Happy New Year and New Decade!  How crazy is that?  2020 sounds almost futuristic, but here we are!

This time of year is famous for setting goals and making fresh starts – New Year’s Resolutions.  Unfortunately, most New Year’s resolutions don’t make it until the end of January and a study conducted by the University of Scranton in 2018 concluded that just 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s goals.  Well.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions but I do set intentions, not just at the beginning of the year but most days. Is there a difference?  For me, setting an intention means that I am placing my attention on what I am doing in the present. For example, I can set an intention to be more mindful as I go through my day.  I can also set an intention that I will work on being more mindful this year. In both cases, the focus isn’t on what I will achieve at some point in the future, but what I can do in the present, who I want to be in the moment.

For me, goals are something I want to achieve in the future, for example, I want to obtain a more challenging position, or I want to learn how to speak Italian.  In both cases, my goal will be achieved at some point in the future, but I can begin to move toward it by creating a plan and taking the steps needed to achieve it.

Setting an intention can also open our minds to possibilities. An example might be setting an intention to be kinder to the people I encounter today.  Because I have purposefully opened my mind to that idea, I am also providing myself a compass to guide my actions throughout the day and will more readily recognize opportunities to be kind that come my way.  

Don’t get me wrong.  Goal setting and goal achievement is an important and valuable part of life, and both are essential to living a happy and productive life. Having goals helps us to challenge ourselves to learn new skills, and grow in significant and beneficial ways.  They motivate us to move forward to new heights. 

Setting intentions also helps us to choose our direction in the moment.  If we know we are about to have a difficult conversation, setting an intention to remain calm and constructive helps us to focus on who we want to be in that conversation.

Look at it this way.  A goal is something you hope to attain or achieve in the future.  An intention is a mindset, a focus on something you will do or be, regardless of the results.  

Here are a few examples of what an intention might look like:

  • To appreciate the beauty of the day around me.
  • To live with gratitude.
  • To go through the day with a calm and confident attitude.
  • To speak less and listen more.
  • To have healthy boundaries around my time and energy.

Try it yourself.  You can set an intention for the day, the week, for a trip you are taking, or an important meeting. You can set intentions for just about anything in your day. When you have clarity about your intentions, it empowers you to make choices that align with what you value.  And when we make choices that align with our values, with who we want to be, that’s when we get to live our best lives.