Here’s an important question…

What’s this year going to be about for you?

This is an important question because if you don’t actively plan for it, you’re likely to keep doing what you’ve always done. In other words, you can easily get trapped into the rut of doing the same old thing in the same old way.

But “planning” and “being strategic” sounds like hard work. That’s why most of us put it off for later when we’ll “have more time”.

Instead of a full-fledged planning exercise, I’ve become a fan of something that only needs a light touch but delivers great potential impact.

And that’s to set an intention.

Think of an intention as a guiding light or compass point to stay true to throughout the year.

So let’s talk about:

  • Why set an intention
  • How to set an intention
  • How to turn your intention into reality

Develop the skills to get recognized, promoted and paid more

Why set an intention?

It’s all too easy to let your past determine your future. We humans are mostly risk averse. We don’t like change and the devil we know feels safer that venturing into new territory, even if things could be much better for you.

For example, one of my clients who is an executive wants to be an entrepreneur. But she’s reluctant to make a move, saying, “I’ve invested 20 years in my corporate career and moving to a startup would mean leaving all that behind. I won’t be able to get another senior corporate job once I leave.”

This line of reasoning would mean staying another year, at which point she’ll have worked 21 years in corporate and the same conversation would take place again and again in the same way; forever.

In economics, those are considered “sunk costs”, which are costs you’ve already incurred – in this case, the 20 years in corporate. But sunk costs aren’t relevant when making decisions about the future. If they were, you’d stay in your job forever.

When I pointed this out, my client said, “I’ve never thought of it that way”. You can see how easy it is for even a smart, talented person to get trapped in that kind of thinking.

“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”
– Robin Sharma

When you set an intention for the year, you’re far less likely to get or feel stuck in your career and life. When you live intentionally, you won’t get to the end of the year and have regrets.

And I believe in living a life of no regrets.

Which brings us to the next point.

How to set your intention

Unlike planning, your intention for the year can come to you in a flash of insight. It could come to you when you’re doing something routine, like taking a shower or walking your dog. Or it could be something that comes up in a dream or through a conversation. You just need to be open to it.

But if it doesn’t come up for you organically, here’s a prompt that could make it easier to identify the intention you would most benefit from setting.

At a recent kickoff event for a leadership program I’m co-hosting, we asked participants, “What are you excited about for the year ahead?”

As I listened to their answers, I came to realize the question was an invitation to express an intention for the year. In some cases, it was in the form of “I intend to…” or “I want to…”. In other cases, it was naming the year as “The Year of ___”.

Here are some of the things people said:

  • “I’m looking forward to this being a year of change – positive change – and I’m going to embrace it.” Stated as an intention, this could be “The Year of Embracing Change”.
  • “I wanted more abundance, and it’s already showing up. I received an email saying I’d been selected for a committee I’ve been wanting to join. And my son won his tennis tournament. I can’t wait to see what else happens next.” The intention here is for abundance.
  • “I’m excited that my team has set up so many new possibilities for the year.” Which is the intention to capture the possibilities for the year.
  • “I set an intention to grab the new year and make it what it can be. I’m not going to let it be stagnant like last year.”

There’s no need to put pressure on yourself to choose the “right” or “best” intention. What matters is that it resonates with and energizes you. It’s your intention and you can always change it later.

Which brings us to the third point.

Career Mastery has been a game-changer for me. Wonderful, actionable advice that helps me be better than the day before.”

Carol Vincent

How to make your intentions a reality

There are two strategies I’ve found helpful. The first is to set up specific habits to support your intentions coming true.

For example, when my team and I set the intention at the start of last year, it was to make it “The year of being strategic”. We put that at the top of the meeting notes for our weekly meetings.

We also asked ourselves, “how does this fit with our strategy?” before taking on a new project. As a result, we said “no” to a lot of things we would have taken on otherwise. And this helped us stay focused and strategic.

We ended up having our best year ever.

The second strategy is to let your intention act as a focal point and reminder as you go through your day, week or month. That means it’s okay if you slip up – just keep returning to your intention.

For example, yesterday I set an intention to be relaxed. Then the day got a little stressful and so did I. Let’s just say I was not relaxed! But then I reminded myself of my intention and was able to do some calming breathing and return to a more relaxed state.

The brain does what you feed it. So if you keep returning to your intention, your brain will act accordingly and conspire to make it a reality.

The choice is yours

Whether it’s “The Year of Stability” after a turbulent time, a time for taking risk after sitting in your comfort zone for a while, or something completely different, choose what feels right for you at this time.

What intention will you set for this year?

Leave a comment below – I’d love to know!

And if your intention is about advancing or getting a promotion this year, I’m running my once-a-year free training on “What It Really Takes to Get a Promotion” starting on January 24th.

I’ll show you:

  • how the promotion process really works
  • how to promote yourself with confidence and authenticity
  • how to put your promotion plan into action
  • and much more.

These are the insights and strategies I learned the hard way and used to get promoted 10 times in my 24-year career to C-suite, and they’ve helped my coaching clients get their promotions too.

If your goal is to take your career to the next level this year, you won’t want to miss it!