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I am a big believer in setting intentions. I plan long-term intentions – such as my 30 Before 30 list and my yearly resolutions. I plan short-term intentions – such as my monthly goals and 30-day challenges. You could say my life revolves around setting intentions and goals, and planning how I’m going to achieve them. I love it.
But setting intentions is only the first step of the process. It’s the easy step – the fun step. Once you’ve discovered what intentions you want to achieve in X amount of days, weeks, months, years… then you have to break down how you’re going to set your intentions. You have to start putting in the work – and it’s not always glamorous or fun. And sometimes, and this happens to me a fair amount of the time, intentions flop. They fail. You break down halfway through the month or something happens in your life and you have to put the intention on hold.
It happens. We’re not perfect. We make mistakes. We try and fail.
I fail a lot. I’ll be completely honest. I probably achieve less than half the intentions I set every month. So what do you do when you fail, how do you pick yourself up and try again? What’s even the point?
All good questions and today, I’m going to break down three reasons why our intentions fail and what to do about it:
1. Our intentions are too vague.
Setting intentions is a fine-tuned process. We have to set specific goals that we can measure accurately. Thus, an intention of exercising three times a week for 30 minutes is a goal we can measure. On the flip side, an intention of writing more is a vague goal. When we set vague goals, we are not setting ourselves up for success because we don’t give ourselves an opportunity to track how we’re succeeding. Setting a goal for writing more isn’t bad, persay, but it’s only the first step in the process. You then have to break down the intention to exactly what you mean (Writing a specific amount of blog posts a week? Writing for 30 minutes a day?) into actionable, measurable steps.
2. We have an all-or-nothing mentality.
Let’s say you set an intention of drinking no soda for 30 days, but 10 days into the challenge, you break and have a soda. Intention over, you failed, right? Wrong! The all-or-nothing mentality has no place in goal-setting. So you screwed up once. What if you get right back up and stay soda-free for the next 20 days? Over the course of 30 days, you had one soda. That is a HUGE accomplishment and it should be celebrated! But instead, we make one mistake and we think it’s all over. We didn’t accomplish what we set out to do, so let’s just completely get off-track and do whatever we want. Stay away from this kind of thinking. Remember to do the best you can do and nothing is ever as black-and-white as we believe.
3. We’re setting an intention we don’t actually want.
Here’s the thing: sometimes, we can set an intention, fail, set it again, fail, set it again, fail. We try new ways of achieving the intention and promise ourselves next time will be better. What if you gave yourself a break? What if you sat down with yourself and wrote out exactly why you think you need to achieve this thing? What if you find out you’re setting a goal because of what other people think or are doing? Sometimes, we fail at intentions because we’re setting goals we don’t actually want for ourselves. We’re following the crowd, believing they hold the key to what makes us happy. Make sure the intention you’re setting is an intention you truly want, not what somebody else wants for you.
An example of this is the two times I made it a goal of mine to run a half-marathon. I don’t even particularly like running, but everyone around me was running half-marathons and I wanted to be like them! Both times, I quit not even halfway through the training cycle. (And the second time, I stressed myself out about it so much, I developed shingles. Yikes.) I finally sat myself down and realized that, while many of my friends are runners and love running, it’s not something I love. And then I started making goals that fueled my own passions and less of the passions of those around me, and my motivation to succeed tripled.
Setting intentions is something I thoroughly enjoy. I get excited to make lists and scheme up what I want to accomplish next. It’s exciting to me, but failure does happen a lot and these three reasons have helped me when I get frustrated with my lack of progress. Sometimes, it’s about setting a more specific intention, other times it’s about giving myself a break and getting back on the horse when I fail, and every so often? It’s about letting go of a goal, because I’m not making it from a good place.
Always remember you are more than your intentions. Even when you fail, it doesn’t mean you lack something within yourself. Give yourself so much credit for being brave and courageous enough to try – and get out there and try again!
What intention are you currently working toward?