Moving from Goals to Intentions in 2020

For a number of years I’ve done well with setting and tracking health-related goals. (See previous articles: 2014 Goals2015 Goals, 2016 Goals, 2017 Goals, 2018 Goals, Goals 2019). Perhaps surprisingly (at least to me!) I made progress on my goals year after year. I found it helpful to be focused on considering goals, setting some, tracking, and overall establishing some habits that support my health.

The challenge of setting goals

I think goal setting and tracking can be really helpful. For me, it allows me to gain some perspective on where I have been and where I would like to go. It also has helped with pinpointing actions that I want to take for myself, particularly the ones that are every day (or several times a week).

When I can't live up to my goals

The downside of goals can be the emotional involvement when we can’t fulfill them. I have had to learn to be OK with days I can’t live up to my goals (or even weeks!). I’ve had to accept that perfection is not possible, especially while living with a serious chronic disease that can be tempestuous and irritable. My RA often has different ideas than I like about fatigue, reasonable resting time, exercise, pain, and more. The biggest lesson or balance to try to strike is to work on the goals while giving leeway to the disease when required.

I like having a plan of action

Setting goals has been good for me because I like the concrete when it comes to my tasks. I like having an action that I can check off a list. (Yes, I really do have a task list with exercise and meditate recurring every day.) I want to know each day what I am trying to do: exercise so much, eat to reach whatever balance of protein vs carbs, get so many hours of rest, etc. I have always wanted to be able to quantify and track.

Setting intentions is my next stretch

But I believe it is now time for me to move on, and it may be more challenging for me. This year, instead of setting myself goals I am going to trust that I will continue my well-established healthful habits and push forward to extend myself to only three broader “intentions.” This is more challenging for me because it builds on my years of specific goals and also expands to broader territory.

An intention can be described as a practice. To me, it is broader and less specific than a goal. In fact, an intention can encompass many goals. In my mind, intentions may be harder for me because they are broader and wider. I will need to think about these intentions every day and consider whether my actions are in keeping with them.

My intentions for 2020

  • Support my health with good habits. Over several years I have established some good health habits. I exercise nearly every day. I eat healthfully (but need to be mindful of my sweet tooth). I want to continue these habits and possibly support other actions that assist my health (such as meditating more regularly). Whatever I do, I want to ask myself if it is good for my health. I want this to be the query that I take with me and supports me in making good choices for my body.
  • Show myself more self-compassion. I am very hard on myself. When I am feeling bad (such as an RA flare), I can be even harder on the self-recrimination and blame. I don’t always treat myself with the same compassion I show for others. And I need to change this. I need to tell myself that I will have bad days, but it will get better. I need to be kinder to my own body and mind.
  • Practice patience. It is possible that patience may be my weakest attribute. Sometimes I just feel so impatient that I want to explode! But I need to strengthen my patience. I need to breathe more and worry less. Patience is truly a practice.

When you are raised by an engineer father and an organized mother, setting and working on goals may come naturally. So, for me the step of setting intentions is truly a difficult challenge. While it may seem like only three ideas, they cover huge ground. This year I am making a new leap and I’m excited to see what I can accomplish.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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