Visualise your 2021 intentions
This is typically the time of year when people begin to think about setting new goals or making New Year resolutions. Setting goals is a useful thing to do as it helps you to focus on things that are concrete and, hopefully, achievable and realistic. Writing your goals down makes them real and can act as a reminder of what they are; you can return to them frequently, reviewing them and checking whether they are still right for you and whether the actions you have decided on to implement the goals are working — if not, do you need to change them?
However, although it can be really helpful to set goals, during the very uncertain times we are living in at the moment you may find it even more helpful to focus on intentions rather than hard and fast goals. Intentions signify something ‘softer’ than concrete goals and aligning these with mindfulness attitudes such as being non-judgemental and kind to yourself, mean that you can allow yourself to let go of some of the pressure you might attach to goal setting and some the pressure you might attach to goal setting and some of the fixed ideas you might introduce when attempting to reach goals.
For example, if one of your intentions for 2021 were to be kinder to self and others and you experienced a day when this wasn’t the case, then rather than judge yourself as being unkind, reset and change your thought process to ‘I wasn’t kind to Jo yesterday; that’s OK, it’s not easy being kind all of the time, it’s probably a super human quality and no one is perfect; I’ll keep in mind my intention to be kind again today and carry on….’. Similarly, you may have an intention to become healthier and lose weight. If you don’t eat healthily for a day, be kind to yourself and think in a non-judgemental way and then begin eating healthily again.
One way to maintain focus on your 2021 intentions is to use visualisation techniques which involve focusing on all of your senses to visualise what you are intending: touch, smell, sound, sight and taste. I use a number of visualisation techniques when coaching people — if you want to experience this or know more about it, just get in touch via the contact page. Visualisation has been used in sport for a long time and taps into the subconscious, firing up neurons in our brain which impact on our actions and performance. Using guided imagery to conjure up a visual imagination and images of what we believe will be, results in this becoming the case. So, a sports person might practice this mental visualisation for up to an hour per day, perhaps in short bursts, to help them to win a race or score a goal. Research tells us this works (e.g., Predoui et al, 2020) and because all the senses are used to visualise the intended goals, both mind and body perform in an enhanced manner.
Visualisation is more effective if it involves a lot of colour, is realistic, involves appropriate emotions and is controllable.
One technique that you can put into practice yourself, right now, is the creation of a visualisation board. A visualisation board is a visual representation of your intentions for 2021 that acts as a visual reminder of your intentions so that when you look at it, either in passing, or in a more focused way, it impacts consciously and subconsciously on what you are intending to achieve. Here are the steps you can take to create your own visualisation board:
1. Take some time and space to reflect on what your intentions are. It’s best to focus on just 1-3; having more than 3 intentions or goals can be overwhelming and unrealistic. Having three or less intentions makes it more likely you’ll be able to successfully carry out your intentions. What’s most important to you? What do you want to be different in the next few weeks, months and year? What do you want to change?
2. Now find images that, for you, depict representations of your intentions. These can be from online platforms such as Instagram or Pinterest. You could use something like Canva (www.canva.com) which provides templates — see my own example below based on my mind, body and spirit intentions for 2021. Or, they can be from magazines, newspapers and so on. Remember that this is about you and what the images mean for you — try not to overthink it. Involve all your senses when you’re thinking about the images you choose: touch, smell, sight, taste, sound. Remember that your emotions are important too — what positive emotions are attached to the images you are choosing?
3. You’re then going to stick these images on a board/piece of sturdy card which can be of any size that works for you. Remember that your board does not have to be a piece of fine art; again, no need to overthink how it looks and you can make changes to it as your intentions and actions change over time. Keep it somewhere where you’ll see it often; you can also take a photo of it and make it a screensaver on your phone or laptop. Finally, remember that just looking at the board isn’t going to magically make things happen; you will need to change your thoughts, emotions and behaviours in alignment with your intentions — looking at your visualisation board will help you to do this, increasing your motivation and confidence over the next year.
Health Intentions Visualisation Board
Predoui, R., Predoui, A., Mitrache, G., Firanescu, M., Cosma, G., Dinuta, G., Bucuroiu, R. A., (2020) Visualisation techniques in sport – the mental road map for success. Physical Education, Sport and Kinetotherapy Journal, 59, 3, 245-259. https://doi.org/10.35189/dpeskj.2020.59.3.4