3 steps to setting 2018 intentions that won’t fail

Caitlin Wallace, special to Ink

Hi everyone! I’m Caitlin Wallace, a Kansas City writer who blogs about intentionality, motivation, organization and procrastination at The Fruitful Blog. I’m over there today with my personal intentions for 2018, so make sure you check those out after you read my tips and tricks for creating specific and actionable intentions for your best year ever.


I don’t know about you guys, but the end of the year is often so full of errands and parties and cookies and cocktails that I don’t take the time I should for self-reflection. My 2017 was OK, and my 2018 can be even better -- as long as I take the time to reflect, plan and set intentions.

Notice that I’m saying intentions, not resolutions. Maybe resolutions work for you, but they have never worked for me. I just think of the gym membership that sits unused after six weeks or the early alarm clock that gets snoozed x infinity. The problem with resolutions is that they’re too simple. They don’t have any meat. It’s so easy to say “I’ll save money in 2018” or “I’ll lose 30 pounds in 2018” or “I’ll make money moves in 2018,” but if you don’t outline the HOW, none of it will happen.

The resolution-setting is the easy part, but setting goals and intentions to accomplish those resolutions? That’s where the thought, planning and elbow grease come in.

When you set goals and intentions for the year with concrete, daily action steps that you can actually accomplish, that’s where the real magic happens. Get ready. If you follow these steps, your life will change. Guaranteed.

1. IMAGINE: Before you do anything else, take some time to think about the life you want ten years from now, and take notes. Think BIG. That may seem scary or even impossible. But if you really let go and just dream, I bet you have a notion. Maybe you imagine a big kitchen table with a mess of friends and family and kids all around. Maybe you picture a Kardashian-level exotic vacation for you and your boo. Maybe you see a big business deal handshake over one of those really shiny boardroom tables. Whatever you see, I bet it’s different from the life you’re living right now.

Once you identify the ways your imagined life a decade away is different than the life you’re living right now, you have a great starting point for setting your intentions for 2018. Do you need to change your health? Income? Relationships? Living situation? Career path? That dream life isn’t going to just happen for you. You have to create it. You have to move toward it, inch-by-inch, on a daily basis.

If your big, lifelong, scary-seeming goal is to start your own business, the too-simple resolution is “I’ll launch my own small business in 2018.” But that resolution isn’t enough -- it’s too broad, too simplistic. Other common resolutions that are too simple: “I’ll have a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner by the end of 2018,” “I’ll get in shape this year,” “I’ll save for a down payment this year,” “2018 is the year where I finally (fill in the blank here).”

Those broad resolutions are a good start, but they’re not enough. You have to turn those resolutions into intentions: concrete actions that you can work on daily for the entire year.

2. BE SPECIFIC: If you set the resolution to “be healthy in 2018,” I’m sorry (not sorry) to tell you that you won’t accomplish that goal. Being “healthy” is so vague. It can mean literally anything! Do you want to improve your cardiovascular health, do you want to lose weight, do you want to lower your bad cholesterol score before the next health insurance screening? Or all of the above? You have to figure out exactly what you want to improve and set intentions around that.

Losing weight is a really common New Year’s resolution, so I’ll stick with that. We all know the basic ideas: eat less, exercise more, drink water, avoid dessert. But, as so many failed diets have taught all of us (myself included!), losing weight is more complicated than that. If you want to lose weight healthily and keep it off for life, you’ve got to change the way you live, not just the way you eat. You can’t just cut out Cheetos and expect to look the way that you want.

But, with all the confusing, contradictory dietary advice that’s out there, there’s one thing that seems to be pretty true regardless of who you listen to: replacing empty calories with vegetables is a great place to start. So, if your overall resolution for 2018 is “lose weight,” an example of a specific intention to implement daily is “I will eat vegetables at every meal.” (All the roasted veggies, thank you very much.)

It’s easy to see how this method of specificity could be applied across health and fitness, depending on your initial goals: “I will do a 60-second plank daily,” “I’ll only eat dessert once each week,” “I won’t drink alcohol at home,” “I will do yoga three times each week.” These intentions are specific and easy to track, meaning that you can assess how you’re doing as the year progresses. And I bet, if you really stick with it, the 60-second plank will turn into 180 seconds by the end of the year or even sooner.

3. MAKE A PLAN: I think this is the part where a lot of people get tripped up. You can make specific intentions until you’re blue in the face, but you won’t get anywhere if you don’t make a plan to uphold those intentions.

Saying you’ll do yoga three times each week is great and all, but how are you going to make it happen? If you already belong to a studio, great. But have you checked out their Q1 2018 schedule and figured out how you’ll fit three classes in? (Some of these classes may be before your normal wake-up time. Deal with it.) If you don’t belong to a studio, don’t wait until January 1 to join. I get that this week is likely CRAZY in the lead-up to Christmas, but you have Dec. 27th-31st. Make some calls, do some Googling, figure out if there’s a studio in your neighborhood (or near your office) that you can afford. And if you can’t, no problem. There are 1,000,000 YouTube yogis that want your clicks.

Another really common New Year’s resolution is to get into a new field of work. Maybe you’re unhappy in your job or maybe you’re just ready for a change, and you’ve decided that 2018 is your year. Ok, great. How will you make that happen? You can’t wait around for the perfect job to get posted on Monster. You have to take action.

To find a job in a different field, you have to start working in that field before you’re hired. This can mean taking some online professional classes, getting a new degree, picking up freelance work, whatever. It doesn’t mean listlessly applying to a job or two as you watch TV in the evenings. (Yes, I am making direct and meaningful eye contact with you, okay?)

Make a plan for how you’ll get to your new career and execute it. “I will email one person in the industry each day,” “I will spend Tuesday and Thursday mornings before work researching my desired career path,” “I will read a personal development book each month and actively analyze and implement the advice given,” “I will take a class on Skillshare each month.” And block out that time on your Google Calendar NOW. My biggest and most life-changing tip: Once I’ve scheduled a block of time to work on an intention, I can reschedule that time, but I cannot delete it. If you block three hours next Saturday afternoon to take a class on Skillshare and you get offered free concert tickets at the last minute, you can go to the concert. Life your life! But move that Skillshare time block to the next morning, have two fewer drinks at the concert, and get up early so you can EARN THAT NEW CAREER.

A life unplanned is a life unlived. Spontaneity is fun, but it’s next to impossible to grow and change without actively intending to.


If the goal is to end 2018 closer to your ten-years-from-now life, what are you going to do this year to make it happen? You’ll either be closer to that goal in 365 days or further away. And, yes if you fail to act, you will be further away. Even if you stay stagnant, you’ll have farther to go because you’ll have nine years to accomplish a ten-year goal. Food for thought.

And if it seems like I’m being gruff with you -- I kind of am. If you need a kick in the ass to move in the right direction, I am your girl. Excuses are easy, and change is hard. It’s not difficult. Anyone, with any skill level, can change. But it is HARD. Change requires work, dedication, planning, and more, more, more work. But, if you want it badly enough, it’s worth it.

I’d love to chat with you about your intentions for 2018! Hit me up @caitlinmwallace on Instagram, where I dole out daily motivation, self-deprecation, and more than a few selfies. Or leave a comment on this blog post on The Fruitful Blog, where I outline my own intentions for 2018!