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Transformation Through HOPE-Centered Intentional Living

Even though we are well-settled in 2017, it is never too late to set up positive and healthy aspirations for what is left of the current year. You can look forward to a whole new landscape of possibilities with the right mindset. Imagine what it might be like to name an intention for your life that you can joyfully embrace and also actually successfully achieve.

Many are surprised to discover that as a registered psychologist, I am opposed to goal-setting as a general principle. Instead, I have found much better results when the focus for change is on intentions and aspirations.

There are a lot of reasons why I encourage those I serve to shift away from the popular goal-setting orientation that our culture is engulfed by. What most people don’t realize is how much joy we lose when we live in accordance with the goal-oriented life perspective.

Goals set us up for expectations and failure. They also link us up with a more judgmental mindset. Aspirations and intentions, on the other hand, set us up for a positive and life-giving trajectory and cognitive map for opportunity-seeking and optimal decision-making. The difference seems subtle, but the impact of this minor shift can be profound.

In that spirit, I would like to propose to you an alternative way that you can make the most of the next months of 2017. While the specifics of where you go with this four-pronged HOPE-Centred Transformation Model will be unique to you and your own experiences and longings, I welcome you to use the following questions to help guide you in your intentional journey towards greater health and wellness.

Health: If there is one new habit I would like to add to my life that I think would support my vision of healthier living, what would it be?

From a brain perspective, as I first learned in 2005 from visionaries Dr. Ernest Rossi and Dr. Daniel Siegel at an Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference about the paradigm-shifting discoveries about neurogenesis, it takes about one month to establish a new habit, and about three to four months to solidify it in such a way that it becomes a more automatic part of your life.

It is important to note that the smaller and more achievable you can make an aspiration, the more likely you are to succeed, which will in turn make you feel better about yourself and inspire you to consider adding another new habit in a few months as well.

Whether you are wanting to honour your body and/or mind with healthier food, more movement, more rest, or even more quality time with loved ones, the decision to create a small positive shift in any of these areas will ultimately offer more gifts of wellbeing than you might have anticipated.

Optimism: When I notice that my thoughts about difficult situations become pessimistic, how can I remind myself to pause and breathe, in order to create a space between my negative thoughts for a positive perspective of the situation to at least be momentarily entertained?

The implications of this aspiration are no small matter, especially since we know from research the significant impact our thoughts can have on our health and wellness.

Pessimism has been linked with depression, stress, and anxiety (Kamen & Seligman, 1987), whereas optimism has been shown to serve as a protective factor against depression, as well as a number of serious medical problems, including coronary heart disease (Tindle et al., 2009).

—ThePursuitofHappiness.org

Possibility Thinking: How might I encourage myself to think beyond the box and be open to possibilities that might even feel a bit out of my comfort zone?

The transformative power of possibility thinking is also not to be underestimated. By simply choosing to realize that there may be more to a situation than we know to be true, we open our minds and our lives to changes that we cannot even begin to predict. Our family trip to the Grand Canyon this winter holiday brought this reality home to me in a whole new way.

Enthusiasm: How might I allow myself the pleasure of childlike wonder and excitement about the simple gifts life has to offer?

Think about how a child responds when they see untouched snow that they can play with, delight in, and perhaps even create and build a snowman with. Imagine what it might be like to approach your daily life and the moments you encounter in a similar way. I have found that choosing to invite more of this way of being in the world can have surprisingly wonderful implications. Not only does enthusiasm impact your own mental outlook, but it also has an “infectious” quality that favourably changes the way others in the world respond to you as well.

I hope you choose one or more of these HOPE-Centred intentions to increase your odds of positively influencing the evolution of your life for 2017 and beyond.

Theresa Nicassio, PhD, Psychologist
Registered Psychologist, Raw-Food Chef and Nutrition Educator, and the award-winning Author of YUM: Plant-Based Recipes for a Gluten‑Free Diet.