Guided by some of our favorite thinkers and writers, including Gretchen Rubin, Leo Babauta, and W.H. Murray,  here are a few things we learned about setting intentions, forming goals, and living with Arete this month:

Look back in order to move forward.

At Holstee, we like to bookend each year with Intention and Reflection because the two are beautifully intertwined. Wanting to start the year with intention is great motivation for taking time and care to reflect at the end of the year. And reflection helps us keep the lessons of the past in mind as we look to set goals and intentions in the new year. Both steps take time and work, but when we make them a priority, we set ourselves up to learn and grow a little bit each year.

Start with habits.

Think about an average day in your life. Maybe there is a ton of variety in what you do and how you spend your time. But we’re guessing much of your days that looks the same. In fact, research shows that about 40% of our behavior is repeated daily and in the same context. Whether it’s the food we eat, our daily commute, how we spend our free time, when we get to bed, and (maybe most importantly) everything in between, so much of our lives are spent doing things habitually. So when we’re thinking about how we want to change our lives for the better, habits are a great place to begin.

We think critically about our habits in this month’s Intention Guide.

Set a foundation.

On that same note, thinking about how we might begin to form positive, healthy habits, writer Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, encourages us to form positive habits that help us do the following:

1. Sleep
2. Move

3. Eat/Drink Right
4. Unclutter

She calls these foundation habits and recommends we start with these four. When we do so, we set ourselves up to prioritize what is truly important to us and can build upon them to really achieve our larger, most fulfilling goals. When put into practice, all of these tools hopefully help us live with what the Greeks call Arete, or living up to our full potential.

We keep Arete front of mind with the help of this month’s Digital Art Downloads.

Break it down.

Writer Leo Babauta, creator of Zen Habits, advises breaking our larger goals into yearly, monthly, and weekly goals as well as daily action steps. Thinking about how our goals can be achieved within this framework helps us see whether they can and should be what we focus on. When we consider how we can actually work towards our goals the micro level (What steps can I take today? This week? This month?) we’re better prepared to see the bigger picture of our yearly goals and make adjustments as needed at the start.

We use this framework to set yearly goals in our January Intention Guide.

Daily work.  

One tool he shares specifically addressing taking daily action steps toward achieving our goals is what he calls a Most Important Task (MIT). An MIT (or you may also know it as one non-negotiable) is the task you most want or need to get done today, and while Babauta identifies three for himself, one is always related to his goals. It is done every day, typically first thing in the morning, and adopting this method ensures that he’s always moving his goals forward, keeping them front of mind, and staying on track.

We explore more of Babauta’s tools and resources from his wisdom-filled blog Zen Habits in this month’s Curated Resources.

Love to write?

Every month we select a few writers to help us explore what it means to live more fully and mindfully. Reach out to write write@holstee.com to learn more about contributing.

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This article is part of our series on the theme of Intention.

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Distilled from our Manifesto, positive psychology, the science of mindfulness, and ancient philosophic studies we have identified twelve themes core to living both fully and mindfully. We mapped these twelve themes to each of the twelve months in a year. Together with our community we explore one each month.

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