Breaking the Cycle: Understanding the Difference Between Habits and Intentions

In January conversations often centre around what we hope to be different in the coming year. Many people make new year resolutions to start the year with good intentions.  But what is the difference between a habit and an intention?  

A habit is something that we do regularly and automatically, without much thought or conscious effort. It’s a behavior that has become ingrained in our daily routine. For example, brushing your teeth before bed is a habit. You don’t have to think about it, you just do it. Habits (good and bad) are formed through repetition and can be hard to break. 

An intention, on the other hand, is a conscious decision or plan to do something. It’s something that we actively choose to do or achieve. For example, if you decide to start exercising regularly (often the case in January!), that’s an intention. You have to actively make the decision to go to the gym or go for a run, and you have to put in the effort to make it happen. 

Both are important for our daily lives, habits helps us to automate the things we do often, which saves our mental effort and intention helps us to achieve our goals. Taking action to create a good habit, or break a bad one, is where it can get a little trickier as this requires consistent motivation. 

Why does this change to your routine matter to you?  Understanding your motivation can help to keep your commitment even when temptation creeps in, as CoCo’s founder Karen Slupinski explains:  

“I’d like to share my own experience of how my mindset has changed when it comes to new year resolutions.  The biggest shift has been that change doesn’t need to begin in January (or on a Monday).  Kicking your intentions down the calendar only creates the opportunity to overthink.  

“For example:  I’ll wait until January to start running so that I can buy another pair of running shoes in the boxing day sale (cue losing hour-upon-hour shopping for new trainers… might as well include new leggings and a top.)  The predetermined Monday morning in January has arrived. It’s raining, I will run tomorrow… you get the gist! 

“Instead, I started my ‘new year resolution’ mid-week, mid-month and in the spring.  It wasn’t planned, it just happened.  I get up most mornings at 0630 to walk my dogs.  I go different routes depending on the weather and the time of year, but most days that’s what I do.  

“Importantly, this happens most mornings, not every morning.  If my body tells me it needs a rest I take it, without guilt.   I usually walk for over an hour, but sometimes it’s for 30 minutes, and that’s OK too!  I’ve experimented with podcasts, music, walking meditation and found that the peace and quiet is what I prefer.  

“My intention is to get head space in my busy life, and regular gentle exercise as I get older. I know why this really matters to me, and I know the consequence when this hasn’t happened.  I tried running but didn’t enjoy it as I once did, I can’t be bothered to go out when I get back from work. My intention is strong enough to power my motivation to get up at the crack of dawn.   

“The result – 18 months later this positive change to my life that has created a good habit.” 

Karen and her network of experienced associates work with companies and individuals across the globe to consider intentions and create habits. Whether at home or at work, taking the time to find clarity and the support to keep yourself accountable will create meaningful change.  

Contact us to find out more.

If you liked this, you’ll love this blog that explores the concept of Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game – very relatable when thinking about intention and habits!   





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