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.
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.