Friday, January 18, 2013

Setting smart intentions differently

Resolutions! We've all been doing it for years and generally with varying degrees of success.  Unfortunately, many of us discontinue the practice as it feels that we are incapable of keeping resolutions for very long.  An understandable choice; how are we expected to succeed at keeping resolutions when we've never really been shown how to effectively set intentions in the first place?  Smart change is lasting change!  This is something I am slowly discovering.  My new way of approaching change was kick-started in Mexico this summer where I had the privilege of spending some time with my teachers Katie Silcox and Chrisandra Fox Walker.

A big part of what I experienced during the month immersion that I did in Mexico was a completely new way of setting intention and creating change in my life.  Through an integral and multi-faceted approach, lots of hard work and honesty, we absolutely have the possibility of fulfilling our intentions.  Don't be fooled, however, I'm not here to say it will be a walk in the park.  This work is not always necessarily easy and does involve a level of self-honesty which can be challenging.  A few ideas...

Start with something small and concrete:

We humans have a vivid imagination.  Our ability to imagine can be a gift and a curse.  When we set grandiose goals that are lofty and deeply rooted in the realm of our imagination, this may mean that our goals are quite separate from the reality of our lives.  If this is the case, we risk the disappointment of not realizing them.  On so many levels, we cannot underestimate the unfortunate result of telling ourselves we are going to do something without following through.  This sends the message that we can't be trusted to act with integrity, that we don't do what we say we are going to do.  The more this happens, the further away we get from what we want and the harder it becomes to set goals and to believe in ourselves enough to fulfill them.

The flip side of this is that we build on success, however small that success may be.  Even a small accomplishment sends ripples of confidence into many other realms of our life so that when we make small changes and stick with them, we continuously create confidence in our ability to stick with it and to get closer to a life of integrity.

Figure out a timeline that works:

Not too near and not too far but just right is the key!  Again, until the summer, I didn't realize quite how important timing is.  Especially when the intention or goal is one that is related to a habit, which is most often the case.  When I use the words 'forever' or 'never again' this feels really daunting and makes it an appealing option to give up and weasle out of what I have set out to do. I found that for myself, setting a goal that spans over the course of one year was realistic.

This means that I have space for the freak-out and that there is also space for the freak-out to end! Where before I felt a sense of failure as soon as something was hard, giving myself a specific time line really changed this.  Relaxing around the freak-out phase without just abandoning all together makes things so much easier.  With a year ahead of me, I know that with time, the changes I'm trying to make will become easier and easier!

When trying something new, let something go.  When letting something go, try something new:

We are finite creatures with finite amounts of energy, time and resources.  Let's not forget that as we work towards real and significant shifts.  One really cool technique is that of linking a positive form of change with something negative that we wish to let go of.

Our actions and habits have a certain amount of momentum and energy behind them and the practice here is to re-direct that energy and momentum towards that which we really want to be feeding!  As disparate as the two may seem, when I think about what I really want in a moment when I'm feeling likely to engage in a negative action, maybe I can see more clearly how my motivation is slanted and this is really helpful for a double dose of positive change.

Speak it out loud:

Once the leg work is done, the counter-point to a new goal is identified and a time-line put in place, see if you can cement your idea to make it more real. Write it down!  Send yourself a letter!  Tell your friends!  Hold a ritual or ceremony!  Allow your goals to exist somewhere outside of your head...

Be kind to yourself around this entire process:

Change is almost never easy and it takes hard work and time to integrate.  When we frame our behavior or action as either a failure or a success, this can leave us feeling terrible when we don't 'succeed'.  Rather than berating yourself when things don't work out, see if you can try to identify what hasn't worked and make the necessary changes to your plan to up the odds in your favor.  This could mean scaling down expectations, re-framing the timeline or coming back to your motivations for the change you're trying to make.

Get some expert help and advice:

My intention here was to offer a few tools which have really helped me to make significant changes.  Much of what I'm describing is a simplified explanation of a very cool system of discovery and intention setting outlined beautifully in The Four Desires by Rod Stryker.  If you're interested at all in delving deep in the process of leaning more about yourself and of setting goals with depth and meaning, I can very much recommend working with this book.

A few really cool tricks to help make changes that stick! So as we sit, here towards the end of January, don't believe what they say... January 1st need not be the only day of the year where we resolve.  Bust out a journal, cup of tea and look within.   Be kind to yourself, be real, think about your goals long and hard, visualize your resolutions in space and time, think big but scale back it it all becomes too much.  We can achieve our goals!  Especially when we set them with vision, imagination and intelligence.

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