How to Set Intentions

And Why Most New Year's Resolutions Fall Quicker Than the Ball Dropping

How to Set Intentions

Ah, yes. Another year has passed, and you know what that means. The gyms become jam-packed, new organizational tools line store shelves, and artful advertisements about weight-loss programs seem to pop up during every commercial break. (What a time to be alive.) These shame-inducing tactics are geared towards one thing: the money companies can make off of New Year’s Resolutions. Yet, every year, so many people waste their money on things they don’t even really want to do or really even need. And with each passing year, the cycle continues. Why? One word: pressure. Pressure to do better. To be better. Pressure to look good. Pressure to be the “health nut.” Societal pressure…self-pressure...any kind of pressure, really.

Now, most people come up with a handful of goals that they want to complete during the New Year. Some of the most popular resolutions include losing weight, saving money, staying organized, quitting a bad habit, and starting a new hobby. According to, around 60 percent of the population set New Year’s resolutions. However, only about 8 percent actually end up reaching their goals! In fact, many people report not even making it through January! Why do so many people end up falling short? How come all the motivation that builds up during the end of December seems to fall once the ball drops and the clock strikes midnight? (Did I hear you say pressure?)

Well, sit down and listen up! I’m about to drop some knowledge!

Obviously, there are a multitude of reasons that someone bails on a New Year’s resolution. (I’ll take Pressure for 500, Alex.) Depending on the resolution, and the person, it could be lack of time, lack of money, or maybe they realize that the resolution just isn’t as important as they thought it was. But the number one issue that I find occurs, is that many people are unrealistic with their resolutions. (Because of the intense pressure). Maybe they set something that isn’t in their control, or they don’t allot enough time to do it, making this time of year a big source of stress. (In case you were curious about the cause, it’s pressure).

I, personally, do not set New Year’s resolutions. I feel like they are gimmicky, cliché, and not very fruitful. My philosophy is that if there is something you really want to change in your life, why wait until January 1st to pull the lever? Now, don’t get me wrong: there is nothing wrong with setting goals and wanting to change something about your life. I always encourage my clients to set goals. However, I also encourage them to stay away from the “New Year’s Culture.” If you’re not careful, you could wake up a month later as a member of a gym you don’t even like, eating foods you hate, and/or are broke. Of course, if you do want to set New Year’s Resolutions, there are ways to do it without falling into the trap. Some of you may ask, “So what’s the solution, Rowan? How can I accomplish {insert personal goal} and NOT fall flat on my face?” Well, dear reader, I’m glad you asked.

Instead of setting resolutions, try to set intentions. Intentions are, essentially, very personal and specific goals. They usually consist of a definite, desired outcome and a plan—two very important things when setting intentions.

A Quick Side Note:

Let’s get one thing straight here: there is no intention too big or too small. All that matters is that you have a plan. So before you go and start doubting your abilities and telling yourself that this is just going to be another repeat of 2009 when you promised yourself you were going to wake up at 4 AM every day to hit the gym before work, I want you to take a minute, breathe, and follow my instructions. You. Can. Do. This. All you need is yourself, a pen, and a piece of paper.

So how do you set intentions? #1: The Vision

First things first: Make sure you are de-stressed. Do this exercise on your day off, after you’ve gotten a decent amount of sleep, and had some nourishing food. Trust me, you’ll be more motivated once you’re in a good mood.

Next, make sure you have a quiet space. Maybe in your room? Or bathroom even? Or if you don’t have privacy in your home, try your car or going somewhere where you won’t be interrupted. (Make sure to bring that pen and paper I mentioned earlier).

Once you’ve secluded yourself, close your eyes. Reflect on the past year. Think about all the successes and failures you’ve had. Be thankful for those wins. Embrace those loses and learn from them. Know that whatever has happened, has happened. You cannot change it. And that’s okay.

With your eyes still closed, think about what you want to accomplish this coming year. Whether that’s something big like buying a house or starting a business, or something smaller like making a grocery list each time you run to the store. Like I said earlier, no intention is too big or too small. Once you have come up with two or three things you want to achieve, make sure to write them down. For each intention, make sure you have plenty of room to write notes and your plan.

Thinking of one intention at a time, close your eyes and envision what it would feel like to accomplish it. How would your life be different? Would it make you happier? Write down your responses under each intention. Be as detailed as you can. The more details, the better. This will help keep you motivated when you feel like you want to quit.

So how do you set intentions? #2: The Game Plan

Now that you’ve come up with your intentions and envisioned the result, it’s time to nail down a game plan. Before you click away from this post and tell yourself that you wouldn’t know where to start and you don’t like planning, etc, etc, know this: YOU ARE IN CONTROL and YOU CAN BE FLEXIBLE. You can adjust your plan as needed. Hell, you can even scrap it completely and make a new plan. It’s up to you! Like the famous quote says, “Be stubborn about your goals, and flexible about your methods.” What you are going to want to do, however, are two things: write down your plan, and give yourself ample time to test it out.

So on your piece of paper, under each intention, you’re going to write your plan of attack. Again, you’re going to want to be specific. I find it’s easiest to break it down in time frames. For example, let’s say your intention is to lose 20 pounds. Under your “Game Plan” section, you’ll have sections titled, one month, three months, and six months. And in each section, you’ll write how many pounds you want to have lost by each time frame. And then you’re going to want to write what actions you want to take to meet those goals. So maybe you’ll say, “I will work out four days a week. I will focus on clean eating by cutting out processed foods. I will cook at home more often and limit eating out to once a week. I will increase my water intake to two liters a day.” If you are specific, you won’t feel like this intention you set is this huge daunting task. Whenever you feel lost, come back to your game plan.

If, after some time, you find that your plan just isn’t working, reassess and readjust. Maybe going to the gym four times in a week isn’t working for you and you cut it back to three times a week. Or maybe you find that, with all the added exercise, you need to increase your water intake. All of this is UP TO YOU.

So how do you set intentions? #3: The Finishing Touches! Sort of…

Congratulations! You have successfully mapped out your intentions for this coming year. Pat yourself on the back! Hang them up for you to look at every day. It doesn’t have to be anything too fancy. As long as they are legible and someplace you can see them daily, you’re solid! (Psst…if you do want to go all out, adding some color and/or pictures can be quite fun!)

This next step is completely optional, but I find it’s super helpful in moments where you are lacking motivation: Get an accountability partner. When you’re one month in and feeling like you’re never going to accomplish your goals, it really helps to have someone on your side. An accountability partner can be anyone. They could be a close friend, a spouse, a coach, or even your local coffee shop barista! They just have to be willing to sit and listen to you talk through your intentions, vent about the shortcomings, and most importantly, celebrate the victories.

Easy as 1…2…3…

So the next time you are watching TV and an ad comes on for that new and trendy juice cleanse that PROMISES you’ll drop all your extra weight in three days, remember that that commercial is just to entice you to make them money. If you really want to make a change in your life, you don’t need anything too fancy. Just close your eyes, envision what you’d want, and then make a plan. You got this.


how to
Rowan Villa-Howells
Rowan Villa-Howells
Read next: The Deception of Instagram
Rowan Villa-Howells

Health coach and lover of words. :)

Health coach Instagram: @WellnessByRowan

Personal Instagram: @_miss_rowan

See all posts by Rowan Villa-Howells