Sitting down to write that New Year's resolutions list is a January tradition. You set out to go to the gym, get into great physical shape, earn more money, improve a troubled relationship, or get along better with your family members.
But there's that nagging doubt that in a few days or weeks you'll get tired of making the effort and your good intentions will disappear. Maybe you worry about the effort and work involved, or you think it isn't possible to succeed. Just like last year, you'll slip back into your old patterns.
Would you like to know what it takes to make your resolutions stick?
There is a fun, easy way to begin creating your ideal life with little effort on your part. It begins with a specific intention, which naturally leads to the first question.
What is a specific intention?
A specific intention is knowing exactly what you want so that you can direct your actions toward that outcome. You might want your life to be more peaceful and harmonious. Or you might crave adventure and discovery.
You can make intentions for your life as a whole or for any situation, relationship, or period of time. Maybe you want to create more connection and trust with someone you love. Or maybe you want more support and effectiveness during meetings at work. So here's the second question.
Why create specific intentions?
Creating specific intentions is a powerful tool you can use to set your desires in motion, yet it takes only a few minutes out of a day.
This isn't about twisting your own arm to follow a self-improvement plan or pulling your hair out worrying how you're going to do what you said. Instead, specific intentions help remove effort and worry from the process. Decide what you really want in your life and then follow a few simple steps and these things simply start happening, which brings us to the next question.
How do you create a specific intention?
You can create intentions for your health, your appearance, your job or finances, your possessions, your relationships, or anything else.
You first identify qualities you want in a situation, and then write these qualities down as the basis of your intention. Write these in the present tense and use positive language.
Here are some examples: "I intend to be healthy and fit," or "I intend to create a relationship connection and fun with my sister." Notice that intentions are expressed as values, or qualities of life.
Don't write an intention about what you don't want or use negative language. Avoid sentences like, "I don't want to get sick."
If you know what you want to experience in an area of your life but aren't sure how to get there, you can create your values-based intention and just leave it at that. That intention will set events in motion and open up new opportunities for your intention to happen. But don't rush off before getting the answer to this next question.
What is the difference between an intention and a strategy?
An intention expresses your values or qualities you want to experience. A strategy involves specific people, actions, and times to accomplish something.
For example, strategies for creating the intention of more connection and fun with your sister might be: "Every time I see my sister, I'll tell her something that I enjoy about her." or, "I'm going call my sister tomorrow to set up regular lunch dates."
When you create an intention, specific strategies to support your intention might leap to mind. Write these down.
A few months ago I wrote my intention for health and fitness: "I am the perfect weight for optimal health." and, "I choose the exact right food to provide everything that I need."
Quick as a wink these strategies popped into mind: "I will schedule a time to exercise every day in ways that I enjoy." and, "Whenever I start to shop for food or eat I will begin by remembering my intentions."
I read my new intentions and strategies every day, and something strange happened; I lost a few pounds without even trying. I no longer felt anxious when shopping for food and ordering in restaurants. I just knew what to buy and order.
I'd find myself going out for an energetic walk when I used to be napping. Every day I found ways to exercise, even if it was only a 10-minute yoga break. The best thing is that I stopped forcing myself to eat certain ways or follow a strict exercise regimen. I just did it.
Can intentions improve your relationships?
Yes! Just decide what qualities you'd most like to experience and write them down. You can even create intentions that include people who've never heard of "intention," or people who you're in conflict with.
You include qualities that are missing for you in the relationship, like cooperation. As an example: "I intend to create a relationship of consideration, trust, and honesty with Ron."
You might notice that you start being more considerate and honest with him. Or find yourself telling him that you want more honesty in your relationship.
Intentions work great when you co-create them with others. When my husband and I were planning our wedding I noticed we started to get anxious about making decisions. I asked him what he would like to experience during the planning, and he said "ease."
Together we came up with the top three qualities we both wanted: ease, fun and harmony. After that, whenever things tensed up, we'd remind each other of our intention. This paved the way for a stress-free experience.
How can you make your intentions more powerful?
What you focus your attention on grows, so if you spend a few minutes every day reading your intentions out loud, they are more likely to happen. A good time might be in the morning before you get started with your day. The more often you read your intentions, the more powerful they are.
Some people meet weekly or monthly in groups and read their intentions out loud, then brainstorm strategies together.
If you find yourself having negative thoughts, such as: "This will never work," or "I'll never be able to have what I want," gently remind yourself to focus on what you do want. Remember, what you focus your attention on grows. And this brings us to our final question.
Do intentions really work?
Try them out and see! Pick a few areas of your life where you would like to see some changes, and write down the qualities you want to experience, beginning with the words, "I intend to..."
Make sure you express what you want in positive language and the present tense. If you have some strategies that would help you to realize your intention, write them down too.
Every day, take a few minutes to read your intentions out loud. Then notice how effortlessly your life starts to change.
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Cher Johnson co-authored this article with Beth Banning and Neill Gibson, founders of Focused Attention. Our mission is to bring you very effective self help and personal development tools, and the skills to use them well. Our passion is to help you build a strong foundation for deeply satisfying relationships in every area of your life.
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