01/30/2013 01:55 pm ET Updated Apr 01, 2013

3 Steps to Making Intentions Stick

It's been a little while now since the new year has set upon us. Whether you're a resolution person or not, odds are there are some thoughts that you had about what you'd like to see unfold over this next year. Now is a good time to check back in and see how you're doing? In The Now Effect I call this "Paying Attention to Your Intention" and one of the best ways to do that is to bring attention to whatever your intentions were, see what's getting in the way, and if you've strayed, invite yourself to start again.

Whether your intentions for the year have to do with work, parenting, stress, relationships, procrastination, compassion or any other areas of your life, setting goals is an integral piece to making change. But often times when we do this we are rigid, it has to be a certain way or else we haven't achieved success. But this rigidity only backfires on us.

The thought arises, "I've failed once again," arises, leading to a sense of sluggishness and the next thought, "What's the point?"

There's another way.

There three mindful steps we can take for make our intentions come alive in this still New Year:

  1. Expect to stray: This is just a fact of life that sometimes we refuse to own up to. We'll almost always wander with the goals we make. Maybe we commit to exercise and then we get sick or we set a path for meditation and our minds get caught up in daily busy-ness while days go by without practice. One scenario or another of your behavior wandering is going to happen, so now step #2.
  2. Don't Judge: Your behavior wandering is not a good or bad thing, it's just the natural course of someone trying to make a change. Simply notice that you've wandered and where you wandered to so you can burn it into your memory and notice it sooner the next time. If judgments do arise, "I can never do this" or "what was I thinking," simply note them just like you noted your wandering behavior and move to step #3.
  3. Refocus: Gently bring yourself back to the plan you had created or see if it needs revisions.
  4. It's important to keep an open heart toward yourself as you practice; it's not going to be perfect, so the question is can we accept the reality of our imperfections? If you're perfect, you're not human; unless we reframe it by saying we're perfect with our imperfections.

You can also work on training your attention with a simple mindfulness practice. Here is a three-minute one that is the first exercise in The Now Effect to use play with called "Breath as an Anchor":

There's no need to wish you good luck on sticking to your intentions, because making change is not about luck, it's about having a good strategy of being kind and compassionate with yourself as you continue to wander off and gently guide yourself back to the object of focus.

So I'll wish you a good heart during the rest of this year!

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

For more by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., click here.

For more on success and motivation, click here.

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