Don’t Be a Goal Digger, Be an Intention Setter

I know, I know… this time of year, you see goals everywhere. Like EVERYWHERE. But if I’m being completely honest, I’ve had this post (or post idea) drafted and typed out since last year around this same time. I had plans to post it in March 2019. But that clearly didn’t happen.

So here we are, January 2020, and better late than never, right?

I was wrestling around with this topic last year when everyone was setting goals for 2019. I had set goals or resolutions in the past, but there was something about them that just didn’t quite work for me. And I couldn’t figure out why until I dug a little deeper.

When you look at the word “goal” or “resolution,” it’s implied that there is an end – something you are working towards, right? In fact, I looked up the root word for resolution – “resolute” – and another word came up under similar words – “resolved.”

And then hit it me.

Photo by Adri Tormo on Unsplash

I didn’t like the feeling of having to “resolve” something. That implied that there was something wrong or something that needed to be “fixed.” Also, it implies that there is a beginning and there’s an end. That there is a final outcome or destination.

And that’s just not possible. That’s not real.

Sure, you can set a goal or resolution to lose X number of lbs, remove X amount of debt, read X number of books, etc. But then what? What’s next? What’s your next step? Your next goal?

Just some food for thought as we go through this post, k?

Now, this new thought process totally turned my idea of goals upside down. Who said there was one way to set goals? Why did there have to be one way to achieve something? Then I started hearing about (and reading about) a different way.

Setting intentions.

Some will say this is an “out” for recovering perfectionist, like me, to not set goals. Okay, fine – I can see that point and I acknowledge it. But I feel as if setting goals is like learning – not everyone does it the same way.

Goals vs Intentions

I’m sure you’ve heard about SMART goals. If not and for a refresher for the group, a SMART goal is a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable (Attainable), Relevant, and Time-bound. Have you heard of SMART goals? You may have set them at work or for your personal goals. For me, goals (SMART or not) give the impression that if I don’t achieve this thing, then I fail. Ever felt that way with a goal?

Let’s look at an example. Say your goal is to lose 10 pounds by March 1 by tracking your nutrition and going to the gym 5 times a week, combining strength training and a little cardio. Specific? Check. Measurable? Check. Attainable and revelant? Double check. And time-bound? Yup. Okay, great, you’re set!

Now, let’s say you’ve done all of them above, maybe only made it to the gym 4 times a week a couple weeks, didn’t hit your nutrition EXACT every single day, and by March 1, you’ve only lost 7 lbs. Did you hit your SMART goal?

Some would say no, some would say kind of, and some would just throw their hands in the air and say they’re hard work didn’t work and just give up.

Let’s dive into this…

Now, don’t get me wrong. Setting a goal of losing 10 lbs isn’t “bad.” Wanting to get fit and healthy isn’t bad either. Let’s say you did hit your goal and you did lose those 10 lbs (yay!). Okay, now what? What do you do after you hit that goal?

Or what do you do if you DON’T hit that goal? Would you say the theoretical person with the goal above failed at their goal? All those days they did make it to the gym and did track their nutrition and those 7 lbs they did actually lose (and honestly probably gained some from the muscle they built) – did all of that go to waste? Of course not.

So, just because you don’t hit a SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goal doesn’t mean you failed. I know and understand the philosophy behind SMART goals, but what if SMART goals doesn’t work for you? This is where setting intentions may be a better way for you to achieve the things you want in life. Setting intentions provides a more fluid, flexible approach to reaching “goals.”

Living with intention instead of living to hit a certain benchmark sets you up for success and overall success in the long run. So instead of setting out to hit a certain fitness or weight loss goal, maybe try setting out to change your overall lifestyle.

You can still keep yourself in check with self check-ins and evaluating your progress, what’s working and what’s not, but don’t beat yourself up if you miss that one day at the gym or eat that one cookie. Assess, evaluate, re-calibrate, and move forward.

One way isn’t right or wrong. It’s what works best for you. My hope is that you think about this as you’re setting goals/resolutions/intentions and evaluate it for yourself. Maybe the traditional goal setting method isn’t working for you. Change it up and try a different method. Do what works for you and your life!

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Tips for Being an Intention Setter

Start with baby steps – like going to gym 2x/week instead of shooting for 6x/week. Then once you have that down, bump it up to 3x/week. Incorporating small, achievable steps, you’re less likely to quit, give up, and throw in the towel all together.

Going back to the example of losing 10 lbs, try cutting your goal in half. Small wins create momentum and build confidence. The idea is continuing and moving forward with your intentions, not “failing” and quitting. Consistency is key, and if that mean you need to keep your steps smaller, then do that. It’ll pay off in the end.

In a nutshell:

Daily intentions = baby steps.

Cumulative baby steps = bigger changes.

Tools to Help

Writing goals/ideas/plans/lists down has been proven to increase success and remembering things. I know some people have moved to 100% digital everything, but I’m still old school and love my paper planner (among other paper and tangible things like books and CDs, but that’s a post for another day).

My favorite planner I’ve been using the last 2 years, and just received my 3rd, is the Ink and Volt Planner. It is goal-setting oriented (or intention setting 😉), and it includes progress check-ins, like what worked, what didn’t, and celebrating wins! It’s not overly frilly (which I love), it’s simple, clean, and has both weekly and monthly views.

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

If a paper planner isn’t your thing, I’d highly recommend typing out your goals or intentions somewhere on your phone, laptop, anywhere where you can refer back to them and check-in weekly.

I’d also recommend having an accountability partner. A friend, SO, spouse, mentor, someone you trust and who will keep you accountable and in check with your goals and who has your best interest at heart. Having that partner to encourage you and keep your honest will be a huge help in achieving your goals and intentions.

If you’ve made it this far…

you da real MVP! Over 1200 words later (and I honestly could’ve shared more), who knew I had so much to say about goals and intentions in the new year!

I’ll leave you with this one last thought.

You don’t need a new year, a January 1, a new month, a new anything to start a new thing. You can honestly do this at any time. ANY time. All it takes is you making the decision, setting the intention, following through with those intentions, being kind to yourself and giving grace where needed, as well as being honest with yourself too.

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