How to make your positive intentions stick

The Chew at Federal Donuts in Philadelphia
Tempting, right? But thinking of the big-picture results may hold you over. Credit: Rikard Larma/Metro

Often, spiritually guided, inspired moments in our lives end up being just … moments.

In other words, despite your excellent intentions, you cleanse and then go right back to eating office cupcakes. You work out for a month and then stop moving at all. You plan to cut off a toxic relationship and then, in a moment of weakness, text that person you know is bad for you.

Why?

The truth is that living a healthy, miraculous life — with vitality and grace — requires real commitment and practice. Without it, even your most soul-directed intentions may falter.

The right tools make these moments more of a mindset and allow you to live up to your good intentions. Try these tips and practices that I created and use all the time.

1. Practice radical forgiveness.

When we slip up, we often enter a cycle of guilt that sabotages our progress even more. What if you could learn to forgive yourself on the spot? Forgiveness is a choice you make. In an instant you can shift from self-hatred and attack to self-love and compassion. Your simple decision to choose to forgive yourself will open the floodgates for peace to set in.

Next time you judge yourself for falling off the healthy wagon, simply say, “I choose to forgive myself now.” Then relax into that commitment and let forgiveness take over. You can also try to catch yourself in the act of self-attack. In those moments, redirect your energy by focusing something you do like about yourself.

2. When in doubt, play it out.

It’s easy to forget about the long-term consequences of small choices, especially when temptation (say, a jumbo frosted cupcake) is right in front of you. But playing out the entire story from start to finish can help you see the bigger picture. For example: You pick up the cupcake and eat the whole thing, then in the heat of the moment you eat another. Fifteen minutes later you have a sugar headache that stays with you until the following morning, when you feel hungover from the cupcake binge. Doesn’t sound so fun after all, right?

If you take the time to play out the entire scenario, you can talk yourself out of making a mistake. The key is to think your way through the whole story, not just the fun part where you get a sugar high from the cupcake. Your honesty and willingness to remember what is real will save you when you want to relapse into old behavior. Use this tool whenever you find yourself enchanted by something that ultimately is not good for you.

3. Work on willpower.

Do you give yourself permission to do things that you know should be out of bounds for you? Whether it’s downing that extra drink, buying that dress on your maxed-out credit card or eating fast food, giving yourself the go-ahead ultimately leads to bigger failures. Here’s how to flip that logic: Stop giving yourself permission to partake in the negative behavior. If you make a commitment to yourself that you no longer partake in that activity — “I don’t drink” — then you won’t wind up drunk on a Friday night when you wanted to stay sober. Each time you choose not to give yourself permission to do something negative, you make it easier to do something positive. Making good on your good intentions is a miracle.

When it comes to self-discipline, the words “don’t” and “can’t” come up a lot. Though the words can be used interchangeably, they hold much different power. A recent study done by researchers at Boston College and the University of Houston shows that when you replace the word “can’t” with “don’t” it can help you change negative patterns like overeating or lack of exercise. The reason for this is that when you say, “I don’t do that,” it is an empowering sentence, versus, “I can’t do that.” Test drive this exercise for yourself: The next time you witness yourself thinking “I can’t have this,” or “I can’t do that,” simply insert the word “don’t” in its place. Enjoy the empowering results!

Want to figure out how to turn these three intention-keeping tips into a lifelong practice? I created this toolkit for the “Summer of Miracles” lecture I co-hosted with Well+Good NYC. Check out the lecture here. The Kundalini yoga master Yogi Bhajan says, “There’s a way through every block.” And the strategies and meditations I share in this lecture will help you learn to find the ways that work for you.


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