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How To Set An Intention

Make your year about direction, not destination.

This year, the team at Pattern is thinking about intentions rather than resolutions. It's a subtle change, yet we've found time and again that subtle changes can have profound effects.

With the shift, we're focusing on daily actions rather than results, intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic, and factors we can control rather than externalities.

In the past, our resolutions have too often focused on external pressures and expectations others set for us. 

We've learned it's important to consider what truly makes life better. Because many of us have wondered, when we've checked all the boxes and completed each task, why we're left with that empty feeling of something missing.

So, take this as a chance to get to know yourself better. When you set your course with the most fundamental parts of your life and character in mind, you open up to a deep sense of fulfillment.

Here's a guide to setting and sticking to intentions for your new year.

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Consider your why.

Start by setting your intentions around what you love. Intentions are simply hopes for how you'd like to act. And those actions should be consistent with a life you'd really enjoy. When brainstorming, ask yourself - is this actually something that will bring you lasting enjoyment, happiness, or fulfillment? Alternatively, are you only bringing this into your new year because of a version of yourself you thought you should be at one point?

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Think small scale.

If you can make your intentions into habits, it'll be easier to embody those intentions. Consistency writes habit into your brain, whereas exhausting yourself once every couple of weeks makes habits very difficult to keep. Say you intend to start reading more this year. Think about a reasonable amount of time you might spend reading. Then set an intention to read for half that time on a more regular basis.

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Get specific.

Let's be honest. Sometimes the habits we want to keep aren't the easiest. We often enjoy certain activities only when we've gotten started. Even our favorite things can come with a certain friction. Writing your habits down with specificity can help you imagine how it'll happen, so you get over that hurdle. Try writing, I intend to [activity] for [time] in [location] at [time of day] every [interval like day, week, or month].

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Let others in.

Western cultures tend to focus on the individual nature of pursuits, and it's romantic to think of them some kind of solitary penance. See how it feels to let a friend or loved one know about something you're trying to do. Then, see if there's a way for them to participate. You'll create a chance for quality time, and potentially make your intention more fun. Unless your intention is to find more solitude. Then do that. Respect.

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Celebrate milestones.

One potential drawback to intentions and positive habits is that they don't always come with immediate rewards. Resolutions, on the other hand, come with major celebrations at the end, but that puts your focus way off in the distance. If you can give yourself little kindnesses along the way, you can make intentions rewarding, without looking too far into the future. If you intend to meditate more, you could have your coffee directly after meditating each morning. Or, if you're looking to run more, you could take yourself out for a nice dinner every ten runs. Try not to make these rewards dependent on a streak, or doing something every day, since that doesn't lead to a healthy relationship with the activity.


Finally, when you're putting these intentions into practice, it's important to be kind to yourself.

This can be a tough time of year, especially for perfectionists. If you miss a day, good news - you're human. Think about what you're getting from an intention along the way. If after a while you find it's not making your life better, feel free to let an intention go. 

Getting to an end goal is great, but it's almost always what we learn and feel along the way that makes us into the people we want to be. One of our favorite philosopher-climber-businesspersons has a few stronger words about destinations over direction. He said it. Not us.


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