The new year is upon us, filling us with hope and excitement. After all, it is a time when we feel like we can finally shed our old skin and grow a fresh new one. It is also the only time when we are motivated to engage in self-introspection, which is a process that leaves us vulnerable and bare.

Intention Setting

Indeed, during introspection we are forced to revisit our old choices and re-evaluate our decision-making process in order to create better choices for the future. Sometimes, it can be a painful process, especially if we are unhappy with the direction our life has taken, that results in self-criticism and self-hatred. Still, we cannot help ourselves, because this time of year feels like it is our only opportunity for change.

As a result, intention setting is a popular activity during the new year. Either through a meeting with friends or alone at home, we take the time to set new intentions for the new year in the hope of bringing a positive change in our life. What is often overlooked is the fact that setting an intention does not automatically result in materialization of the change, as it is only a preliminary phase.

Change is a dynamic process that requires constant adjustment and evaluation and thus rarely happens right away. Typically, it will appear in bits and pieces while we are readying ourselves for it. In health psychology, it is believed that we move through a series of five stages when adopting a new healthy behavior and giving up old unhealthy ones.

Five Stages of Change (Prochaska & Velicer, 1997)

The first stage is that of pre-contemplation, which is a phase during which we do not believe that a change is necessary. The second stage contemplation by contrast is similar to what occurs during those intention setting rituals, which is a time where we acknowledge the need for a change and begin to form an intention for the new behavior. It is then followed by the preparation stage during which steps that will bring about the behavior are identified, which subsequently helps bring the action stage out, which involves the actual realization of those steps. The final stage is called maintenance, because as change is a dynamic process it requires constant work to prevent relapse and solidify the new behavior.

Personally, I do not believe that there is a specific time frame for each of those stages as we all move at our own unique pace. However, Stage four, which is the action stage, is in my opinion the most difficult one because it involves summoning our willpower.


Willpower is a powerful and essential tool of motivation, and in fact without it change cannot happen. Yet, summoning it is not easy, let alone maintaining it. We know that willpower relies on an infinite source of energy, which means that it will often weaken or break completely. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how to best boost it.

Willpower works best when two elements are present and working in synchrony, they are attention and desire. Willpower is called into operation when attention is awakened, which means that we must draw our attention to the change that we want to happen. Simultaneously, we must earnestly desire the change. It has to be more than just “wanting”, it must be almost like an obsession or a longing. When these two elements are present and active together, they fuel willpower and strengthen it.

Change is not easy, but it is essential in order to evolve as a person and reach your potential. Understand that it is a dynamic process that may be slow to start, but as long as you set your intention, maintain your attention on it, and desire it with all your might, then it will happen and it will stay.




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