Turn Your Intentions Into Actions

I’m one of the 42% of Americans who don’t make New Year’s resolutions. 

It's partly because I’m also one of the 48% who have “infrequent success" with them. 

I resist resolutions because they sound like a “should,” something I have to talk myself into doing because I know it will be good for me, and require clearly succinct goals, specific deadlines and ambitious performance metrics.

I prefer to work with an intention. An intention emerges from something I know I want to do. When it’s rooted in what I’m already doing, it has a better chance of succeeding because the next steps are readily put in place so that I'll take action. Hello, gratification.

Stop, Start, Continue is a proven approach to bring about change that builds on what you're already doing. I decided to apply this model to one of my intentions for the new year. I invite you to follow along, to see the thinking behind what I did and to get ideas of how you can take action on your own intentions.

Consider Your Intention

My original idea was that I wanted to read more. 

You don’t have to do much to get me to read, whether it’s a book or an article, infographic or inspirational quote. The non-fiction I read feeds my love for the process of learning and making meaning, and it enables me to have more to share with people through coaching, teaching and writing. 

As I thought about it, I realized that I do plenty of reading, so "more" didn't really address what I wanted. What’s right in front of me most of the time is a computer and internet, loaded with good reads and an endless trail of links to click. Nearby, my stacks of books and magazines await my attention. 

Know Thyself

I saw that my interest had less to do with volumes read and more to do with creating a process for reading. My intention became: Read Mindfully. This is a shorthand label that reminds me what I want to be doing.

With the intention defined, I moved on.

Stop: What can I stop doing? 
I’m prone to read with a scattered approach—this, then…oh! look at that!…and on to something else of interest. 

Start: What can I start to do? 
To help me minimize my wandering, I decided to create structure to help identify what to read, when to do some of the reading, and what to document. Here’s what I put in place:

  • List the books I want to read, by high-level categories such as mind-body, interviewing, career, etc. 
  • Allow time each day for non-fiction reading. The time of day and how long I read vary with my schedule.
  • Allow for time on Monday morning and Friday afternoon to catch up with on-line reading such as blogs from people I’m connected with (and which are loaded with tempting links). It's a nice way to begin and wrap-up my week.
  • List the books that I finish reading and keep a reference list of articles that may be of interest to others.

Continue: What’s already in place to build from? 
The idea of lists got started last year, when I was disciplined about writing down the titles of the books I want to read and those that I complete. (My local library’s summer read-along was the inspiration; I just enjoy the process of logging the books I read.)

My list lives in the Notes app on my phone. The new categories make it easy for me to enter titles and review what I’ve read. I thought about using a special notebook (something I’m always happy to buy), but decided to keep it simple. Another benefit is that the list is always with me and I don’t have to carry anything extra. 

Change: What’s different as a result?
I’m pleased to report that the process has helped me make changes, quickly. Here’s why I believe my Read Mindfully intention is working. I was able to:

  • Clarify why it was important to me to make this change (ongoing learning, sharing)
  • Name my intention (gives me a quick reminder to do it and signals when I'm not)
  • Identify actions that build on what I was already doing (list, tracking)
  • Create a boundary around when to read certain materials (Monday and Friday for on-line reading)
  • Keep it simple (use an app) 
  • See change in a short amount of time (easy for me to stick with it)

The one element that I’m continuing to refine is the boundaries for reading on Monday and Friday. I know it will be good for me to schedule this—with a set amount of time—so that I continue to maintain my focus. 

This is one example of applying the Start, Stop, Continue model to make a change to a daily routine. Your own intention may benefit from more detail, additional steps or a new notebook. 

Here are the questions to use to help you get you started with shifting an intention from an idea into action: 

  • What’s one idea you have about something you want to change? 
  • Why is this important to you? 
  • What is a shorthand name for your intention?
  • What can you stop doing, that may be distracting or getting in the way of moving your intention forward?
  • What can you start to do? Remember, simple is useful.
  • What’s already in place, that you can continue to do, build on or tweak? 
  • What’s the result? Acknowledge what’s working and continue to refine.

Please let me know how it goes bringing your intentions come to life.

I help mindful and ambitious women get on a path to a career they love. We identify steps to move your intentions forward. Are you ready to elevate your professional potential with concrete action and self-care? Check out my Services page to see how I can support you.