Three Ways To Be Intentional in 2024

Three Ways to Be Intentional in 2024

When it comes to New Year's Resolutions, something's got to give. Our goals are often too overwhelming or just surface oriented and we're not getting to the heart of the issue we're trying to address. Even though resolutions are great, we so often give up on them and we don't want to kick off 2024 feeling like we're failing. That's why we're focusing on three ways to be intentional in 2024.

Today we're going to cover three main things. Number one, we're going to focus on the heart, not on behavior. Number two, we're going to talk about changing how we measure outcomes. And finally, number three, we're going to talk about one word to focus on for the year.

Let's dig into this first point of focusing on the heart and not behavior. What do we mean by that?


So often what's visible is how we're acting or responding to a situation. And we think, “Oh, I need to correct that behavior.” And while that may be true, if we start with the behavior without examining why we're acting that way, we can maybe manage the symptom for a short while by white knuckling it. But unless we truly get beneath the symptoms to the reasons we're acting that way and self-medicating and numbing something inside, we'll never truly be successful. It’s going to keep resurfacing and may just morph. Maybe we quit eating too much and start drinking too much. With some of my eating disordered past, if I ate too much, I would excessively exercise. And I wasn't getting to the root cause inside, of why I was so desperately trying to manage those behaviors.

When I was over-exercising, undereating, and trying to manage my weight, it went up and down, up and down, I wasn't acting from a place of kindness to myself. I was very responsive to outside messages that I had internalized, that somehow, I wasn't good enough. And so, to be good enough, I had to behave in these certain ways to try and control my body and its size, instead of just loving who I was and embracing it. An important shift happened for me when I felt God saying to me, “Amber, what if I made you to love sweets, to love to bake, and to create things for family and friends? And what if I didn't make you a size zero or a size two?” I was guilty of caring too much about what people thought, my heart wasn't settled in my worth in God alone and the uniqueness of who I am. I'm not ever going to be stick-thin. I'm five three and I'm curvy. And it's like, “Whoa, let me breathe that in for a minute and absorb the truth that I am fearfully and wonderfully made exactly as I am.” Even the flaws are part of this unique experience God is giving me on earth as part of my story and journey. Instead of pushing that all away and trying desperately to behave my way to some kind of external success, it was like, “Wait a second. You need to change the heart of what you believe about yourself, and how you live and move and breathe in this world.” Instead of beating myself up if I ate junk food one day, saying, “No. You wanted that Amber, okay? And now, today you want healthy food, and you want to take care of your body. So, get out there and do something that you enjoy, like walking.” Walking reframed exercise for me. Instead of a punishment, it was something I loved to do—being outdoors. I needed to go do the things I loved and enjoyed. And that deep change within my core was transformational. It shifted the motivation.

And now I’m asking, “What can I do to love myself well and care for myself? Today, what do I need?” I need to rest today. I need to sit in front of the TV today. I need to make pumpkin pie and eat a piece of it today. And then the next day, what do I need? Adding that value and elevating our needs is a way to get to the root of why we're behaving in some way. And with our kids, it's the same thing. Why are they acting out? Instead of saying, “Stop doing that.” Wait a second. “Hey, what's going on? What's happening that you're acting that way? Are you tired? Are you hungry? Do you miss me?” I used to say that to myself all the time: “Stop eating that.” Wait, what do you need? I need the comfort of a friend. I need to feel warm and loved. I need to feel cared for. And I think doing that with our kids is so important too instead of addressing the behavior and just stopping at that.

This morning I was journaling, and I was telling God all these big issues. And then three-quarters of the way through the first page, I changed to: “What's in front of me today? Where do I need support today? Quit worrying about all these big, huge things.” And it's, “Give us this day our daily bread.” I wonder how that might shift some motivations if you don't have big, overwhelming things weighing over you, like, “I want to lose 50 pounds” or “I want to get out of this much debt.” We don't know what tomorrow looks like for ourselves.

We also need to be intentional about changing how we measure outcomes. What do we mean when we talk about change and how we measure outcomes?

We look at New Year's resolutions as very black and white. Either “I did it” or “I didn't do it.” And once we fail, it's like, “Why even try? I knew I couldn't do it.” And it's this self-fulfilling prophecy to give ourselves these outrageous goals and then fail because we're human. And so instead, looking at the day-to-day and “What is it that I need today? What is it that is going to help me reach this goal?”

Maybe instead of going for a three-mile run, because that was on my exercise plan, I actually needed to walk today. It requires a lot of grace and asking, “Am I trending in the right direction?” So much of what we're trying to get to is so arbitrary. If you're trying to lose 30 pounds, but you don't reach that goal and lose 25, can you still celebrate yourself? You're trending in the right direction; give yourself some grace and celebrate the wins.

So much of this has to do with being patient with ourselves and with change. We talk about this idea of vector change at Solo a lot. In aeronautics, everything's measured in vectors—small, little measurements. If you're flying in a certain direction and you make a small one-degree change in your vector, over the course of 10,000 miles you'll be in a completely different country, but the change is almost not even perceivable. So much of what we measure is in instant gratification. You hear about “lose 10 pounds in 10 days” or “lose 30 pounds in three months” instead of just going, “Okay, I'm going to just start trending in the right direction. I’m trusting that in time this will result in a better outcome.” I think the main thing here is to be patient. Don’t get up one morning and think, “Did I lose one pound today? Oh crap, I gained two.” Because that just feels like you continually get set back. It’s important to embrace this idea of slow change, especially as a single parent, because the last thing we need is a list of things that we're going to fail at.

We put so much emphasis on the outcome when we don't know for sure it’s going to happen. For instance, you're trying to lose weight and you want to get a six pack and look like this workout person that's guiding you. But maybe your body is not built that way. You’re never going to have a body that looks like that. And when you show up short at the end of the year, the end of the 30 days or whatever, it's like setting yourself up for disappointment: you can’t achieve it because what you were dreaming of wasn’t reality. Instead, give yourself over to a day-to-day process of, “I know I want to be healthier. The reason why I want to lose 30 pounds is so I can be healthier for my kids, so that I can run around and not get winded.” And it's more about: what's the why?

I used to run to control my weight. The only reason I would run is “I ate too much. I need to go run.” And it set me up to absolutely hate running. Recently, I wanted to start running again, and this time I thought, “You know what? I want to run because I can, because I'm healthy, because I'm strong.” That shift in thinking was small, but to the point where if I didn't want to run that day, I didn’t. And it allowed running to be fun and exciting. This point of changing how we measure is so important because if we view it as gradual change, rather than make it or break it, we'll be far less likely to give up.

Let's talk about this idea of one theme word to focus on for the year. Why is it so important to be intentional about this?

I like to have a theme or guiding word that's connected to a value that's pushing me in the right direction. Last year, my word for the year was confidence. I felt like I lacked confidence not just in myself, but my ability to make decisions, trust myself, and even stand up for myself in certain ways. There was so much that was rooted in a lack of confidence. And I can sit here today and say I have way more confidence than I did a year ago.

Amber and I have different ways of finding our word. Mine is rooted in, “I think I can grow in this area of my life. This is something that I want to push myself in. This is a change I can make that I'm not beating myself up for.” It is a self-examination of “Where am I?” This year my word is “consistency” because I question whether or not I show up in consistent ways for the people around me. I'm very inconsistent in friendships as far as reaching out. I'm inconsistent in the way I show up in relationships.

A friend directed me to a devotional she uses each year, and I've been using it ever since—pretty loosely, but intentionally. It’s available on the YouVersion app. It's called One Word That Will Change Your Life. It’s a four-day devotional, and it guides you through certain intentional questions with a bit of a spiritual focus. My word this past year 2023 was “surrender.” And I did not like that word. It was a painful word to have to think about. It was an undercurrent of intentional awareness that I am yielding to God's will for me. You can also use getoneword.com. I haven't officially chosen, but I think my word for this year may be something like “build.” I'm building my therapy practice. I'd like to build some new relationships. I’m building a new home.

Once you pick a word, what's the practical application?

It's almost like an echo that keeps coming back to me, a resonance in my spirit. And then I share it with several friends and even our audience here. And I might ask a friend, “How's your word going? Have you noticed where that word is showing up in your life?” Checking in and being intentional about that. In years past, I would set a time to meet a friend for coffee in six months and then recapping at the end of the year too. For me, it has been an intentional process, but it feels a lot less pressured than resolutions.

Takeaways

  • If we focus on the heart and motivation behind our behavior, we can grow and find lasting change. Getting to the root of why we want change is paramount.
  • We'll be much less likely to give up if we change how we measure the outcomes. Having less of a “make it or break it” mindset and more focus on gradual change is more doable and healthier than putting crazy demands on ourselves.
  • Choosing a theme word or a value for the year helps provide us with direction and clarity so we can stay focused on what matters most to us.

Listener Question: How do I save for retirement as a solo parent?

That is tough, especially knowing in divorce, you often lose half of—or all of—whatever you have in your retirement. I worked for Dave Ramsey for a long time. And there are things called the “Baby Steps.” Step one is to save a thousand dollars. Step two is to get out of debt. Step three is to save an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses. Step four is to save for retirement. And there are other financial experts that would not recommend that order—they want you to start saving for retirement even while you're paying off debt and all of that. But Dave's idea there is that life is going to happen, so you want to have at least $1,000 saved up to help you with Murphy’s Law, unforeseen things that come up. But getting out of debt is so huge because you don't want to carry that forward. The freedom that you can experience when you don't have debt hanging over you is unlike anything. As much as you can work towards that, I almost say that's more important than retirement. Because once you get that emergency fund in place and stabilize with where you are in the day-to-day, you're able to focus more of your money on the retirement aspect.

Also, if you're over 50, there are some catch-up things that you can do to help you save more for retirement, as far as a 401k or 403B. But there are also ways that you can have your money work for you. Amber, Jenn, and I are getting together once a month with our Breakfast and Bank Accounts Club and holding each other accountable financially. One focus is finding ways of diversifying my income because I'm in a spot now where I can start saving for retirement. I want to find ways to invest, not just in a 401k, but in other forms of income that can help carry me through retirement. If you're scared to put your money into the stock market, there are ways that you can diversify that income and save and be smart about the way your money's working for you over time. And it’s important to get with a financial planner.

What I'm hearing maybe more than anything is just being intentional about it. There's not a one size fits all here, whether it’s Dave Ramsey's “Baby Steps” or talking to a financial advisor, or getting together with an accountability group. The point is to start being intentional about this and start trending in the right direction.

My family has poor health, and one of the things that I've thought about is long-term care insurance. If, God forbid, something happens to me, I want to have that in place. Dave Ramsey suggests not getting that until your late 50s provided you're healthy until then. But life insurance is a big thing.

Resources

One Word That Will Change Your Life

YouVersion Bible App

Get One Word

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