As we near the end of January 2019, I want you to ask yourself how those New Year goals and resolutions are going?
If you’re like 92% of people, you won’t have stuck to your resolutions, because you likely set vague ones or had unrealistic expectations like:
“I’m going to become a celebrity game show host” or “I’m going to break a world record in gumboot throwing”.
Champagne can do that to the best of us…
There’s another factor here, that has likely led to you not succeeding…yet, which is that you probably didn’t have a plan to make your lofty goals or resolutions a reality.
That’s where you need intentions to go along with your goals, to ensure you will actually succeed.
What’s the difference between goals and intentions?
Goals are focused on the future. They’re about a destination or a specific achievement. For example I am aiming to compete in the Kinloch Sprint Triathlon on February 10th.
I’ve been training towards this for almost three months now, up to six days a week, so I damn well hope I hit my goal time on the day.
My big hairy audacious goal is to qualify to represent New Zealand at the World Champs in September this year. Eeek!
Intentions are in the present moment. Intentions are lived each day, independent of reaching the goal or destination. They are about the inner relationship with yourself.
What I know to be true, is that the journey of getting my level of fitness up to speed (pun intended) to be able to compete in this event, has been the really rewarding part.
Everyday, I’ve turned up with intention to make a micro improvement in my run, bike or swim. No matter how tired I feel or what my last result was.
The actual event, although it matters, is not going to replace all the hard work, commitment and dedication that I’ve put in to my training since October.
The real intention is to get into peak health, and maintain that for the rest of my life!
Why Goal Setting Sucks On Its Own
I’ve always been an avid goal-setter. For most of my formative years, I used my competitive nature and Upholder tendencies of always doing what I say I will, to achieve my goals.
And I did achieve a LOT of them over the years. I was determined to.
The thing is, once I’d achieved a big milestone, I was often left feeling pretty empty.
What I’ve noticed over the years, as I got older and thankfully wiser, is that I was putting all my eggs into one basket, and setting myself up for a let down, rather than focusing on the journey of continual improvement.
And I know I’m not alone. I’m 99% certain you’ve experienced this in life too.
In this excellent Article on Inc – Why you might feel empty after reaching a huge goal and how to move on by Wanda Thibodeaux, she speaks to the fact that goals give a sense of purpose, connection and direction.
But, if all we focus on is working long and hard to reach this one monumental goal, when you finally hit it, all those links you’ve created between yourself and your sense of worth disappear.
So now you can’t define yourself the way you did. And you have all this time on your hands that you don’t know how to fill.
I felt like this after I won my Regional Body Sculpting Championship – something I dedicated myself to for 9 arduous months, I felt a severe lack of identity.
I had a bright shiny trophy, some bling and a tub of protein powder, but my quest to be the best had now passed, and I didn’t know what to do next!
She notes that added to that is “neuroscience kicking you in the face while you’re down.”
In short, your brain releases dopamine, a hormone associated with both motivation and happiness, in anticipation of reward.
That’s what keeps you working towards your goals, especially where each milestone you set towards achieving it gets hit, it gives you more reason to keep going, and a biological position to feel good.
The problem is, when you reach your goal, that release of dopamine drops and it’s harder for you biochemically to have joy.
The other reason goal-setting leaves you disappointed is that it moves you towards what you think you want, and takes you out of enjoying the present moment.
So instead of being grateful for the here and now, you’re left feeling like what you currently have isn’t enough, and you must strive harder to get the ‘next big thing’.
Which leads to you being stuck in an endless cycle of goal setting to fill the void.
Living your intentions, on the other hand, is much different than having a goal-oriented focus.
That’s because it allows you to focus on how you want to be in the moment, how you want to feel right now, and everyday.
It’s not about winning or losing, hitting or missing, it’s about tuning in to your moment to moment focus.
This means you live life by your values and what matters most to you.
And that’s a beautiful way to live, right?!
How to combine goal setting with daily intentions
The key thing to understand is that focusing on your intentions does not mean you give up your goals.
It actually means you’ve found a great partner to achieve your goals with.
I like to think of intention as your personal trainer. It gives you the daily rhythm, motivation and accountability you need to transform yourself.
By being intentional you’ll enjoy the journey as much as the destination, and therefore bring more joy to everything you’re doing.
Intentions really act as a reminder on how you want to show up in the world and live each day. They give you the purpose to show up to meet your goals!
That’s why my partner Josh and I baked in intentionality into our Life Pilot tool and methodology.
We’d both had enough life experience and exposure to all sorts of methods, strategies and frameworks, to know that goals are devoid of joy, unless they’re backed by daily intention.
That’s why when people join our Life Pilot Challenge, we ask them to set no more than 3 goals OR intentions – each day, week, month or quarter, based on their chosen life categories.
This takes some getting used to, but once you tune into it, it makes life planning way more enjoyable and ‘sticky’.
My real life example of intentions supporting goals
If you’d looked at my Weekly Tab in my Life Pilot spreadsheet last week, my ‘work’ category goal was to Finish first quarter of Content Editorial calendar.
I smashed that by Friday afternoon, because when I planned out my week in advance, I had set ‘working on my content calendar and brainstorming topics’ as one of my three ‘Daily’ actions on both Wednesday and Friday.
I didn’t just hope that by our Sunday Reflection time that it would have magically have happened. I had stated it in my daily actions and scheduled it into my calendar!
My intentions backed up and supported my goal.
Same with my triathlon training. Last week’s ‘health’ goal was to Plan / prepare and nail swim event.
When I turned up on Sunday morning to choppy ocean conditions at Oriental Bay in Wellington, I was tempted to not compete.
Thankfully, I’d set several daily intentions throughout the week to be fully present at my swim trainings.
As a result, I knew I was more than prepared for the event and just needed to stop being a wuss and get to the start line.
Once I stopped swallowing water from the barrage of waves, I actually enjoyed it!
How to apply intentions to your life goals
Let’s say you wanted to finally develop a meditation practice, so you go with:
- Monthly intention for January – Deepen my meditation practice to improve my appreciation of life.
- Your weekly goal might be: Commit to doing at least 4 guided meditations.
- Your daily action then could be: Use Insights Timer App to do a guided meditation
Each morning you look at your journal, notebook, whiteboard (or your trusty Life Pilot spreadsheet) where you’ve recorded this, check your daily actions, then schedule in time to make them happen.
That night you check back and record whether you hit, progressed or missed your action.
Doing that alone, often reveals, after several days and weeks, trends and patterns of what you like to do and what you avoid.
That way you can break the pattern by getting an accountability partner, setting a different goal or figuring out whether your values are aligned with what you’re setting.
Like anything in life worth doing, you need to always remain curious as to why you do some things easily and put off others.
You need to ask better questions to make sure you are digging into these patterns, behaviours and habits, so you can continually be working on being your best self.
Now, what do you intend to do next?
Want to test out our Life Pilot tool and methodology for yourself? Join our next 10 Day Life Pilot Challenge starting February 1st. Details at lifepilot.co
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