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It’s a new year,Image and one month of it has gone already. (oh, my!) Many of us have been making New Year’s resolutions in our personal lives—goals, if you will. I’m going to challenge you to set intentions to go along with those goals.

The problem with goals

Have you ever been at the gym in January and struggled to get on a machine, only to find the gym half empty come February or March? The problem could be that people don’t set attainable goals, they lose motivation, they don’t have a plan to reach those goals, or the plan doesn’t fit with the reality of their lives. In short, people aren’t willing to make a complete lifestyle change. Here’s the problem with goals: when we slip up, we see it as a failure and lose motivation, prompting us to give up.

Living with intention

Of course we need goals—we set goals every day! Just look at your to-do list. I suggest reaching your goals and creating a realistic plan by setting intentions. An intention is an overarching statement that is at a higher, value level. It basically answers the question why to a goal. Why do you want to get healthy and fit? Because I respect my body and value my family friends such that I want to be on this earth as long as I can.

An example of an intention is aligning the way you spend your time and money with your priorities—what’s really important to you in life (often, those don’t match up). Another intention could be to think outside the box and be creative. Perhaps your intention is to be more socially conscious when it comes to food: how large is the carbon footprint, are you supporting small business, how were the animals and environment treated in coming to your plate? Once you’ve set a few intentions, it’s up to you to make decisions that align with these intentions. You might choose to eat a certain food in one circumstance and choose an alternative in another. Either way, you’re still successfully living with the intention. Take a moment to set some intentions and you’ll soon be on your way to changing the way you think, the lifestyle change you need to meet your goals.

But don’t stop there! Now take these personal intentions and goals and apply them to your business.

Apply personal intentions to your business

Much research shows that when your personal values align with those of your company, you are more likely to be have job satisfaction, to be happy, and to be successful in your position. (Check out this article on Charity Village.) Let’s take the intention to consider social and environmental implications of consumption. If you’re in the food industry, this is easy: free trade coffee and tea, organic and local foods are no-brainers. If you’re a pharma marketing company, how about only doing business with companies that adhere to ethical production guidelines, or who subscribe to Rx&D guidelines? Perhaps you want to work with pharma companies that actively give back to their communities or who offer affordable and needed drugs to third-world countries. Maybe you’ll encourage your own employees to volunteer and participate in fundraising for a good cause by giving free time off for volunteer work (read this article from Statistics Canada).

Think before I speak, listen before I think

One of my intentions this year (I have several) is to listen before I speak and to think before I listen. Sometimes I’m blurting a thought out of my mouth that isn’t fully formed yet. And often, while others are speaking to me, I’m already forming what I want to say—that’s not being a good listener. Perhaps if I truly listened to what the other person was saying, I’d think or respond differently.

Communicators often focus on what they want to say and how they can say it, but neglect to truly listen to their audience. If I’m busy forming a communications plan in my head for launching a direct mail campaign but the client is telling me their audience is looking for electronic messaging over hard copies, I’ve totally missed the mark. Listening before I think also opens me up to new and creative ideas I might not have thought of on my own. Result? Effective, relevant communication and satisfaction that my intention of how to treat others in 2013 covers both my personal and my work life. Now my personal and business values have aligned, and I am fully satisfied with my work, knowing that I’ve given my client the very best and that I’m becoming a better person .

Here’s the cool thing: the wider you spread your intentions to the different parts of your life, the easier it is to make decisions that align with those intentions. Why? You’re getting more practice and practice makes it easier. Suddenly, you find you’re reaching those goals that you set because you’re guided by that overarching intention. And then, suddenly, before you can say “Happy New Year,” you’ve changed your life.

How about you? What are your personal intentions for 2013? How can those intentions be applied to your work place?