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Intentions are easy to talk about—but actually keeping them? That’s a different story. If you’re anything like us, you’re only a few weeks into the New Year and have already swept your intentions under the rug and looked the other way. It’s easy to reflect on the year and think and talk about what we’d like to work on, but we struggle with following through once life resumes after the holiday. Intentions are quietly forgiven and long forgotten by February.
How do we carry our energized outlook, resolve, and intentions with us throughout the year? What are the steps we need to take to actually make the changes, become better, and ultimately live our best lives?
Don’t stress—the process is meant to be fun. Here are ten ideas to help keep your intentions in focus.
Think in actions and measurements.
We can all aspire to be more positive, vulnerable, or confident, but what does that actually look like or mean? What steps do we need take, and when do we consider ourselves successful? Make sure your intentions are actionable and measurable. Define them concretely and break them down into practical steps. Maybe let yourself revisit and revise your list now that the calendar has reset and we’ve come down from the holiday high.
What’s your why?
Now zoom out from the concrete to the abstract. Tap into your motives and develop a positive relationship with your real underlying drivers. Explore the roots of your intentions and make sure they’re grounded in positivity—not framed in fear or negative self-talk. Remember the law of attraction. For example, if you’re endeavoring to work out more, focus on the fact that you are hoping to feel healthier and more confident, not that you might feel unattractive or want to lose weight. Repeat personalized affirmations or mantras to yourself that align with your intentions and keep you in a friendly feedback loop. Think forward and think positive.
Work it into your flow.
If your intention involves practice or is something you need to carve out time for, set a regular time to work it into your daily or weekly routine. They say it takes three weeks to make or break a habit—and sometimes that can feel like an impossibly long time (like when it’s only day two of your self-imposed “yoga every damn day” challenge and you’re struggling to get on your mat). No doubt getting started is the hardest part.
Like eating meals at the same time each day or going to bed at the same time each night, sticking to a regular time of day will help acclimate your body and mind. Your goal should become a more natural, effortless part of your flow. Push past the hurdles at the starting line. Trust.
Plant visual reminders.
That original list you wrote probably won’t always be handy or top of mind. Keep your intentions and affirmations in sight with friendly visual reminders. Consider sticky notes on mirrors, on your doorframe, or on your dashboard. Surround yourself with positive reinforcement.
Lean on your community.
Share your intentions with family or friends. We’re creatures of connection, and having a friend to support you or join you might be just the extra motivation you need. Bring someone on board to reflect/witness your progress, celebrate your wins or call you on your bullsh*t during the tougher times.
Un/subscribe to inspiration.
Find a newsletter, a podcast, or a playlist that resonates with you and your goals. We get so inundated with media around setting resolutions and intentions leading up to the end of the year that it can start to feel less meaningful and more trendy and rote. Sometimes an overwhelming amount of input from a variety of sources can dilute the potency of the message, or distract us from our own personal inquiry. Tune in to the voices that really inspire and lift you, and cut out the rest of the noise.
Minimize your distractions and disconnect from the digital vortex. Chances are good that whatever your intention is required you to be more present, and your handheld screen is probably getting in the way. Give yourself the gift of more time and space to focus on what’s happening in the present moment.
Set up a reward system.
Make intention-keeping fun. Treat yourself to a massage, your favorite carryout, or a slow morning to keep motivation strong. We aren’t setting ourselves up for success if we’re too rigid or unforgiving in the process. Make an excuse to treat yourself even if you haven’t “measured up” to your mark. Call us if you need help with this one!
Isn’t it funny how hard it is to do the things we know make us feel the best? Reminder: how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. We really are the creators of our own realities. When you find yourself scheming up excuses or pushing off your “it” until tomorrow or next week, find a way to snap yourself out of the trance and step one foot in front of the next. One idea: cue Nahko’s “Wash it Away” and give yourself a dose of the good music medicine as motivation.
But go easy.
Give yourself room to be human. But if you fall off track, don’t push it until next year to try again. This isn’t an all-or-nothing, pass/fail scenario. Just because you don’t keep your intention every minute doesn’t mean it’s game over. Take it one day at a time.
Setting intentions is a practice in self-reflection and aspiration. Following through on them is a commitment to personal growth—and entirely up to you. Take control and make it count. Commit to keeping your intentions in view and living your year in such a way that you can look back, come December, with zero regrets.
Emma is a freelance writer, for-fun photographer, and certified yoga instructor. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she works alongside the humanitarian superheroes at Mercy Corps. Follow her adventures up and down mountains on Instagram.