6 Ways to Successfully Set Intentions for the New Year

It's great to be ambitious, but setting goals that are too lofty can backfire. Instead, try these expert tips to craft lasting resolutions.

champagne flutes

As one year winds down, many of us dream up big plans for the new one ahead, like running a marathon or launching an income-boosting side hustle.

Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned. According to one study, 45 percent of Americans usually set New Year's Resolutions — but a mere 8 percent of people actually end up reaching those goals. The problem: Shooting for new goals without formulating a strategy to achieve them sets you up for failure. It’s easy to do, after all: We get so excited about the end goal, we forget about the steps we need to take to actually get there. 

Plus, says Katrine van Wyk, Lead Health Coach at THE WELL, “the chances are slim you’ll end up achieving your goals if you’re setting traditional resolutions." Why? Popular New Year’s resolutions involve huge lifestyle changes, like cutting out entire food groups, altering your sleep schedule or putting major physical stress on your body. But as soon as you skip a morning workout or a potential client bails — you may feel like giving up completely. And the statistics above prove that many of us do.

Luckily, there’s a better way. Read through these research-backed tips and get ready to achieve all the things you want this year.


Start small and get specific

The idea of waking up at 6am or swearing off sweets for good may sound doable to your 2019 self, but making those drastic changes in one fell swoop just isn’t going to happen. “Lofty goals are well and good, but they often remain just that — lofty and overwhelming,” Van Wyk says. 

Once you've come up with your BIG, audacious goals (we recommend three to five), break them down into smaller steps or habits. You might have heard of "SMART" goal-setting, which stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Basically, the takeaway from this acronym is to give your goals plenty of details and deadlines.

If your goal is to complete a big project like writing a book or starting a business, for instance, you can get specific make sure to give yourself due dates and deadlines along the way to keep yourself on track. Or instead of vowing to, "run a race" try: "swap my walk for a short jog.”

It’s also easier to try to “crowd out” the bad habits you want to stop by introducing more good things, rather than quitting cold turkey, van Wyk suggests. For example, if you want to cut back on your caffeine intake, start your day with hot water and lemon and maybe you’ll end up drinking less coffee too — without even trying. 

Shooting for new goals without formulating a strategy to achieve them sets you up for failure.


Find your why

Every goal-setting session should include some soul-searching. What do you want to achieve this year, and more importantly, why? This is known as intrinsic motivation, which is the deep drive you have to achieve something. Psychologists say tapping into your intrinsic motivation is a key to reaching your goals.

Some questions to ask yourself to help you discover your why include:

  • Why is this goal so important to me?

  • What will my life look like when I achieve this goal?

  • What would my life look like if I didn't achieve it?

  • What additional benefits will I experience as a result?

  • How have I achieved a similar goal in the past?


Set a theme for the year

If setting multiple goals sounds daunting, try choosing one theme for the new year: Pick one word or phrase that you want to define the year ahead. For instance, perhaps your theme is “growth” or “grounding,” or maybe you want to focus on self-love or creativity. Write it down, and keep it in your sight — in your planner, on your screen saver or above your desk. 

Try choosing one theme for the new year: Pick one word or phrase that you want to define the year ahead. 


Write monthly intentions

Creating a list of intentions each month can be especially helpful if your big goals can be broken down into stages, or if you're trying to bring new habits into your life. Revisit your yearly goals or theme, and make sure that your monthly intentions align with the overall vision for you have for the year. 


Enlist an accountability partner

Sure, the bulk of motivation should come from within yourself, but let's be honest: Checking in with someone can also help keep you on track. We highly recommend enlisting the help of a close friend, significant other or a Health Coach to help you achieve your goals. You’re more than twice as likely to achieve your goals when you have support. 


Reward yourself

When you reach those milestones you've jotted down in your planner or Google cal, it's time to #treatyoself. And we don't mean by going HAM on fro-yo. Gift yourself a manicure, an afternoon at the movies, or even a day trip somewhere you've been wanting to go. Celebrating the little victories along the way will help you stay on track and reach your goals in the long run.

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