Plentiful advice inevitably arrives at this time of year about closing out the previous one, setting goals and getting busy doing all the things to make them happen. It’s tempting to listen. An added layer to the advice now is to reflect not just on the previous 12 months, but also the past decade. And then plan for the next one.
No pressure, though.
What if that well-intentioned process of goal setting and looking back — or ahead — just keeps you engaged in a frustrating start-and-stop cycle of familiar behavior and habit patterns, never fully bringing about the experiences you most desire to have?
You can interrupt the patterns and start living in a way that reflects what you truly want with small but significant adjustments to how you think and what you do.
Shift Away From Goals
Here’s the thing with goals: They usually have a subtle underlying message that says something like, here is not OK. You’re not good enough. Maybe that shiny object or new relationship will make you worthy.
Goals also tend to involve external things that we think will make us feel better internally. In other words, we seek outside of us what we really want inside.
Usually what we’re trying to do with goals is bring about a feeling. If I just do or get or have that, I’ll feel or experience this.
But that’s the opposite of how it works. How many times have you worked hard for something you thought you wanted, only to not feel what you thought you would once you achieved or obtained it?
Intention is a faster, more direct path every time. If you set an intention, and gently bring yourself back to that intention over time, your experience — both internally and externally — will follow.
By setting an intention, you step into one of the great paradoxes of life. You don’t focus on the thing you think you want. Instead, you focus on how you want to feel. In doing so, you have both the feeling (now) and the thing you want (with time). When the thing itself does show up, it tends to do so in a way that you wouldn’t have expected. And often it’s so much more aligned with who and how you are than you could’ve even conceived.
Does this seem counterintuitive? Likely. Does it feel weird, especially at first, when you do it? Yes, because it’s different from what conventional wisdom directs. You’re being, doing and living from the inside out, rather than the outside in.
Set Powerful Intentions for the New Year
Self-compassion. This is probably one of the best intentions you could have in 2020 and every year going forward. Offering yourself compassion is not self-indulgent. It’s wisdom. And it offers the hurting, scared and angry parts of you the soothing balm they need and probably are in short supply from external sources.
Joy. When it comes right down to it, do you want just to be happy? Joy is an experience that originates internally. When it already exists within, you can bring it to the external experiences you share with others. What a gift. If you struggle to feel joy in your daily life, especially amid difficult or painful circumstances, find it in small ways — while enjoying a hot cup of tea, smelling a flower or feeling the sun on your face. The more you recognize and cultivate the feeling, the more it will be present for you and expand.
Curiosity. Genuine curiosity is a powerhouse intention. Seeking to understand by asking clarifying questions, rather than making assumptions or letting your mind and emotions get carried away with their own experiences in the moment, reduces judgment and improves relationships. Bring curiosity to your thoughts, emotions and parts, as well as those of others, and you may find that there’s less tension and more connection all around.
The start of a new year doesn’t have to be associated with resolutions and pressure to perform. Making the switch from external goals to internal intentions not only makes creating what you want easier, but also provides a more enjoyable experience along the way.
Kristen is a connection coach who helps business professionals and entrepreneurs reduce the time, energy and effort it takes to get unstuck. To sign up for her free webinar, “Closing the Gap: Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be,” visit her website at beinganddoingnow.com.