This coming year, scrap the resolutions and set meaningful intentions

As we come to the end of each year, we often say and/or hear others say, “how can that be possible?” or “where did the year go?”. It can certainly feel that weeks, months, and even years vanish at the blink of an eye. Part of this is undoubtedly because our lives are so busy, oftentimes to the point of feeling overwhelmed. It may also be due to a tendency to go through the motions of our lives (rather than being fully present), and a lack of clear intention.

Whether or not this has been your experience, with the time of reflection upon us, we invite you to consider setting an intention for the year ahead. This may be about supporting yourself to be/feel less ‘busy’ or another focus that aligns with the experience you want to have/create in 2024. 

How are intentions different from resolutions?

Resolutions are a decision to do something and are typically more like loosely formulated goals, but without clear milestones and a way to actually achieve them. They often suggest something is broken, isn’t working, or needs to be fixed. An intention is higher level than that and is the driving force behind all that we do – in our work, in our personal lives, and in our day-to-day interactions with others.

As described in a previous post, intentions are defined as ideas, aims, or commitments that you plan to carry out, regardless of outcome. They are typically broader than goals and are a way of thinking and moving through your day. So long as they’re positive, they give purpose to your actions and are intended to inspire and motivate. Driving behaviour (but with no success or failure attached), they are the fuel behind your goals and objectives. In this post, we go into more detail about the difference between (and important interaction of) intentions, goals and outcomes – and the science behind it all.

Start by reflecting upon your year

While you may be clear on what you want to achieve or do differently in the coming months or year, it can be a powerful exercise to dig deeper. When you recap the past (keeping in mind that this doesn’t have to/shouldn’t necessarily be done simply because it’s December), you can get really clear on the ‘why’ driving your intentions. What didn’t go well, and/or what do you want/need to let go of? Gaining clarity there helps you differentiate between what it’s time to simply move on from versus what you need to dive into in order to move forward in a way that serves you and your goals. There may be further learning and growth that you want to focus on and/or apply in 2024.

Equally important is what went well, and what you want to carry forward. As with appreciation and recognition in the workplace, giving yourself permission to celebrate the things you’re proud of or that had a significantly positive impact on your life reinforces that impact and makes it more likely to continue or happen again. It also helps you get clear on what’s truly meaningful to you. Related to this is what you’re most grateful for, which may or may not be the same thing as what went well and/or what you want to carry forward. Either way, as we wrote in our post about the science of gratitude, intentionally thinking about what you’re grateful for aligns your brain pathways, increases neurochemicals, and activates your body in significantly positive ways making you more likely to experience it again.

Now you can move on to forward-looking intentions and associated goals.

The science of intentions

For those who feel that setting intentions is idealistic and not rooted in reality, further to our past posts, there have been numerous studies and reports related to the science of setting intentions. As researcher and author of the book, The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton puts it, “the beliefs we hold in our mind are converted to electromagnetic fields by nerve cells and our brain broadcasts this information to the cells in our body.” Accordingly, Dr. Joe Dispenza’s research indicates that our intentions create new neural pathways and over time, our brains learn to focus on the input associated with the intention and solidify those pathways.

From quantum physics to research about intentions changing the molecular structure of water, there is significant evidence to show that our brains have a clear impact on our behaviour and our outcomes. Stanford Professor, Alia Crum, states that “Our minds aren’t passive observers, simply perceiving reality as it is. Our minds actually change reality.” She and other Stanford researchers go on to explain the four fundamental ways that human minds shape reality.

Sum it up in a word or phrase

Once you’re clear on your intention(s), try summing it up in a word or phrase or other type of symbol. If you wish to be more focused and productive at work, your word/phrase might simply be ‘focus’ or ‘stay present’. If you want to be more genuine and meaningful in your actions and correspondence with others, your phrase might be ‘I will be myself’ or ‘I stand in my truth’. And then, where applicable, build out your goals (and associated milestones).

While intentions can be very personal, the words themselves serve as important reminders and are ideally kept front and centre in our daily lives. This can be a powerful way for teams to end and/or start the year, as it provides an opportunity for learning, sharing, vulnerability, and therefore genuine teambuilding.

Intention is the starting point of every dream.

Deepak Chopra

As a team, Jouta’s HR Consultants gather every year to recap and set intentions. We can help you and your teams do the same.