Smart Intentions for 2017

Isn’t it exciting to start a New Year !

A fresh clean slate, or in my case, a crisp new planner, is energizing and hope-filled. Broken relationships offer the promise of healing; weakened bodies can be strengthened; poor choices are a thing of the past, and the lessons learned guide me to make better choices in the future.

The twelve months that lie ahead are unmarred and offer an opportunity to begin a new journey to an exciting destination.

But just as I plan for an extensive vacation, I must also plan for this new year.

In December, I spend several days reflecting on the previous year – the good, bad and indifferent. Then I spend the first days of January plotting my future course.

I ask myself probing questions, such as:

  • What do I hope to accomplish in the next twelve months?
  • What do I need to release that is holding me back?
  • What do I need to embrace in order to move forward?

For many, the next step is to make a list of New Year’s Resolutions. However, I believe  resolutions only set me up for failure.

Statistics show that 80% of all those who make resolutions abandon them by the end of February, and less than 10% actually see them through to completion.

The problem with resolutions, as I see it, is they are too rigid. To resolve is to make an earnest decision.

If I fail to follow through then I must lack willpower and self-discipline. If I fail to achieve the goal, I fail as a person. The elation I felt January first becomes defeat by mid-month, and I feel worse than ever. Does this sound familiar?

Instead, I set intentions. I want to grow and develop as a person, but not at the risk of feeling guilt, shame or despondency.

Intend is a much softer word than resolve. It is a desire, but with built-in grace for the times when we may fall short.

A missed intention does not shame me into feeling weak and unworthy.

But I don’t set broad, vague intentions, I set SMART intentions.

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Realistic

T = Timely

For example. my word of the year is NOURISH. I want to cultivate a healthy lifestyle which means a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and a devotion to self-care. These are the broad areas of focus, but how can I translate these into smart intentions?

First, I need to establish baby steps. I have twelve months to achieve this goal. If I want to avoid burn out, I need to pace myself.

While I know I need to eat more vegetables, cut down on sugar, and stay hydrated, I have decided to focus on one simple activity for the month of January: drink more water.

Many strive to drink 64 ounces a day, but that seems insurmountable. So… I’ve set an intention of drinking three-12 ounce glasses a day. That breaks down to one glass in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one at night.

In addition, I need to move more. As a writer, I sit – sometimes as many as several hours without standing. I want to change this behavior.

My intention is to move a minimum of five minutes for every one hour I sit. I want to return to a 10,000 steps/day routine and strengthen my core for a healthier lifestyle.

However, trying to accomplish all this at one time is a recipe for disaster.

Instead, I am using January as a time to ease into a strength training routine with a series of exercises to develop my upper arms (desperately needed after the two breaks in 2016), and another series to develop my core.

This plan doesn’t seem like much, and in all honesty it isn’t. My old perfectionist self would immediately discredit this feeble attempt.

But here’s the thing. Even doing ten setups today is better than none. And at the end of the month, those setups add up to three hundred. That progress is significant.

To help keep me motivated without shame, I maintain a weekly tracker. I list the desired activities I want to cultivate, and I check them off as I complete them.

If I skip a day, I don’t berate myself. The real celebration comes at the end of the week, when I acknowledge the work completed and vow to do better next time.

So I encourage you to set a few intentions for 2017. Create baby steps that are realistic and measurable. Develop a tracking system to help you celebrate your progress, and enjoy this new journey toward a hope-filled destination.

©2017 Molly Totoro – for GateWay of Hope: Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50.