” acknowledging the times you actively listen or put away your phone during conversations is part of this process.
Intention-setting doesn’t mean you can’t have specific goals. Instead, it’s about framing these goals within a broader, more meaningful context. A goal might be to ‘run a marathon,’ but the intention could be ‘to challenge myself and embrace perseverance.’
As we embrace this new approach, it’s important to remember that intention-setting is deeply personal. What works for one person might not work for another. The beauty of this method lies in its flexibility and adaptability to individual needs and circumstances.
As you embark on this journey, remember Dr. Brooks’ words: “Setting intentions is not a one-time act but a continuous process of aligning your daily actions with your deepest values.” Here’s to a year of meaningful, sustainable, and fulfilling intentions!