I am in awe of the people who can make dramatic life changes overnight. Occasionally I read about someone who was once an overweight chain smoker, and within two years they became a vegan barefoot ultra-marathon runner, who makes their own granola and has the BMI of a gazelle.
I am in awe of these people, simply because I am not one of them. The words of the tester at Johnson O’Connor still echo in my head. “There are people who set goals and they can imagine them and reach their goals. You are not one of those people.”
If you are not one of those people either, I explained in my last post a little bit about how you can break the process down in manageable pieces. I mentioned a little something about “setting intentions”, which deserves a longer explanation.
First of all, I avoid the term “New Year’s Resolution” like the plague. And not just any plague. Its the plague from Resident Evil that turns people into toothy, grunting, undead monsters. Its an infernal term that sets people up for failure.
“Resolution” or “resolve” is such an awful way of going about a change that requires massive habit change and motivation. Its defined as “a firm decision to do or not to do something”. Here’s the thing about these firm decisions: there is no margin of error.
We are not the idols of perfect living that we want to be. The “do it or don’t do it” approach can be discouraging, because if you don’t do it the one time, well, then its as if you haven’t done it at all.
When you think about how firmly set you have to be in your resolution, how its such an unchangeable and unmovable thing, then its no wonder that people quit. You’re going to screw up, so be okay with it. Making life changes is hard.
I also avoided the word “goal” which is defined as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort”. I don’t have anything against goals and have set a few of them for this year. I have a goal of running the Newport Marathon, but the goal itself is not enough. I need a training plan. I need to stick to that training plan. I need to get my mileage up over the next couple weeks, before I start that training plan. I need to drink water, eat well, and get plenty of rest between now and June.
So there’s the “intention”, which is defined as “a thing intended, an aim or a plan.” And that may seem a little woo-wooey and wishy washy, but its all about how these words affect your mindset.
The purpose of “intention” is to be more mindful of the choices you want to make, because changes don’t happen without making certain choices. Someone will say how it was never their intention to lose their temper or be late to a meeting or forget a birthday. It wasn’t their intention, but because of our pesky human flaws, they made choices contrary to their intention.
At the same time last year that I set my intention around writing, I also wanted to organize an International Pi Day Fun Run. I wanted to get people together on March 14th, run 3.14 miles, and eat pie. HOW AMAZEBALLS WOULD THAT BE?!?!
But that takes a lot of planning and organizing, a lot of marketing and logistics. Nothing wrong with any of that, except its not writing. This is not writing, I thought to myself. So I tabled my plans.
Throughout the year, the same thought popped in my head. Articles about a Donald Trump candidacy? This is not writing. Looking up super foods for runners? This is not writing. Reading Oatmeal cartoons? This is not writing. (Sorry, Matthew Inman).
Its never anybody’s intention to get distracted for two hours on the Internet, or by the fear of missing out, or to do anything that is less work and infinitely more comfortable than writing, yet they do it anyway.
Setting an intention is an opportunity to make a different choice than the ones that quietly destroy you.
Its an opportunity to make a different choice and act on what you’re really about. Its an opportunity, this one time, not to succumb to resistance. Its an opportunity to honor those higher intentions and to honor the part of yourself that hungers to create. Take the opportunity enough times and by the end of the year you will have created something that amazes you.
And in the meantime, I’ll find a buddy to run a pi and eat a pie.