Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

New Year’s resolutions and beyond- setting your intentions to map your life direction

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Some people like to make new year’s resolutions, others prefer setting intentions. This subtle distinction can make a difference when working toward becoming your best self. Let’s take the first, more traditional approach – formulating resolutions for the New Year. Judith Beck, of the Beck Cognitive Behavioral Institute in Philadelphia and associate professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, enumerates why so many well-intentioned initiatives fall far short of their goals.

Many resolutions are too vague, unrealistic, and demanding, which explains why we haven’t accomplished them yet!  We also may need cooperation from significant others in everyday life as well as travel and leisure time.  It’s helpful to live with people who share our goals. Let’s take two of the most common resolutions- losing weight and exercising more.

  • eliminate negative thoughts that may interfere once you’ve started working toward your goals – banish the “I’ll never do this, I always lose weight then gain it back,” etc.- Write down your thoughts when you’re motivated, and keep referring to them, creating your own positive affirmations and read them daily
  • imagine how you’ll be different in a year or two, after having reached your goals
  • do not give yourself an option- don’t ask “Should I exercise today?” ask “When will I exercise today?”
  • get yourself there- with a trainer, to the gym, to a class – once you’re there, the trainer or instructor will provide the motivation-  take the first step, then it gets much easier
  • be specific with your goals. for example, change lose weight and get healthier, to:

1.  Lose 1 lb. a week, by eliminating x, y or z  by February 15

2.  Work out for 45 minutes, 3x/week hitting target heart rate of 130 or a rate of perceived exertion of 6-7 out of 10.                         see
3.  See trainer or attend 3 classes a week for 2 months

Now let’s take a look at a slightly different way of reaching your goals. This article will give you the nuts and bolts of setting intentions-

Think of setting intentions as designing a road map for where you’d like to go. If you have no direction, you’ll feel at a loss as to where you’d like to end up. Intentions may take more time to fully develop than resolutions. It’s important to take time to meditate and be thoughtful about how you’d like to enhance certain aspects of your life. You don’t need to meditate in the traditional sense to get clarity;  some feel most calm and clear through physical activity, doing art or just a walk in nature. It is important however, to find what works for you to make space for important matters you really want to improve. Three basic guidelines are helpful to keep in mind when setting intentions.

  • Frame your intention in positive terms
  • Keep refining your intention, so you don’t become complacent
  • Break longer term intentions into short term ones for manageability and to stay on track

Let’s take the example of forging closer relationships with your family. You may say:

  1. I”ll forgive my family members for any perceived slights, and myself for past insensitivities in dealing with them.
  2. Once I recognize each person’s contributions, I’ll build on that by asking them how I can be supportive to help him/her reach his/her goals
  3. I’ll make a once a month lunch date with my family members, to fulfill the longer term intention of being better informed and involved in their lives.

Stay tuned next week for a look at another common resolution- reducing intake of sweets. We’ll look at the anti-aging properties of reducing or eliminating sugar intake and eating Mediterranean style.  Enjoy the end of 2014, and the dawn of 2015 with renewed spirit, health and positive intentions!

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