The *Only* Resolutions To Make This Year
Sick of setting those “New Year’s Resolutions”, only to feel like a failure come February? Don’t worry you’re not alone. But we’ve got a more powerful tool this year that won’t leave you feeling defeated and will propel you towards the abundant life you are dreaming of – intentional resolutions.
Working towards goals is admirable, it helps us to formulate a plan and can assist checking things off in an orderly fashion. But with resolutions or strict goals, come boundaries – a dreaded sense of constriction, that we inherently rebel against and quickly discard, replaced with that all too familiar serving of shame.
Developmental coach Frances Wills, has come on board as our expert to explain why we need a shift in perception about “New Year's Resolutions”, and is a firm believer that the first step to making resolutions stick, is to really ground down in the heartfelt intention of your desire to make a change. Curious? Let’s unpack it.
Why Can’t We Just Stick To Our Resolutions?
Are you the type who perpetually feels like they never achieve any of the lofty resolutions you set at the start of the year or are constantly berating yourself over goals you couldn't stick to? It’s important to understand that part of the reason they “fail”, over and over again, is because resolutions have a major flaw in their strategy to begin with.
The mentality and mode by which you set those goals are crucial – perhaps even more so than your misplaced motivation – and it’s the perception of the framework surrounding how and why you created those goals in the first place that counts.
According to Frances, one of the key distinctions between those people who do manage to follow through with goals and those who don’t is if they had an intention in place at the time of goal setting. So if you’re looking to make your resolutions more permanent – you need to start by getting intentional about why you are setting resolutions in the first place. She elaborates,
“Those who are most likely to not stick with their new year resolution tend to operate from a place of ‘necessity’ rather than choice.”
Intentionality – The Secret Sauce You Need
The process of intentional goal setting begins with peeling back the layers, to understand why you want to implement changes into your life in the first place - in a meaningful, purposeful way, rather than motivating ourselves towards yet another ‘quick fix’.
Frances tells us “Intentionality is the consciousness you bring to the goal setting. Through that intentionality you can begin to inquire into the why; “Why do I want this, what does it bring to me, why do I want this in my life?””
She explains that often we create goals with a short-term end in sight, which require us to utilise the muscle of motivation, such as the classics “I really must lose weight this year” or “I really should save for a house finally”, which could be easier to discard thanks the effort required, than if we moved from a place of intention. Instead, we want to be grounding in an intention that stems from a place of positive psychology using terminology and awareness such as “I choose this” or “I get to do that””.
What is “Intention” anyway?
You may have heard this buzzword dropped frequently, especially on inspirational Instagram quotes, but if you haven't got the faintest clue as to what an intention is all about, Frances explains
“To me, in its simplest form, intention is conscious planning in alignment with your true purpose. It’s the process before goal setting”.
So how does that affect our interactions with ourselves, our place in the world and the plans we wish to move forward with? She continues, “Intention means to become fully aligned and engaged in doing something that is a pure expression of the self. It’s about using our mind to get clear, and honest, about WHY we want to do, achieve or be something. When the intention is aligned with our vision and our values then it becomes grounded as an extension of ourselves, not something we’re trying to get externally.”
read: how to set intentions
What’s the major flaw with “motivation”?
Goal setting is often partnered with another *inspirational* buzzword – motivation – and it subtly infers that if only we were all a little more motivated then we would be able to have the discipline to stick to our goals.
Frances is quick to point out a major flaw with the whole theory around motivation. “To motivate yourself presupposes that you have to talk your way into something. When we are fully engaged, fully present and aligned with our purpose-led goal or resolution there is no need to motivate ourselves, we take action effortlessly.” Borrowing from a common, favoured quote “Where your intention goes, the energy flows”, the practice of intentionality soon makes following your goals effortLESS!
“The difference between the intention and motivation is, once you ground in the intention, and you get really clear in it, is when it becomes more effortless, and you become moved to do something because it’s an extension of who you are as a human being. Whereas motivation is what we talk ourselves into – it’s more performance, surface level. So you can think of it in two ways, motivation comes from the mind, intention comes from the heart or the gut, the intuitive level.”
How To Clarify Intentional Goals
So you’re ready to ditch the obligatory resolutions and shift into intentions, but how? One of Frances favoured methods for this process stems from her expertise in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). The ‘Well Formed Outcome’ is a model of applied psychology which includes a series of 18 questions designed to help the client gain greater access to, and then take action upon, the resources available to them, in order to achieve their outcome, in this case, our New Year’s ‘resolutions’. This process is best carried out with a coach, but Frances details a portion of the process that you can try to get started:
The first step is to reframe our regular resolution into an intentional one. Frances uses the “I want to lose weight” example to explain: “Well firstly the statement is flawed; you need to get specific – how much weight, how will you know when you’ve lost it, what’s your strategy, is it ecological? The original statement doesn’t really have anything grounded in measurability.” So we need to reframe the statement, into something such as “My intention is to create a consistent, effortless exercise routine (a lifestyle shift) and I’ll know this is working when I shift the extra 5kgs I gained this year (the outcome).”
From here, we enter into a continual line of enquiry that probes the question “why is this important to me?” on repeat until you are able to sift through the layers of superficiality – “I want to look good on the beach” or “I want to fit into that dress for a big event” (both short-term, surface level resolutions) and move into the deeper state of highest intention – which Frances explains is recognised as the place where the reason is so important to you, that nothing else could get in the way of you doing it – it is the foundation for a lifestyle change.
The blocks in the way
Unfortunately, you may hit a few blocks along the way. Frances explains that often with habits or behaviours we want to shift, there already exists some form of positive affiliation that stops us from truly implementing the change. The line of inquiry (best supported by a coach) allows us to see “what is my current situation, where am I at, what behaviours or mind frames are currently programmed, or wired into me, stopping me from achieving A, B, C”. This probing of the question “why” tends to reveal the strategy we are running that stops us from releasing the behaviour, so only then can we reframe it. Frances suggests asking yourself “What is stopping you from already doing this?”, which could reveal the patterns of behaviour that are getting in the way of this “goal” already being a reality.
“You can look at the strategies built into the goal that can get in the way. If you don’t identify the something that is locked in your strategy, it may mess with you around 3, 4, 12 weeks into your resolution, which is when you begin to feel like a failure,” she details.
The crux here, however, is that in order for us to address these patterns, we need to be aware of our blind spots – which tend to restrict us from implementing the habits that we would like to change. “Simply telling ourselves to make a change doesn’t result in a fully integrated, lifestyle change,” says Frances. Which is why engaging with a coach, an impartial viewer, is truly beneficial.
read: free self care practices
The Questions To Ask Yourself
As you go through this process Frances suggests some poignant questions to ask yourself about the intentional goals you set may be:
Why do you want this resolution/outcome?
For what purpose do you want the outcome?
Having this outcome will allow you to have, get or experience what?
What values of yours does the resolution/outcome fulfil? What does this mean to you?
Is there enough meaning associated with each of your values for the resolution to be desirable to ensure you commit to this?
How will you feel when you get your outcome?
So you’ve set an intention – now what?
Once you’ve got really clear on your intentions, Frances suggests implementing these practices to get the most benefit out of your purpose-led goals as time marches on.
Write it down – start a journal dedicated to your intentions or put reminder notes around the house or in your phone if you need to. This is your personal lifestyle change so it cannot escape you, but it helps to jot it down!
Create milestones (micro-goals) along the way to help you achieve the goal ‘outcome’. These will become triggers to remind you that you’re on track!
Know that the real reward is in the PROCESS, so stay aware, conscious and count your wins along the way. That may be for every kg lost, every sweat session you attended that could easily have been discarded for a Netflix marathon, or a new class you’ve been nervous to try etc.
Release judgement. Remember it’s about consistency NOT PERFECTION. Some weeks you may slip up - that’s okay- this is long-term gain, not a 100m sprint.
Accountability. Whether it’s with a coach, friend or colleague, find someone that can help you stay on track when you want to give up or throw it all in.
What About The ‘Five Year Plan’?
Finally, we asked Frances whether it is still possible to have our Five Year Plan when working with an intention based model. Her response? “Yes, if this works for you.” She continues: “It’s important to remember that goals can change. That’s okay. We are human beings, constantly evolving. By giving yourself permission to truly understand that goals aren’t in the now, they are a future projection of a fixed outcome you are imagining in mind, you can shift your mindset and allow yourself to be flexible and avoid having a ‘fixed’ view or expectation of how it ‘should’ turn out.” Which is why it’s best to ground your resolution with an intention in a lifestyle behaviour rather than a fixed outcome.
Frances’s most notable takeaway about this intentional goal setting? “The real secret is that it’s not about the OUTCOME. It’s about the human you’re BEING throughout the PROCESS so you don’t get distracted along the way. If you can accept, and enjoy the PROCESS that’s really where the gold lies!”