Accelerating the Advancement of Women Leaders 


December 12, 2018

Although fewer than 10% of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions (chocolate is just so good), tweaking the process just a bit can increase the likelihood of success and help you create a year of significant change. The secret is switching your focus from resolutions to intentions.

“Intentions can be a powerful way of setting a direction for your journey when they reflect your deeper values,” said Suzanne Tuckey, Ph.D., psychologist and social system analyst. “It is this association with values that differentiates an intention from a resolution. Whereas resolutions typically involve acts of will, intentions reach deeper to engage the whole person. Because resolutions typically activate only the mind, they are unsustainable. Intentions, however, can change a life.”

Intentions are more about how we are using our time, energy and focus today rather than some lofty end result way down the road. That change in mindset helps us concentrate on daily decisions that, over time, can create major change. Because we are aiming in a general direction, we enjoy more flexibility in the process and feel better able to celebrate progress along the way. Intentions help avoid an all-or-nothing mentality.

Neuroscience backs up the idea that tapping into your core values to drive your intentions and then your actions creates powerful motivation. Researchers at the Social and Affective Neuroscience Lab at the University of Oregon found that when people are thinking about core values, the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain lights up, sending signals that what you’re doing right now is important to you. That can make even challenging tasks more enjoyable.  

One important “trick” is to identify your intrinsic motivation for reaching even externally-imposed goals. For example, if your boss suggests an improvement in your presentation skills, you may feel pressured or resentful.
If instead, you start from your core values, you might think, “I want to share my expertise in ways that will impact others” or “I’m committed to playing a senior leadership role in my organization.” Then, improving your presentation skills reinforces personal values and goals.

Starting from your intrinsic drivers helps connect the “why” to what you’re doing. Linking daily choices to your core values can increase motivation and progress and help you enjoy the process. Happy 2019!

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