how to be successful in 2014


Though 2014 is still a few weeks away, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’d like to approach the new year in terms of success.

There are the four things I believe effectively cultivate success. For the next four weeks, I’ll be sharing one element at a time, starting with (you guessed it) intention.

For the sake of WILW, I’ll be sharing these four aspects from a business or career perspective most of the time. But these concepts align perfectly with personal habits, relationships, and possessions – so feel free to use them in your personal life, too.


Create an Intention


Though I’ve talked about intentions before, it can be helpful to freshen up on the concept – particularly around the new year.

After seven years of studying the concept of intentions, I have found that a true intention is enduring, flexible, and communicates personal values – independent of outcomes or shiny pennies. 

Let’s look at each aspect in more detail to understand what this means.


An Intention is Enduring


Intentions are like the Constitution. They can be amended, but they are built to last. This characteristic is a quick way to test whether you are attempting to use the term “intention” in place of the word “goal.”

If your intention can be finished or completed, it’s not an intention, it’s a goal. (I made this mistake in my own life for about five years.)

A career intention, for example, should be specific and broad enough to convey what you most deeply want for yourself and your work over the long haul. For example, one of my client’s intentions is “to do work that is proportional and mutually beneficial.”

For her, this means that she desires her career to be proportional to the energy and time that she has at each stage of her life (she’s having her first child soon, so energy and time are changing quite a bit right now), and mutually beneficial. The last aspect of her intention speaks to the fact that she’d like to do work that brings high value for both herself and her clients (this addresses her desire to be well compensated in a non-stressful work environment).

With this new intention to guide her, she can select the appropriate course of action in her career now, once she has the baby, and as her child grows. Though her specific work may change and evolve, the intention is there to fulfill her highest value: to work in a way that supports her personal wellbeing and family.


An Intention is Flexible


An intention also continues despite changing circumstances.

Unlike a goal, that describes a specific course of action or external outcome, an intention can roll with the punches and include more than one course of action.

For example, a personal fitness intention would be flexible enough to still be honored despite a busy schedule or injury. Actions could be modified as needed, yet the overall intention would still be maintained. This means “workout five times a week” is not an intention (what if you get hurt or busy?).

On the other hand, “being adventurous with my physical activity” is a possible intention. It speaks to a value of novelty, challenge, and playfulness in physical fitness. What you choose to do given the present moment, based on the intention, is up to you to decide each and every day.

Also, if you happen to mess up or contradict your intention one day, one week, or one month, the intention can always be fulfilled the next day. There is no end game with intentions. Only a continued practice of honoring what is most important to you.


An Intention Communicates Personal Values


As I’ve hinted at in the last two sections, intention ultimately speaks to what is most important to you in each area of your life. Not on the level of shiny pennies, goals, and metrics – that’s all fleeting and ever-changing.

It’s a mindset you use to filter all of the actions and choices you make in the present moment.


An Intention is Independent of Outcomes or Shiny Pennies


Intentions are not fulfilled by any particular outcome beyond our circle of influence. The very act of doing something inspired by the intention fulfills the intention. This means our self-esteem and success is based on what we do, not what we get.

But be careful, our minds can easily play tricks on us and try disguise a desired outcome as an action. For example, if we decide, based on a career intention, to make 50 sales calls, we cannot let the number of sales (or lack thereof) determine our feeling of “success.” The customer’s choice to buy or not buy our product is beyond our control. We can do our best to convey our product’s value, but we cannot force a customer to buy the product.

So rather than stress out about lackluster sales (a not-so-great outcome), we can continue to fulfill our intention by trying to improve our product to better serve our market. Or, we can make more sales calls.

Both of these actions fulfill the intention without tying our success or worthiness to anything beyond our hustle and control.


If you have a moment today or even this weekend, you might want to take some time to use these four elements to craft your own intentions for your career and personal life. They can serve as the foundation of your success in 2014 and beyond.



May something wonderful happen to you today,



Thinking about doing The Intention Sessions with me? 

Thinking about intentions without mixing them up with goals and shiny pennies can be difficult. But the peace of mind and inspired actions that come as a result of crafting intentions is invaluable.

If you’d like help with this process for your possessions (clutter, home, stuff), personal habits (wellbeing, health, fitness), relationships, or career (small biz, corporate, or a mix) I’d love to work with you


Reader Spotlight

Cristina works with individuals and small businesses to help them establish strong personal and professional brands, develop stellar online presences, and increase their productivity and efficiency. She also runs One Woman Shop, a resource hub and community for female solopreneurs and freelancers.

Cristina Roman, CMR Strategies

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  1. Nina Reed

    I really like this, especially the part about separating goals from intentions. I am very goal oriented, so it’s easy for me to say things like “I need to workout 5 times a week”, but much harder to set intentions that remind me of how and why I want to reach my specific goals.

  2. dailye

    Jess – this is excellent! I’m approaching 2014 by writing some “Headlines” for myself instead of traditional resolutions. I really like the idea of creating a set of life and career Intentions that are not result or metric focused. I’ll be working on my headlines and intentions this weekend by the fire because it is darn cold outside!!

    1. Very nice! Your headline idea kinda reminds me of this idea (

      And I’m so pumped you dig the fact that they aren’t metric focused. That is a huge part of intentions that can be scary for many people to give up. (So we go around and around the same mountain chasing shiny pennies, getting them, and chasing new ones without getting the fulfillment we truly want.)

      Intentions are a way to get the fulfillment independent of any outcomes we get. It doesn’t stop us from growing and actually getting many outcomes we seek, it just stops us from chasing those things before feeling fulfilled in the first place.

      1. dailye

        Thanks for the extra material!!

        Maybe I’ve been setting my goals to high (in my defense, there are a lot of Pinterest Quotes that encourage just that) but I feel like I am never “reaching” them. I try then to focus on what I did accomplish and I think an Intention is a much better fit for me.

        This past year for example… I didn’t lose the 40 pounds I wanted to, but I didn’t gain any weight and I have developed healthier habits. My 2014 Intention will be to make my healthy lifestyle fun and exciting instead of a chore!

        1. Oh I hear ya, lady. : )

          There is nothing wrong with dreaming bigger (in fact, I designed a poster and necklace devoted to the saying with my old company, Jess LC). However, putting those metrics and shiny pennies in front of us like a dangling carrot does NOT work longterm. We cannot chase what we want to “have” and feel any fulfillment. Instead, we must decide what we most want to BE everyday that is all of the four intention characteristics above. Only then will we find fulfillment through our ACTIONS (not our outcomes).

          As you may know, I struggled with weight for 10 years and it was my #1 goal/shiny penny/issue. I eventually broke the cycle and chose intention over outcome and have over the years reached my old goal (which I could never attain before) without striving. It naturally came (though I had to let go of any expectation that it would happen). The result has been transforming. I love your personal intention for eating next year – wellness that is fun and exciting.

          If you want to add an action that might support this new way of thinking, I would suggest reading “Women, Food, and God.” It was the book that changed my life in this area.

          1. dailye

            I started blogging about my weight loss on a weekly basis about a year and a half ago and felt like a broken record ( and my original “plan” to drop it in 2011-12 is still a page on the blog. I’ll check out the book because I am looking for inspiration and will re-write my “weight loss” page with my new intention for living healthier!

          2. Jess Lively

            That is great to hear! Please let me know how you like the book. I’ve recommended it to several other readers over the years and I’ve heard it has really helped them, too. : )

  3. Alisha B.

    Thank you for clarifying exactly what an intention is! Ive def been just setting goals.

    1. You are most welcome. I did the same for five years before I really figured out what an intention is and is not.

  4. Fantastic stuff Jess! I’ve never thought about that distinction between and intention and a goal. I’ve set yearly goals and they always feel bleh! Intentions is what I want to set going forward.

    Perfect timing too! Kels and I are having our yearly family meeting this Saturday.

    1. Yep. It is so common that I found myself doing that name swap for five years, too. But over time you can start to catch yourself saying the words interchangeably and realign your thinking.

      I hope these four aspects help you both this weekend (and beyond!)!

  5. Killer post Jess. Intentions also make me feel more fulfilled, more alive – whereas the success of goals can be more fleeting. Your advice is a brilliant way to embark on 2014.

    1. Thanks, Serena! I’m glad you are a fan of intentions vs. goals, too. I think goals have their place, they just aren’t our source of motivation (which is what a lot of us get wrong based on what is celebrated in society).

  6. Agyness / Bring your own disco

    Love this post! it is so important to know the difference and thank you for teaching me what it is 🙂

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