Setting intentions, not goals, for your best new year
Updated: Dec 29, 2019
I'm so excited to have you here today. We're coming to the end of the year, and it's time to start reflecting on what has been, and envisioning what could be.
Instead of setting resolutions again, when we know they don't work, I wanted to share a process that you can do any time of the year, not just at the start of a new year. If you want to learn a supportive process for steering yourself in the right direction, you've come to just the right place. Get comfortable sis, you're welcome here.
In this post you will discover
. why typical goal setting doesn't work
. how to set intentions to achieve your desired outcomes
. why knowing your values is important for achieving your desires
Why not "goal setting"?
I like to give things that have certain negative connotations to me a re-brand. Goal setting is one of those things.
Goal setting feels like a laborious process, where you summon all of your energy to sit down and write a list of goals that you're obligated to fulfil. Goal-setting, as I perceive it, is an outward-facing process. It's out-in, in the sense that the external environment, or society, highly influences what an individual decides to commit to. For example, we live in a culture that's obsessed with women being thin. So, many of us will be like "come Jan, I'll be all up in that gym", when really what we may truly be wanting is a greater understanding of how to take care of our bodies in a way that works best for us.
What is intention setting?
So what is intention setting then, and how does it differ from goal setting? To me, just the sound of "intention setting" is way gentler and more authentic than "goal setting". But, aside from the branding of the concepts, there are some key differences between the two approaches.
1. Inward vs outward process
Intention setting, unlike goal setting is an inward facing process. This simply means that when you're intention setting, you start from the inside and then work your way outward. Instead of basing your intentions on what you think you're supposed to do, based on societal expectations, you set intentions that are fully aligned with your vision for yourself.
2. digs deeper into the self
If you want to set intentions that you are at 70% or more likely to achieve, then you have to start at your inner-most self. Goal setting as we know it is quite surface level. It asks "what outcome do I want to achieve?" and sets a goal that theoretically will lead to the achievement of that goal.
Intention setting is based on the thought that, if you want to take action toward a desired outcome, that outcome needs to be aligned with your true values, and must be supported by a meaningful "why". Aligning the desired outcome with your highest values means that your subconscious mind will not sabotage your commitment to your intention. This is because all of our deepest beliefs about ourselves, our reality and the world, are stored in the subconscious mind. Your subconscious drives 95% of your behaviour (beliefs become thoughts, which become actions). So, if you want re-shape your reality using intentions, you've got to make sure that the intentions align with your deepest values.
What is an intention?
Okay, so now that we've taken a look at the two key differences between goal setting and intention setting, let's go a little deeper.
Before I describe the intention setting process, I wanted to describe what I mean by "intention". Essentially, when you set your intentions, you'll be committing to showing up as the version of yourself who has already created the desired outcome. The intention in itself is the commitment to bridging the gap between the version of yourself in your current reality, and the version of yourself in your preferred reality.
I like to think of intentions as a gentle process of unravealing, or becoming. Goal setting, rather, to me implies a process of adding onto where you last left off. So, if you last checked in with yourself in February 2019, and you were experiencing a whole lot of low self-worth feelings regarding your body, and 9 months later you set yourself another goal to get back to gym, you will not experience any real growth. The same pattern will emerge again. This is why we need to dig deeper by figuring out what we truly value, defining our ideal self, and understanding why we want to live as that version of ourselves. Only from this place of alignment and understanding do we take action. Intention setting allows us to do this.
The intention setting process
1. Discover your values
In the past, my process of choosing values has been an outward facing, and quite random, process. I did what I was instructed to in the self-help books that I had read at the time. But I found that those values actually didn't stick for me. I know now that this is because I used an out-in, instead of in-out process. The fact that I even described the process as "choosing" reflects my point entirely. We don't choose our values, they are already encoded in us from our life experiences. Our values operate on a subconscious level, and inform most, if not all, of our experiences.
So, how do we discover our values? I think I'll have to do a much more in-depth post about this, because I've just realised that it's not something that can be condensed into a paragraph (would you be interested in going deeper? please let me know in the comments below). For the time being though, I would suggest the following:
Knowing your values is an essential first step in effective personal leadership. You can only begin to master yourself when you know what is authentially important to you. I'm going to outline a basic process for discovering your values.
1.1. Backward reflection
Reflect on the choices and actions you have taken over the past month. If you have good memory, you might even go as far back as as three months. Look for comon themes in these choices. What motivated them? Did they feel right to you, or did they feel externally influenced? This questioning will help you highlight the value behind each choice/action. Write as many values as you wish.
1.2. Forward reflection
For the next week (or more), reflect again on your choices and actions. Repeat the same process from point 1.1.
1.3. Evaluate the authenticity of your values
Categorise the values you have labelled as either authentic or inauthentic. The authentic values are the ones that lead to choices that feel right, or good. The inauthentic values may be derived from social influences, resulting in you doing what you think you "should" do versus what is aligned with your true values.
1.4. Prioritise your values
In order to know what truly motivates us, we need a) to know our values and b) to know which are most important to us. From your list, choose three to five top values and rank them from highest to lowest priority. This will help you know what motivates you and influences your choices and behaviours the most.
Now that you've got your values sorted, let's move on to the second step.
2. Envision your ideal self
In your ideal reality, how would you show up? Would you be more disciplined in (desired area of change)? Would you be less self-critical and offer yourself unconditional self love? Would you be less resistant to change, and more open to receiving the miracles and spontaneity of life? Don't hold back, write it all down.
Now that you've sketched out your ideal self, ask yourself which are the six most important areas to grow this coming year. Take it a step further and narrow it down to three areas. For sustainable growth, I think the best approach is to take it one step at a time. So your six growth areas will be spread between the 12 months of the year. In Jan, begin with one of your top 3 growth areas. At the end of every 2 months, begin journeying into your new growth area. Take this as it comes, if you need more time, give yourself more time. Gentle cautionary note not to become too self-lenient though; the universe wants to know that you take your intentions seriously. Show up consistently, don't make excuses, but give yourself grace where needed.
I've described this for growing over the course of a new year. But like I mentioned earlier, you don't have to wait for the new year to arrive before reflecting on your life. It's more important to note that change needs to be slow and steady to last. If you remember this principle, you can create sustainable change anywhere anytime.
3. Ask "why?"
For each trait of your ideal self, ask yourself why it matters to you. Take this a step further by asking yourself if it aligns with your highest values. If not, cut it out. If it does, match the trait with one of your values.
4. Reflect continually
I really recommend that you start this journey with a beautiful journal as your companion. I have found journaling to be quite transformational and healing this year. So many breakthroughs have been captured in my journal. Journaling is a great way to check in with yourself, express any joyful or challenging feelings from embarking on your heroine's journey, and assess your commitment and progress.
You can reflect in whatever way works for you, the point is that you do it. Reflecting on your progress will you empower you to create even more progress. Reflecting on your challenges will give you the opportunity to choose healing, and to devise a personalised strategy on how best to prevent the blocks limiting your growth from showing up again.
My suggestion is that you have a weekly check in. At the end of the week, reflect on the joys and challenges of your growth path. Write about what made you feel happy, and release all the heavy emotions from feeling like you have let yourself down. None of us is perfect, and its quite damaging to expect perfection from ourselves. But from my experience as a self-confessed perfectionist, it's inevitable that you'll criticise yourself on some shortcoming at some point on your journey. Holding onto those feelings will terminate your growth, so write it all out, and let it go. If you need to, you can also write about practical ways to repeat successes and prevent stumbles from coming up again.
That's all I've got for you today. I hope this process with help you get the transformation you've been looking for.
Mainstream media has a lot of ideas about what we should be doing, and how we should be doing it. But a lot of it doesn't work, because it's not provided with the right intention, or it's a half truth from somebody who is trying to keep the juice to themselves.
I want us all to have this amazing information. We all deserve to grow into our highest selves and live the lives we desire. But it can be hard to get there when you don't even know where to start. I really understand, and I'm really here for you. I'm committed to share more with you as I learn and practice more.
To those of you who continually read and comment on my posts, thank you for sharing the love. You give me a space to engage in healing writing for myself, and in so doing, I get to share a bit of light too. So thank you, and all the best in your growth journey sis.
Let me know you were here! Share your greatest insight from this post on IG, and tag me @tshepipooe
All my love
Other posts you might like: