Happy 2018! It’s that time of year again when New Year’s resolutions abound and gym memberships are on the rise. But what will happen in a few months when the goal setting fever loses its motivation?
For me, the goal setting yoyo has always been a big struggle as I find myself either doing something 110% or not at all. The problem with that mentality is it usually doesn’t last. That is, you have short term goals that crash and burn without long term core intentions that will last.
For instance, let’s say I set the ambitious goal to meditate an hour a day. When I inevitably “fail” whether because that’s just too lofty of a goal for me right now or simply because I was too sick or busy one day, I get discouraged and think well meditating is too hard I can’t do it. That trap happens all the time with everything from working out to eating healthy to living more mindfully. Especially, when it comes to living mindfully, I’d like to propose a radical concept. Do away with goals and focus instead on intentions. When it comes to meditating instead of my goal of meditating an hour a day, my intention regarding meditation might be simply to meditate regularly to the best of my abilities for whatever length of time is beneficial to me in that moment.
Here are three tips for turning your New Year’s goals into intentions to make for a more mindful 2018.
1) Take out the word “failure” from your vocabulary. You can fail at goals, you can’t fail at intentions. An intention is a deep and spiritual commitment to yourself – to being true to yourself and living mindfully as best you can. And here’s a secret, there’s no standard for “your best”. Your best one day might be very different from your best the next day. One day it might be an hour of yoga and clean eating and the next it might a bubble bath and piece of chocolate cake, which brings us to the next point.
2) Practice self-compassion. Think how you treat a friend. Do you beat them up and reprimand them for “failing” to meet their “goals”? Or are you compassionate and tell them to listen and do what’s best for them in that moment? I’m betting it’s the latter… So why not show that same compassion to yourself? Let go of unnecessary striving. This doesn’t mean be lazy; it just means mindfully and “bodyfully” checking in with yourself and what is right for you in the here and now.
As the Buddha said “If the string [of an instrument] is too tight, it will break. If it is too loose, it won’t play.” It’s all about balance.
3) Check in with yourself and your intentions often. All too often when we set a goal, we then put on our tunnel vision and blinders and doggedly stick with that goal even when it may no longer suit our present needs… Check in with yourself and your intentions often and let go of what doesn’t serve you. Be adaptable with your intentions. You can have intentions for how you want to live in general but also specifically for how you want to be today; intentions that can change daily. For instance, I might turn a daily intention into an informal meditation, tuning into what I need in that moment. Today, to the greatest extent possible, I commit to being _______ (compassionate, courageous, flexible, patient, etc.).
What intentions will you set in 2018? Share in the comments below.
“Intention leads to behaviors which lead to habits which lead to personality development which leads to destiny.”
— Jack Kornfield (bestselling author, Buddhist practitioner and one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West).