As we say goodbye to the first month of 2014, most of you who have made New Year’s resolutions have already abandoned the effort. In fact, nearly 80% of all people making New Year’s resolutions quit by the end of January. I believe this abandonment is due to four specific failures that people make when setting their New Year resolution, and which I have outlined here. But like most people, I too start my year, every year, by setting intentions (not resolutions, because even though I think there are some pretty good New Years resolutions one can focus on, I believe that intentions—what you would love to accomplish, as opposed to what you want to give up—are simply more powerful) which I plan to concentrate on throughout the year. I can tell you that not only do I maintain my commitment over the entire year, but I accomplish a high percentage of those things I set out to do. In this post I will describe how I set my intentions, and how I address them throughout the year; and I will also discuss the actions and behaviors that keep me on purpose and completing most of my intentions and goals in a given year. It is not too late to start your year right. Just follow what I outline here and you will be surprised at what you will accomplish in 2014.
To begin with, when setting my New Year’s intentions, I make sure that everything I set out to accomplish is aligned with my dharma—or my life’s purpose. I realize that not everyone is in-tune with their dharma, or have a deep understanding of what their life’s purpose is, but I believe this is available to anybody who is willing to take the effort to uncover it. I have methods of which I am certain can help anybody uncover their life’s purpose, so if you are committed to tuning-into yours, please contact me. I work with clients regularly to help them discover their divine missions in life. But I can tell you that I started this New Year’s ritual of setting my intentions well before I myself was tuned-into my dharma. So you can get the ball rolling now, even in the absence of this understanding. The important thing is to keep your goals or intentions realistic. Unrealistic goals will only lead to frustration and abandonment. Saying that, however, if you are connected to your life’s purpose, then be sure to align your every intention with this in mind.
Next I focus on every aspect of life, and categorize my intentions as such. The seven aspects of life are physical, mental, spiritual, social, financial, professional and familial. I write down exactly what I would love in each one of these areas. I then write down everything I would love to accomplish in each life category. For example, every year I read or take courses that equal up to thirty books. I have an idea of what I would love to learn through the knowledge of my dharma, and so when focusing on that, it guides me to the books and courses which I will tackle in any given year. It would be highly unrealistic of me to set an intention of reading forty books in a year. It might be possible…just rather unlikely, so I don’t set my sights that high. I think setting the intention of twelve to twenty books to read is doable. But I don’t just say, “I will read 12-20 books this year.” I actually write down the titles of the books I know I will wish to tackle. Sometimes I don’t read every single book on my list, but I can tell you that I mostly do.
Another example would be that, in my physical life, I may wish to learn a new form of physical activity, like I did in 2011: I wanted to start learning and practicing martial arts, so in that year I wrote down that I would love to start a martial arts program…and I did! But I also write down how many days a week I plan to exercise, which days they will most likely be, and what types of exercise (yoga, weight training, or simply daily stretching) I will do on which given day. Yes I will even set the length of the workouts, because I am quite certain that that kind of detail is of the utmost importance.
In the family section, I may want to teach one of my children how to swim—and on to the list it goes. I may wish to focus on saving a certain percentage of my income—and on to the financial list it goes. I may want to dedicate a certain amount of time to social media—I don’t leave this to chance or chaos; instead I allot a certain amount of time/energy and then stick to it. You see, God is in the details, as they say, and so any detail you leave out is a detail that will be determined by an outside force…or chaos, if you will. I do this in every area until I have a solid list of doable goals set by my intention to accomplish them.
Once finished with my lists, I print them on to sheets of paper, which I carry around in my briefcase. And here is the kicker—the thing that you MUST do in order to make sure you will complete your intentions: you must read the list at least once per week, and often even more. Yes! This one simple action is the difference, I believe, between accomplishing what you set out to do in January, and abandonment, which is the norm for most people as I’ve already pointed out. You see, by reading and rereading every week, you are reminded repeatedly of what you would love to accomplish; and even if you don’t get to any particular intention by the final months of the year, you will still have a few months to get it going, as long as you remind yourself to do so. That is exactly what I did in 2011, and by October of that year, I was enrolled in a martial arts program, because every month, I reread my intentions, and I would say, “Oh yeah, better get on that—the year is coming to an end.”
So you may have a dream of running a nonprofit organization or nonprofit website, or maybe you would like to start a small business. You may know that to accomplish either, you will have to pick up information on starting a non profit or small business. Great! By reading and rereading this intention throughout the year, you will be more likely to take that first step toward accomplishing these goals.
Do I accomplish everything on my list? No, never! Duh, who cares…I consistently complete more than 75% of what I intention in any given year. And for the things that I don’t get to…well they simply go on next year’s list. Okay there are a few things that, year after year, get pushed aside. Guess what? Those are probably false intentions anyway, ones not really aligned with your dharma. Great! You can thus abandon them completely (or just keep them on the list; the end result will be the same). I assure you, however, that the goals and intentions which ARE aligned with your dharma will give you no trouble at all to start and complete, because that is how all humans are wired: we do the things that bring us closest to fulfilling our values.
One other practice I do every New Year’s Eve is to write down everything I have accomplished during the year, as well as everything I am grateful for which I had experienced throughout the year. Whether pleasureful or painful, I give thanks to the universe for the experience, knowing full well that our challenges are what lead to our greatest growth and expansion. Why wouldn’t I be thankful for that? I also print out this list and read it along with my intentions every week (every day, three days, or whatever time frame you choose), so that I remember what I accomplished the year before, which simply acts as another driver for me to get started on my listed intentions. This Gratitude List acts as a confidence builder, because I know that not only did I keep my commitments, but that I also overcame some real obstacles to get there.
I can almost guarantee that if you take up this practice I have shared with you, and you start today, you will be amazed at what you end up accomplishing this year. Yes, things will be that much clearer and ‘on purpose’ if you connect your goals and intentions to your dharma (and as I said you can contact me when you are ready to uncover it). But get started on what I’ve outlined here, and do so today, even if you do not fully know your divine mission. I promise that this little exercise will have your head spinning by how much you accomplish in any given year. I have done it myself, faithfully, for the last fourteen years, and I can say with confidence that I would not be who I am today without this yearly habit. Try it, do it as I describe here, and you will see exactly what I mean. Have fun creating the new you. And Happy New Year!