6 Reasons to Opt for Intentions over Resolutions This Year
It’s that time of year again when we look back on the lessons we have learned in the previous one and look ahead with hopefulness into the possibilities of the New Year. I love this time of year, and can’t help but to get excited about everything that could be, and I choose to always see the New Year as an opportunity to check in with myself and ask some hard questions about whether or not I am living in line with my values, am I prioritizing the right goals, and focusing on what’s really most important to me?
Many years of my life I have spent New Year’s Eve making strict and stringent resolutions which were often lofty (as if somehow I was going to wake up as a completely different person on January 1) about what I wanted to “fix” during the next year. Maybe it was a weight loss goal, a relationship goal, a financial goal or goal aimed at making me “a better person” in someway (whatever that means). No matter what the resolution, I would start off the New Year with the utmost dedication, and by the end of January, I had fizzled out, realizing I was not miraculously a new person who would wake up to run at 5 am (sorry, that’s not me), and then I would become discouraged and annoyed.
We’ll start by defining the difference between intentions and resolutions. Merriam Webster’s free dictionary defines intentions as an aim that guides action; an objective. The same free dictionary defines a resolution as a firm decision to do something or the act of solving or explaining a problem or puzzle. From these definitions you can see that the act of making a resolution focuses on solving a problem that exists instead of setting goals which help move us in the healthy direction we want to go.
For the past few years, I have opted to set intentions for myself and my year instead of resolutions, and I’ll tell you, I’m never turning back! I’m going to share with you some of my reasons for choosing to set meaningful intentions over resolutions, and I encourage you to join me on the journey!
1.) Intentions allow us to dream big, keeping core values of self and family in mind. When we set intentions, we are dreaming big, and focusing on just who or what we want to be in this next year. A more patient parent, no problem. A more affectionate spouse, ok! You can even set intentions that are bigger than the year, and may take longer to reach fruition (I will retire in the Caribean). By setting the intention and stating it out loud or in writing, you will be more likely to obtain this by setting things into motion which will help you reach your goal. Revisit your intentions often to make sure you are on track with the values that are most important to you.
2.) Focusing on small objectives that move us in the direction of our goals means that we are experiencing growth and success daily, weekly or monthly. If I intend to be more patient in the New Year (and beyond) then I can practice that daily in a variety of ways, reminding myself of the intentions I have set, and visualizing myself reaching my goals. I can reach the goal of being more patient daily, over and over again all throughout the year. If I set a goal to lose 20 lbs, I cannot reach that goal and find success daily. Intentions work by putting our positive energy into the decisions we are making while working from a place of positivity and personal growth and not shame or guilt for not “solving the problem” at hand.
3.) Intentions can help to integrate past, present, and future selves instead of creating a distance between past and future selves. Resolutions can cause unnecessary and unhelpful distance between our past, present and future selves. This dissonance leads us to think that miraculously we can reach these huge, unattainable goals. In general, the more integrated we are with our past, present, and future selves, the more productive and more satisfied we are. We are who we are today, and we will be just about the same tomorrow. While the New Year is a time to dream about possibilities, we have to stay rooted in reality. Setting intentions takes into account where we are in the journey today, and helps us to take stock of where we want to be tomorrow.
4.) Resolutions rarely stick. Resolutions are too limiting and too broad at the same time, making them hard to stick too. Resolutions are outcome driven and can be too black-and-white (did you lose that 20 lbs, or not?). By focusing too much on the outcome, we can become either overwhelmed or discouraged when we are not able to meet those goals. If our resolutions are too broad, we feel scattered and don’t know how to break them down into manageable objectives but if they’re too limiting, it’s hard to feel the success which keeps us motivated. I know you want to be a better person, but how exactly will you know when you get there?
5.) Resolutions set us up for disappointment. We can set ourselves up for disappointment in two ways when making resolutions. 1.) we feel disappointed when we don’t stick to our resolutions (we probably set unattainable goals to begin with) 2.) what happens when we resolve our “problems” and we’re still not content? Happiness can be like chasing the horizon. Beware of statements like “if I…then I’ll be happy.” Intentions can help us to focus on positive and specific goals and ways of being in the New Year!
6.) Scientific evidence suggests greater benefits from setting intentions due to Neuroplasticity. Cognitive Behavioral strategies teach us that we can continually learn new ways to think about ourselves, others, situations, and events. Due to neuroplasticity we have an infinite ability to shape our brains in beneficial ways by adopting healthy habits of the mind. When we set our positive intentions we are activating positive pathways which can help to ensure that we are able to meet those goals. There is increasing scientific evidence on the effectiveness of setting meaningful intentions and why we should be paying closer attention to mindset and less attention to specific outcomes in 2019 and beyond.
Want more info on setting intentions? Check out this article. Want to make 2019 your most productive and successful yet? Email me! I would love to work with you in 2019!