It’s Time to Ditch Resolutions.
Tuesday kicks off 2019 and, let’s be honest, we wouldn’t be human if we weren’t thinking about things we would like to change or improve in our lives for this New Year. For most of us, the calendar turns and with it comes all sorts of “Resolutions.” For example:
- I’m going to go to the gym four days a week,
- I’m going to lose xx number of pounds,
- I’m going to make more money or get a promotion,
- I’m going to start yoga or meditation,
- I’m going to save $xxxx, etc.
Sound familiar? Whether we label it a “Resolution” or not, we undeniably start the year with BIG expectations. How does that usually work out? For most of us, within 60 days (often only 30!) our “new year” has begun with broken promises and plenty of disappointment. The problem with Resolutions is that there is no path, plan or reason – we simply set an outcome and expect ourselves to change. That is no way to start a New Year. So what if we change how we approach change?
Instead of setting Resolutions, let’s focus on Intentions.
First, what are Intentions? Intentions arise from a neutral state of awareness. They state a desire for something to happen but keep us detached from any particular outcome. Better yet, there is no wrong way to achieve an Intention. There is no “how” there is only a “why.” You may be thinking “But isn’t that a cop-out? How are we accountable to Intentions?” The simple answer is that by focusing on and setting Intentions, every action we take, not just some daily decision to “hit the gym,” is forced to align with who we are and what we want for ourselves. In other words, Intentions are a more positive path to change because instead of resolving a problem and becoming something specific you are “going to do”, Intentions are about creating a better “you.”
Let me give you an example of how an Intention works compared to a Resolution.
Resolution: I am going to the gym four days a week this year!
Intention: I am moving for my health this year!
Arguably, both of these statements articulate the same change, the same goal. But what if your schedule changes and getting to the gym becomes harder than you expected? What if you realize you really hate group exercise classes or you get bored lifting weights? What if you have unexpected house guests that you need to entertain? What if your stress level ratchets up and you just find yourself feeling drained? With the Resolution, you either force yourself to stick to hitting the gym “four days a week” or you fail. With the Intention, you are free to try a different activity when the gym loses its appeal (boxing? OTF?), start an at-home yoga practice, sleep in with your houseguests and take a hike in the woods, or just give yourself rest with some light stretching when you wake up.
Unlike with Resolutions, Intentions are open-ended. Every day, week or month your Intention can be the same while the actions that reflect it are flexible and can change. This allows the path towards goals such as “eating for health” to change – maybe eating for health means veggies for breakfast, low carb all day and meats just at night…but maybe it means some morning carbs like sweet potatoes and squash, with a steak at lunch and a square of dark chocolate after dinner because you’re under some stress and need to honor your energy demands. As long as your choices are in line with your Intentions, no matter how often they change or what they look like, you have succeeded. Resolutions such as going to the gym four days a week or eating salads for dinner every night don’t have any passion or purpose behind them and don’t allow you to change based on what your mind or body needs.
When I work with clients, I always ask them to identify their Intentions and then write them out. As we work toward behavior change, they always know their “why?” Some other examples of Intentions include:
- I am rested each day
- I am present in my relationships
- I eat for health and nourishment
- I am focused and alert for my work
- I am a body that is worth moving each day.
- I have even energy and balanced moods.
- I choose gratitude and happiness over worry and fear
How to Set Intentions. There truly is no “wrong” way to set an Intention. I would suggest that you start by closing your eyes, taking a few deep breaths and thinking about what you would like to have happen this New Year. Focus on the present moment and then write your Intentions out in the present rather than future tense. It may seem odd but using present language creates powerful momentum that propels you towards accomplishing your goals without getting stuck in the “how.” Once you’ve identified your Intentions, WRITE THEM DOWN – whether you want to get fancy with a vision board or you just make a Notes file in your phone – make a snapshot of what you want for this year. By doing so, you create for yourself a compass that you can use to guide you in the days, weeks and months to come.
Doesn’t that sound like a better way to start 2019? I think so too!