How to Set (and stick to) Realistic Intentions

Welcome to another self-care installment, BBs! If you’re not a member of the Boss Babe Tribe, you may have missed that this month’s theme is mindfulness. I know that’s being thrown around a lot lately, but I’m not here to talk to you about meditation (though if you’re looking for that, here’s a good listicle on HuffPo.)

Before we get into it, a key to meeting your intentions is keeping them visible, so I made you a few templates on Canva to start with! Just click the link below and hit the “Use as Template” button.

Intention Template by Elle Duran

In last week’s tribe email, I mentioned how crucial it was to learn to commit to yourself before you start committing to anyone else:

If you can’t keep your own word to yourself, you’re setting a shaky foundation for what you can offer others.

Part of my definition of a Boss Babe Life is a non-negotiable approach to loving yourself. And a foundational piece of self-love is honesty. How many times do we wake up and say “this is the day I do all the things!” then find ourselves on the couch at 7 PM, completely wiped out with none of those things done? My guess is, more often than we’d care to admit. I won’t claim to be a perfect productivity machine, but learning to set realistic intentions has had a growing and positive impact on my life!

One of my biggest motivations is my own fear of stagnation. (Does anyone else have this fear?) When I feel like one part of my life is standing still, I need the balance of tangible progress in something else. Working out regularly is a great way to achieve that balance, because results are guaranteed. There are always things we can’t control, or progress that may not move as fast as we’d like. Our bodies are not one of those things, they will progress as long as we push, but to expand those  boundaries we need to know why we are pushing.

The first step in setting realistic intentions is to understand what motivates you.

For me, this is the hardest part. If you don’t have a clear reason for doing something, you’re not likely to commit. I once took up running for no reason other than I was challenged to do so, and pride will make you do stupid things. (The Mister can tell you how much I enjoyed it. Hint: not at all.) I stuck with it long enough to run a 5K and never ran again. It wasn’t for me, and it wasn’t something I’d decided to do for myself.

More important than facing what really gets you going, is embracing it. Owning your “why” and overcoming the feeling that it “should” be something isn’t easy. Your motivation is just that – yours. You don’t need to share or justify it to anyone. You’re free to commit to something for purely selfish (or selfless) reasons!

Know your purpose and the passion will follow.

We live in a constant state of unrest where we’re told to pursue our passions, but what if you don’t know what you’re passionate about?

First, you’re not alone! Remember that what you see on your friends’ profiles is not 100% of the story. We all carry some confusion or curiosity in our personal and professional paths even if we don’t show it. With that said, it’s okay to not know. What matters is knowing what propels you. If you decide to pursue a creative business only to make extra money, it’s not going to work out. I’m writing from experience – I’ve “launched” numerous creative endeavors throughout the years and none of my earlier efforts stuck because I didn’t have a basis for motivation. “Extra cash” is not enough of the story. I’d find myself struggling to commit to my own deadlines, or worse, not taking initiative and allowing my clients to string me along for months. Ultimately, I’d waste a ton of time and the payout was never proportional to the effort.

Once I asked myself enough questions to get to the root, I found the motivation to write and create on a consistent basis. It’s especially important to focus on your purpose when you’re not feeling motivated – passion follows habit. If you have a strong enough reason to commit to something, it won’t be long before it becomes part of your routine, and then part of your personal fabric. When we start a task with intention, the momentum will build naturally. 

Simplify your thought process.

Every day, we make hundreds of decisions blindly, but what if we went through our day with direction? Digging deep to find your purpose is a lot of work up front, but once it’s there, everything is easier! Start by asking yourself what your goals are and listing them out. For example, some of the goals my Boss Babe Tribe has shared:

These are all common goals, but what makes them uncommon is the driving factor behind them.
(Skip the examples and get to the next step!)
(or…if this seems too much, skip to the summary.)

Let’s get into it:

For fitness goals, start here:

  • What is it that makes you feel unfit?
  • Are you comparing yourself to someone? (If so, why is that person’s image important to you?)
  • Is there a specific time when you’ve felt like being ‘healthier’ would have created a better result for you?
  • If your goal is to lose weight, what are the benefits for you?
  • Where would it fit in your schedule?
  • How would you measure progress? (PLEASE don’t say consistent weigh-ins)
  • How would your success affect your daily life? How would it affect your family/relationships?

Confronting body image is one of the toughest things to do, but you can’t build a healthier lifestyle on whim alone. It takes work. Understanding what the results of that work would be and how it would affect your life as it is, right now, can make a huge difference in whether you stick to it or not. The “eventually” mentality won’t do anything for you, because without a defined space in your schedule, you’ll “eventually” get started – which translates to never. It’s ok to have an idea of what you want to look like, but constant comparison will only build envy and desperation. Knowing what the positive benefits would be to your family is a more powerful reason. I work out because I want to be stronger for my family, current and future. My parents are still very active, but eventually they may need to be carried around and I’m ready for it! If I ever have children, I want to be able to chase them around (or throw them around once they’re teenagers, ugh.) Working out regularly has the added benefits of letting me blow off a lot of steam and helping me hold myself straighter – it helps to be imposing when you work in a male-dominated field.

If you’re looking for a career upgrade:

  • What are the pros and cons your current position?
  • What would you want to cut out of your workday and why?
  • How are promotions structured in your company?
  • Are you comfortable in your work environment?
  • Do you have a good relationship with your colleagues and leadership?
  • How would a promotion/exit affect these relationships?
  • Have you done a performance review lately and was it positive?
  • Do you want more responsibility, or do you want a salary increase?
  • Why do you want (the answer to the previous question)?
  • How would increased responsibility/salary/both affect your professional and personal life?

While this site is written for blossoming Boss Babes, I don’t encourage aimless ambition. If you’re looking for empty quotes about “the grind” I’m not your girl. If you’re looking for a promotion or a new job, the fastest way to land it is intentional pursuit. “Working hard” is a great place to start, but if you haven’t made it a point to vocalize your plans, your boss has no way of knowing what you want.

Your work ethic will back you up when you have that conversation, but it’s on you to create a foundation that leads to your goal. I’ve made it a practice to mention my desire for a leadership role in every interview, whether they ask where I see myself in a few years or not. This way, you’re entering a company with an understanding in place that you intend to learn from, then move forward from your first role.

If you want to launch your own business:

  • What problem are you solving?
  • What service/product will you be providing?
  • What is the bare minimum you need to get started?
  • What’s the competition like for your target market? (Or who else is doing it and for whom)
  • What makes your service/product different?
  • When would you work on your business?

If answering these questions already seems daunting, you may need to reassess why you want to start a business. Like I said before, I’ve “tried” several times and failed, because my reasoning was unclear. I wasn’t offering anything groundbreaking, and what made it special was that I worked for cheap – which didn’t match with my desire for side income. It became more work than the minimal cash flow was worth! Have this conversation with a friend or a mentor, find someone who has recently launched their own business and get clear on your motivation.

My passion is centered around helping people reach their full potential (hello, TBBL), so along with the blog, I launched Fancy Brandwork. My services are aimed at helping women establish their personal brand. I get the most satisfaction from my work when I can teach someone something new, so I treat each project like a workshop!

Write it down, remind yourself, get a buddy.

Do not “make a note” on your phone. Don’t lock this away into your Evernote, this takes physical ink-to-paper action. These intentions need to be somewhere you can see them, regularly. The only way I’d recommend digital is if you were making a graphic for your desktop and lock screen wallpaper (which I do all the time). Then, repeat them to yourself daily. Make them your morning mantra – I talk to myself the most when I’m walking to the train.

Building focus takes time, but once you set and make your first change, you’ll build from that momentum. When I set an intention to be more connected to my readers, I started the newsletter and that snowballed into stronger blog posts and a more frequent posting schedule. Writing love notes to my tribe every week and hearing back from them gave me the push that I needed to keep sharing, and inspires an endless list of topics. (Shout out to my BB Tribe, you’re amazing!)

I can’t stress the value of an accountability partner. I’ve only recently found a reliable blogging buddy and our conversations are always challenging and fulfilling. At the most basic level, you’re more likely to do something when you have someone outside else to answer to. More importantly, you have an outside perspective to speak with and learn why you didn’t complete certain items and where your priorities lie.

Then, experiment with your schedule.

Here’s where “realistic” comes into play. I personally struggle with balancing all the things I want to do against the number of hours in a day, but if a goal is not in your schedule, it’s just a daydream. Let’s go back to our three examples:

If you’ve figured out why you want to get fit, when will you start your journey? Do you have some free time in the morning or evening? Are you ambitious enough to work out during lunch?

If you’re looking for a promotion or a new job, have you set aside time to make your case? Have you been collecting highlights from your time in your current position?

If you want to start your own business, how much time can you commit to building it each week? Slow progress is still progress, so is an hour a day realistic?

The operative word here is experiment, you don’t have to go full force right this instant. Instead, break down your goals into smaller steps and assign them dates and times. Each little check is a step in the right direction, and adding one step at a time into your daily rotation makes it easy for you to observe what sticks or slips.

Let’s recap:

  • Write down the basic goal (i.e. “Get fit.”)
  • Ask yourself complex questions to understand your motivation.
  • Make it simple – before taking on a task consider whether it serves or disrupts your goals?
  • Keep your intentions visible.
  • List out the steps you need to take to get there.
  • Add those steps to your calendar, do them even when you “don’t feel like it.”
  • Watch yourself grow!

Anything is possible if you are willing to work for it.

There are no hacks or shortcuts to changing your life, setting intentions just makes the path clearer. You can take your time exploring it, or you can blaze down your checklist and move onto the next one. What matters is that you understand what drives you and how you can fit it into your life.

Your turn!

  • Have you ever tried “intentional living”?
  • What are some of your dreams that aren’t structured yet?
  • What do you struggle with the most when chasing a goal?

Special thanks to #WOCinTech for the excellent images.