September is the new January!
It’s always heralded a fresh start for me. A time to commit or recommit to a desired goal.
What about you?
Do you remember when you were a child, nervous and excited as the new school year began? New grade, new pens and pencils, notebooks and binders. Old friendships renewed, new friendships to be created.
Remember when you were a parent and oh-so-ready for your kids to return to school? Then, finally, you could re-establish familiar household routines and refocus on work and meeting your own needs.
Research shows that many people consider September another opportunity to experience that “fresh start” feeling we love about the new year. Just like the January new year, people are eager to kick into high gear new diets, weight loss programs, exercise, career and personal goals.
Ask yourself if there are changes you want to make with this “new year” frame of mind to guide you.
September is perfect time to check in with yourself to see what improvements or changes you want to make in the remaining months of 2019.
With all the holiday celebrations before us from now until year’s end, we will have plenty of challenging opportunities to socialize with stepfamily members. Plenty of opportunities for conflict and discord.
Why not start planning now to change the outcome of this year’s sepfamily activities from frazzled and frustrating to manageable and even friendly?
Now could be just the perfect time to plan some improvements in your marriage and stepfamily relationships.
Ready to use September as a new year threshold to plan some improvements in the quality of your life?
Here’s how to harness the power of the September “new year” by setting some brand new intentions.
Intentions vs. Resolutions. What’s the difference? Does it matter?
The distinction between the two is nuanced, but worth considering.
According to the dictionary, an intention is: n. a thing intended; an aim or a plan. Note the emphasis on the word “plan.”
Setting intentions allows us to make a commitment to a future goal. And, it requires the engagement of our prefrontal cortex to imagine the future, the ideal outcome, the obstacles or challenges and to create a plan.
An intention creates a proactive, responsive approach to making life changes.
Compare that to a resolution: n. a firm decision to do or not to do something.
Unfortunately, resolutions tend to have a high failure rate, often for three main reasons:
- It’s based on what someone else expects or wants you to do or not do
- It’s not specific or detailed enough
- You haven’t created a plan for to actualize your intention
Nevertheless, whether you call it a resolution or an intention, establishing a clear plan is the key to sticking to and realizing your ultimate goal.
Your new intentions should be SMART.
This acronym, coined in the journal Management Review in 1981, advises us to create specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound criteria to help us plan for and know when we’ve realized our intentions.
- Specific.Your intention should be absolutely clear and concrete. Add details that flesh out a complete picture of what you intend to achieve. What thoughts and feelings and result to you want to achieve?
- Measurable. This may seem obvious if your goal is a fitness or weight loss related one, but it’s also important to track whatever you’re trying to change. Thought downloads, writing in your journal or making notes on your phone or in an app designed to help you track behaviors can reinforce the progress.
- Achievable. Big goals are exciting to strive toward. But there will always be challenges and obstacles that need to be factored into your advance planning. Make sure to write a list of every obstacle you can imagine and how you will address it to solve it.
- Relevant. Does this goal really matters to you? Do you like your reasons reasons for choosing it? Will it support the difference you want to make in your life?
- Time-bound. As you plan, create a realistic timeline toward reaching your goal. Break it down into lots of smaller intermediate goals and set a time for meeting them. Focus on small wins that reinforce your progress. Think in terms identifying of 90 day goals.
State your intention in the positive, present tense.
Here’s a a hypothetical example to help you think this through.
Let’s imagine that your big, over-arching intention is to deepen your warm, tender feelings toward your husband.
- Break that down into a series of smaller, measurable intentional steps
- I speak to my husband in a warm voice
- I engage in discussions from a place of curiosity and compassion
- I make his favorite Sunday morning brunch once a month
- I make dinner reservations and plan an evening out
- I attend a sporting even my husband loves
- I watch a movie my husband prefers
- Frame it in the positive present tense: “My intention is to speak to my husband in a warmer voice which conveys curiosity and compassion.” Rather than “My intention is not to make annoyed, snarky comments to my husband.”
- Next, add a time frame to this intention so you can identify whether you’ve achieved this intermediate step. Set a short time frame for the quick win: For the next 24 hours.
- Decide to renew on a day by day basis until you find it’s becoming easier and more natural.
- You could change the time frame and evaluate it a week at time. You get the gist.
- To measure success, track the number of times you feel the urge to reply with annoyance or criticism but instead choose to respond with with curiosity and kindness. You can use the Notes app on your phone. Nothing fancy required.
Here is an example of the Thought Work you could do to make progress if this were your intention:
Circumstance: The words I say to my husband (neutral description)
Thought: It’s entirely possible that my tone of voice and the words I chose can convey curiosity and compassion, no matter what we’re discussing
Actions/Inactions/Reactions: Become aware of my urges to reply snarkily. Pause and recognize I have a choice as to how I will respond. Develop a set of go-to responses, remarks and questions which I can use to show interest and concern. Practice verbal ways to demonstrate my compassion and curiosity. Increase my displays of physical affection, like holding his hand, patting his shoulder, giving a hug or a kiss to soften my approach to add warmth to the discussion.
Result: I behave in a way that conveys curiosity and compassion, rather than annoyance.
Have you been thinking about intentions you want to actualize between now and January 1, 2020 that could improve your marriage and stepfamily relationships?
You really can make positive shifts in your marriage and stepfamily relationships by setting intentions and creating a plan for follow through.
Have you postponed taking a closer look at all those things that have been bothering you?
Now may be the perfect time to take that closer look.
I can help. Let’s talk. You can reach out to me right here.