Staying the Course – Bringing Intentions to Fruition
Probably most of us set some sincerely intended good intentions for the new year of seeing clearly – 2020. Probably many of us are struggling already to fulfill those intentions. It takes a lot of repetition for the brain to form new habits and adopt new practices. (I recently read a semi-official research study reporting the magic number is 66.)
It takes a lot of specificity to chunk down the idealism of any intention – be kinder to my spouse, more patient with my children – to manifest that intention in specific behaviors that are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Repeatable, Timebound. (3 hugs a day, counting to 30 the next time I start to go ballistic.)
That’s why, when people intend to exercise more or workout more – common resolutions after the holidays – it’s so very helpful to record on a chart the specifics: I walked 1.2 miles on Thursday or I walked 1,320 steps on Friday. We need the little hits of dopamine to keep us motivated, whatever our intentions might be.
We need specificity and regular hits of dopamine when our intentions involve tackling huge global problems like climate change, too. By the end of the month, I’ll research the process and costs of installing solar energy panels on my roof this year. Starting tomorrow, I’ll commute by bus at least 10 times rather than drive to work every day.
It may take months or years to see the impact of your changed behavior; you can measure the effort immediately.
Here are some specific pointers for staying the course and seeing your intentions come to fruition by identifying specific behaviors, practices, and resources that will keep you motivated and on track.
1. Review the intentions you’ve already set or make sure any new intentions you set, are firmly anchored in your core values. (see exercise in Mind Mapping)
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden
2. For every intention-vision-hope-goal you’ve committed to for the new year, identify specific steps, specific behaviors that will actually get you there and develop a regular practice of checking in – every day at dinner, every week on Sunday, to assess whether you are actually getting there. (Sometimes we have to change course to stay on course.)
3. Practice living out your intention with other people (yoga class, retirement planning group) or check in regularly with other people about your progress. Resonant connections with other people (oxytocin) can be as rewarding as dopamine.
4. Identify obstacles that might derail achieving your intentions (inner critic, critical in-laws, sudden emergencies that pull your energy and resources away from your intention).
5. Practice the tool of a mindful self-compassion break whenever needed to recover your balance and then your clarity, courage, and perseverance.
6. Rehearse ahead of time the “if…then” plans that will get you quickly back on track and help you feel good about yourself for recovering so quickly.
7. Celebrate the goodness of the wins along the way. Take time to savor the world while you’re savoring the world. And claim your own strengthening of your intention to fulfill your intentions.