Resolutions, Goals, Intentions...Oh My! How I'm Gearing Up for 2017
Starting around December 26th, there is a dramatic increase in talk about resolutions, goals, and intentions - particularly in the fitness world. Different folks will use different terms, and almost everyone has an opinion on if you should or should not set resolutions at this time of year, or ever. Instead of contributing to the noise by telling you guys what I think you should or shouldn’t do, I thought - maybe I would just share exactly what I’m doing this year and why.
Let’s start with the why.
It almost goes without saying, but: we are all individuals. Resolutions may work for some people and not others, for some things and not others, and at some times but not others. Making blanket statements about their effectiveness assumes that we have a shared experience. Let’s let others choose their own path. You do you.
I love the holidays. Starting with Thanksgiving, I have always felt that the end of the year held a certain magic to it. I’m hardly alone on this, if Christmas movies are any indication. ;) During this time I enjoy any seasonal treats I desire, but I also keep up my usual healthy habits of eating plenty of real, nutrient-dense foods, drinking lots of water, and moving everyday. This lifestyle is based on my mindful eating approach and is a technique I employ 365 days a year: stress-, rule-, shame-, and restriction-free. That said, since there are more specialty treats around at this time of year, and I do indulge in them, by the end of the holidays I tend to feel ready for a clean slate. A fresh start. New beginnings.
And it isn’t just about the food. The holidays bring up all kinds of other big Life issues and questions. Plus, the natural tendency to turn inward at this time of year (cued by our desire to hibernate) makes us generally more introspective and reflective. Add in the emotional component that the holidays tend to have, and the mortal significance of another year ending, and yeah...it actually has some pretty heavy weight to it, even for such a marvelous time of year.
There have been many internet jokes and memes made of the fact that 2016 was rough. All I will say is that, even though there is no true difference beyond calendar date, I too was ready for 2017. Never before have I been so ready to say goodbye to a year. Even on the better years, though, all of these factors foster extra motivation and drive. While we know motivation is an emotion and therefore can’t be relied on entirely to fuel personal change, there’s no harm in using it to fuel a jump-start. This year, I decided to harness the extra focus that I naturally feel in January and use it to my advantage.
In the same breath, though, it is important to note that not once did I take on the mindset that this year it will all be different! New year, new me! Big change rarely happens in big moments, but rather in small, thoughtful, consistent actions. We know this, but sometimes we get so swept up in the excitement and motivation that we lose sight of what it is we are really aiming for; this, in my opinion, is one of the main hazards of resolution season. In these moments, I try to find ways to ground myself so that my motivation is used with purpose, not in mania.
So here’s my plan for 2017.
(Note: Some redactions have been made for my own privacy.)
- Handstand, full pistol with left leg, consistent double-unders
- 6+ pull-ups, 8+ chin-ups (for sets)
- Deadlift 275 lbs (any style), squat 200 lbs
- First powerlifting competition
- Go back to school
- Save $XXXX, credit score XXX
- Read 10 books
- Singing and speech lessons
- Complete Precision Nutrition Level 1 in January
- Attend at least one fitness seminar/conference
- Publish 12+ blogs or other pieces of writing
- Create and launch product, challenge, etc.
- Earn $XXXXX personally, $XXXXX household
Intentions / Core Desired Feelings:
- Personal Strength
- Connection (self and others)
- Intelligence/critical thinking
In past years when I have made resolutions (which has not been every year), they have looked far different from this...usually very long lists of goals that were everything except realistic. Often my goals were based on ideas of what I “should” be doing, or worse - who I “should” be as a person. These “shoulds” are themselves usually based on negative internal storylines about who we currently are and how we can be fixed. My intentions were always good, but there was so much pressure to be perfect. Rather than being in tune with my true desires, I was fabricating an image of what I thought my life should look like.
That is why, these days, I combine goals, intentions, and my core desired feelings when envisioning how to design my life. Here’s how I personally define each:
- Goals - Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound (SMART)
- Intentions - The guiding values of your overall life.
- Core Desired Feelings - The feelings we are seeking at the root of our being.
Your own definitions may be different.
My goals this year are far more realistic than those of my past, especially given that seeds of almost all were planted in 2016. This is key: I am not trying to radically transform myself via New Year's Resolutions. Rather, I’m trying to focus and refine who I already am, every single day. Nothing on this list is a huge stretch for me, although certainly still challenging. My mindset around my goals is also far more realistic; I am going in knowing that goals are only intended to encourage progress and growth, not perfection.
Intentions are usually not nearly as trackable or tangible as goals, and that’s okay. Intentions often inform and guide our goals, and goals in turn encourage us to take purposeful daily action. How we want to feel usually fuels our intentions. In the end, they all work together synergistically to create a “three-dimensional” way of designing our life. In my opinion, intentions and core desired feelings are just as valuable - if not more so - than goals. None are more important than the other.
What’s a resolution, then? Stereotypically speaking, resolutions are very dramatic, often not sustainable or even achievable, and based on “all or nothing” thinking. It doesn’t have to be this way, though, so make it work for you. My biggest caution: MARKETING. Retailers know that we are feeling pretty crappy post-holidays, and they are ready and actively trying to make you feel even crappier...because then you may buy their product that is guaranteed to make you lose X number of pounds in X number of days. [insert major eye-roll here] Don’t buy into it. Literally, don't. This is why so many health and fitness pros caution against resolutions altogether.
In the end, it is all about how it is approached, but for me, resolutions rarely stick past the first couple weeks of the year. But intentions, goals, and core desired feelings? Honestly, these rarely change for me; they simply progress as I do. Nothing on my goal list is dramatic for me, but I’ll bet those will make quite a dramatic impact on my life over the long run. ;)