On January 1st, 2020, all around the world, people set goals and intentions that data shows will be forgotten by January 12th.  But there are some people for whom the commitment that they make will be sustainable and potentially life-changing.

They will look back on January 1st, 2020 and know that it was the real and true beginning of their journey towards creating a healthier body, a more fulfilling career, or becoming a more capable parent.  So what’s the difference between these folks and the rest of us who will look back at January 1st as just another effort towards change that somehow didn’t pan out?

In my years of working with all different kinds of clients, I’ve noticed that the difference between those who honor their goals and achieve success, and those who don’t, is summed up in their understanding of two words; intention and commitment.

I grew up in a time when intention was a big buzzword.  I learned that setting intentions is the seedling from which all our dreams and goals grow.  So I set intentions left and right, which always felt good, but rarely resulted in achieving the intended goals.  I meditated often, journaled about my intentions and practiced the “Law of Attraction” as made famous by the book, The Secret.  My results were at best, haphazard, and I could never be sure that I had anything to do with a positive result, if I actually achieved it.  

But all that changed when my own Coach explained the difference between intention and commitment to me in a way that deeply sunk in.  He explained that an intention is something akin to a hope and a desire. It’s a thought without an action plan. Whereas a commitment is a desire with a clear action plan attached to it.  Intentions live in our head, but commitments live on our calendar.

The commitment to making sure my child doesn’t go hungry, has me showing up for work.  The commitment to a healthy body has me showing up on the trails. And a commitment to my clients has me showing up to every session on time.  When we plan a trip, buy a plane ticket and book a hotel, we put it in our calendar and we show up at the airport. Barring situations out of our control, we make the trip happen.  An intention is much more nebulous and is usually preceded by the word, try. When I catch myself saying, I’ll try to attend a party, go to the gym, or help my child with his homework, it’s a fairly sure sign that it’s not going to happen.  My intentions live somewhere in the fantasy world of my thoughts, where time is endless, and energy is boundless.

These days, when an intention actually manifests in my life, I’m certain that my own actions had very little to do with it.  But I can draw a very clear line between my commitments and results. So, as you set your goals for the year ahead, will you frame them as intentions or commitments?

Here are a 6 steps to help you set yourself up for success:

  1.  Master your understanding of commitment vs. intention and make sure that you make very few, if any, commitments.  It’s better to not make any, than to not show up for yourself when you make a meaningful commitment.
  2. Create a sustainable action plan to honor your goal.  Take your time with this piece and make sure your actions are broken down into bite sized chunks that are totally realistic and doable.  It’s better to commit to a 10 minute a day walk that’s doable for you than an hour a day at the gym.
  3. Put your action plan on your calendar and honor it in the same way you would honor a doctor’s appointment or a meeting with your boss.
  4. Know that not wanting to do what you have committed to is 100% going to be the case on many days.  Take action and honor your calendar anyway. These are the days that you will look back on January 1st of 2021 and feel proud of yourself for having done the hard thing.
  5. Get support.  Whether joining a group that shares the same goals, working with a professional coach, or just connecting with an accountability partner, know that every single one of us needs support to achieve our big goals.
  6. Forget about the law of attraction and practice the law of creation.  It’s a lot more fun!