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General Health

I’m a Goal-Setting Expert. Here’s How to Set—and Keep—Your New Year Intentions

Resolutions are so 2021.

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2022 is almost here, and it’s safe to say many of us are ready to leave 2021 behind and have a fresh start (or at least a fresh calendar). If you struggle with goal-setting or find yourself dropping your resolutions by the time February rolls around, you may want to try a new personal development technique—intention setting.

Offering a more thematic-based approach to change, intention setting allows you to focus on the big picture, instead of concrete goals. If this seems intimidating, don’t worry—it’s not. I spoke to a content creator with expertise in goal setting, Aileen Xu, to learn about how to set intentions and how to keep them.

Why setting intentions is important

Intention setting is related to goal setting—with a bit of twist. While goals are often more specific and “checkable” items, intentions are broader, focusing on larger themes in your life. “I believe an intention is setting a focus on the energy you want to receive,”  Xu says. “Maybe your intention is you want more joy in your life or more love—better relationships.” Intention setting and goal setting go hand-in-hand, Xu says. And neither is more important than the other.

Setting intentions allows you to focus broadly on what you need in your life. It fuses concepts of goal setting with self-reflection. With intention setting, you’ll be able to head into 2022 with a better understanding of yourself—and your own needs.

How to set intentions

OK, so you’re ready to set some intentions. How, exactly, do you do that?

First, Xu recommends spending some time reflecting on yourself and your life. Ask yourself how you’re feeling and what you feel you’re lacking, she says. Sound tricky? Xu recommends breaking it down by different areas in your life. Her workbook includes a self-reflection wheel, which gives you space to reflect on and rate different areas of your life, including your health, career, and relationships.

“The exercise is great because normally you don’t think about it—you don’t realize the areas you’re neglecting,” she says. By doing this exercise, you’ll be able to see the areas where you need place more attention or where something is missing. This is what you can focus on in your intention setting, she says.

To actually set the intentions, Xu recommends writing them down—and keeping them in a visible place. This can be on a notepad on your bedside table or as your phone background. When you have your intention in front of you day after day, it’s harder to forget about it and neglect it. “Say your intention is to slow down and give yourself some space,” she says. “When tasks are pilling on and you feel very overwhelmed and busy, you can come back to your intention. ‘OK, my intention was not to do more this month, my intention was to slow down, so I’m going to say no to more things.’” An intention should guide your daily life and decision-making processes, she says.

When to change your intention

This really depends on the person, she says. Xu prefers setting a monthly intention, but you may opt to set a daily, weekly, or yearly intention, as well. You can also have multiple intentions at the same time, she says. “There are no rules,” she says. “I see intentions as your guiding light. It’s the compass to guide you to live the life you want to live.” Intentions can help ground us–especially when chaos and obstacles get in the way.

If 2021 taught us anything, it’s that life can get in the way (all. the. time.). So why not head into 2022 a bit more grounded, with intentions. (It’s worth a try, right?)

See also: New Year’s Guide to Making Lasting Changes