My Formula for New Year's "Resolutions"

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Guest post by Lisa Duerre:

I used to live by my list – especially when I was making plans and resolutions from career to motherhood and back again. I felt the power of putting goals in writing and loved the feeling of checking things off the list.

I always had a list of things to accomplish when the new year was upon me and I told myself that this list was going to keep me on track. But at the same time, I noticed that the way I was framing my goals often caused me stress and made me feel weighted down – especially when those goals were part of my New Year’s resolutions.

The truth was that New Year’s resolutions never worked for me; they felt difficult, obligatory, and at times like a struggle.

Fifteen years ago I shifted my focus from goals and resolutions to themes and intentions grounded in how I want to feel. This change in process and mindset had a profound impact on my overall well-being and changed my life.

The Intentions Process

Now, I kick off January with the Intentions process designed by my former mentor, Denise Brouillette. Denise was the founder of the leadership development firm where I am now a managing partner; in fact, joining this company was a literal dream come true and the result of the Intentions process – I’ll talk more about that further down.

The Intentions process makes me feel light, inspired, and excited about the future – and it’s been working for a decade-and-a-half. I do the process with the support of a group of like-minded people at the Annual Intentions Event in Silicon Valley. In recent years I’ve added another element: I sprinkle in Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Mapping focus on Core Desired Feelings to make my personal formula complete.  

Falling off the Wagon

All of my major accomplishments and “dreams come true” are directly tied to the Intentions process. But even when you have a formula that works, sometimes you fall off the wagon. When I became a new mom, I stopped doing the Intentions process for five years, simply because there weren’t enough hours in the day outside of work and motherhood.

As an overachiever in Silicon Valley working as a senior director in charge of multi-million-dollar events and corporate learning for an established technology company, I was highly accomplished. But I was out of balance and paying the price. Weight gain and burnout were two of the results.

At the start of 2016 I found myself maxed out, like so many of us. And I knew I had to get back to a formula that worked.

Whispers and Whitespace

In 2016 my Theme was Whispers and Whitespace. For me this meant prioritizing listening to my inner knowing and focusing on how I was feeling, and then making decisions and taking actions that integrated that information.

When I sat down and re-committed to my formula and did the Intentions process, I noticed that in many ways I was still tied to an obligation mindset. I also noticed that I was regularly overcommitting myself. And I noticed that I was truly ready to lose the excess weight I’d gained since becoming a new mom.

Whispers and Whitespace was the driving reminder in 2016 that helped me get clear on what to say yes to and what to say no to. It’s what drove my 80-lb weight loss and commitment to focus on self-care. Take note: I did not have a “resolution” to lose weight. Almost two years after starting that process, I am maintaining my target weight.

Feeling AWESOME, Breaking Free, and Being Me

I started 2017 already on a roll. Halfway to my weight loss goal, I continued losing weight into 2017 and have been successful at maintaining it during the ups and downs of life. While the weight loss was a significant accomplishment in self-care, there was more I wanted in 2017. My Theme for the year -- Feeling AWESOME, Breaking Free, and Being Me – has helped me get there.

This Theme has helped me create a much-needed support team of like-minded career oriented moms, enlist the help of well-being practitioners, and deepen my connection with my family.  It has also given me freedom to be creative even with my hair. But the biggest development in 2017 with this Theme as my guiding light has been changing my career to do the work I am called to do.

After 20 years as a leader in my company, I decided to leave the job and honor my calling to bring my leadership and personal development experience and expertise forward into the world. As a leadership development speaker, trainer, and executive coach, I wake up excited – heck sometimes I can’t fall asleep because I'm so excited – and every day I spend 5 minutes reviewing my day with my theme and intentions as guideposts for decision making.

This January I’ll not only be participating in the Intentions process, I’ll be leading the Annual Intentions Event where I originally learned this life-changing process. I will be surrounded with, and leading, a group of people who are focused on how they want to feel in 2018. Together we will support each other to set our intentions and themes for the new year. Dreams do come true!

2017 Intentions Event participants

 Here’s my formula for New Year’s “Resolutions”:

1. Decide on a Theme for the New Year

  • Your theme is your focus for the year. It can be anything from business growth to personal rejuvenation to smart financial decision-making to being known for a special talent that you want to demonstrate or that you’d like to acquire.
  • Themes sound like this: “This is the year of… “ or “This is the year for…” You can also use a more personalized statement, such as: “This is my year for…” Here are a few examples: This is my year for “…going where I’ve never gone before.” “…being deliberate.” “…being smart about money.” “…adding joy to my everyday life.” “…taking center stage.” “…family and fun.” “…making a difference in my community.” “…moving up in my career.”
  • Test out several themes before you decide. Then commit to one, or possibly two if one is personal and one is professional. Your mental energy is best directed when you keep it simple.

2. Follow it up with a few Intentions

  • Intentions are your aims for the year and the realization of one or more visions of the future that you have for yourself. They are both aspirational and inspirational — aspirational in that they’re clear statements of what you’re moving toward, and inspirational in that when you read them your energy level raises significantly.
  • Ask yourself the question, “What do I intend for myself this year?” This is akin to the more familiar, “What are my goals?” I recommend using the word intentions rather than goals because for many the word goals can imply struggle. Keep in mind that there should be an ease associated with your actions, and not the feeling of struggle as you claw your way to where you’re headed, which is often the feeling associated with “achieving” goals.
  • Choose no more than 3 to 4 intentions for the year. As you create them, you can start with the statement, “In 2018 I’ll have….” and write in the result you’re intending for yourself. Here are a few sample intentions: In 2018 I will have “…reached my income goal.” “…launched my new business venture.” “…gotten the promotion I’m after.” “…taken the career leap I’ve been thinking about.”…”made healthier choices.”…”deepened my connection with other Mom’s.”…”made purposeful choices about where I send my time.”

3. Run a gut check – do your intentions and theme make you feel good?

  • Assess how your Theme makes you feel – you will know it in your gut if you are aligned. If not, keep asking yourself how the theme options you have make you feel when you vision yourself living your intentions.
  • This is iterative and requires you to be patient and determined. Your Theme and Intentions take shape in a process. Sit with them and see how they feel – try them on for a week. Revisit and then move forward.

4. Put it in writing – each time

  • Write your theme and intentions down and read them regularly. 
  • Write down ideas on ways you can feel more of what you want to feel daily in support of your intentions. For example… Ways to feel joy:  listening to laughter (keep a video on my phone of my daughter laughing), making healthy food choices (tracking my food), connecting with my husband (kiss him each day before we depart and when we go to bed), a hot cup of coffee (make time to drink it when it is hot).
  • Create a poster and make it your screen saver. WordSwag and Canva are great easy-to-use tools to do just that.
  • Post them where you can see them often, tell people, and then watch how fast you take directed action to make them happen.


Photo credit: Tiffany Johnson PhotographyLisa Duerre is managing partner at LeaderXpress where she provides leadership development, influence training, and executive coaching to leaders internationally. She also blogs about leadership and influence with a focus on practical tips and strategies to put into action right away. Lisa is also senior partner at RLD Group where through her Brave Wisdom programs and coaching she guides groups of women on their journey from being stuck to being clear. Lisa is a huge fan of Desire Map planners and Truthbombs as tools for living life on purpose. You can find out about these tools on her Desire Map Facilitator Page. On her days out of the office, Lisa can be found at the beach playing in the sand with her husband and daughter.

**Photo credit: Tiffany Johnson Photography

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