I do it. Every. Single. Year.

I tell myself that I am going to maintain the same level of ‘chill’ I have achieved after two weeks at home over the holidays. I tell myself I am not going to let the stress of work plus kids plus extra curricular activities get to me. I tell myself I can be more relaxed. I tell myself I can reduce my stress.  

And then, no more than two weeks later, I’ve completely lost my intention. I’m running from one thing to the next barely realizing what I’m actually experiencing. I find my fists clenched while driving and my shoulders up by my ears while grabbing an unhealthy lunch through the drive through. 

It isn’t for lack of trying that I seem to fail at this every year. As part of my New Years resolution to be calm, I’ve done things to make my work space more calm like adding a salt lamp and reducing the clutter. I’ve bought the things I need to eat more healthy like the special lids and straws for mason jar smoothies and bento style lunch boxes. I’ve tried a variety of approaches to incorporate exercise into my day like having a pair of sneakers in my office or buying passes to the yoga studio 5 miles away from work. It all helped. A little. But I don’t feel like I’ve succeeded.

So, for 2020 I quit. I quit New Years Resolutions. 

But don’t think I’m giving up. Absolutely not. 

But I am done with pipe dreams. Expecting to have the same level of relaxation during a busy week as I did in vacation is crazy. So is going from never working out to running 3 miles every day. So is eating at home every night when you haven’t cracked open a recipe book in years. Sustainable change happens in small, manageable steps. Stop demanding unrealistic changes from yourself.

One way to make small, sustainable changes is to set your intention. Here is how: 

  1. No goals. Rather than set goals, focus on defining the intentions you want to bring to each day. The key difference between goals and intention is the lack of measures. No deadlines here!
  2. Four dedicated minutes. Dedicate two minutes in the morning and evening to focus on your intention. Two minutes may sound short, but I suspect it has been a long time since you spent a full four minutes focusing on how you want to live your days.
  3. No shame. Let’s face it. There are going to be bad days. Rather than be ashamed that you didn’t fulfill your intention, recognize it and move on. And quickly. 

Goals can be helpful to some people but overwhelming to others. And sometimes what you need now wasn’t what worked before. No matter what your personality, honor what works best for you. But, if you find that goals give you more stress than motivation, consider replacing goals with intention.