You’re broken. Now fix it.
Unfortunately, this is often the thought process when making so-called New Year’s resolutions. We compare ourselves to others, think about what we loathe about ourselves, and then mash our self-criticism into an often stressful and unrealistic plan for transformation. This thinly-veiled self-punishment is typically far more destructive than helpful. Shaming ourselves in an attempt to make changes we think we “should” make, to “fix” things we perceive as being broken in our lives feels pretty darn bad. And, frankly, it doesn’t work: while over 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, the data suggest that as few as eight per cent of those who set resolutions actually achieve their objectives.
Now if you still want to go ahead and make that resolution to lose 10 pounds (eating healthy and/or exercising for the purpose of losing weight is generally the most popular resolution), go for it. You can read my blog Resolution Revolution for some practical tips, and check out the Sunshine resource on how to set “SMART” goals first!
However, with all of the negative connotations around resolutions, it’s perhaps not surprising that there has been a move in recent years towards setting positive intentions instead. The key here is to make sure we’re not just talking semantics. I’m not advocating calling your planned 10 pound weight loss an “intention”. The whole feel, the essence of an intention is different.
Intentions are more like road maps than destinations. They are about manifesting your dreams and living the life you envision for yourself in the present. Unlike fixed, future-oriented goals, intentions are designed to be flexible and expansive and to evolve over time. You may intend to embrace more fun and play in your life, to value progress over perfection, to respect and love your body, to practice gratitude and appreciate the “little things”. One of my intentions for 2019 is to be more kind and compassionate with myself and to inspire others to do the same. Another is to create more space in my life for quality time with the people I love.
Once our intentions have been set, some kind of accountability structure is needed to help us live those intentions. Daily or weekly check-ins can encourage self-reflection and serve as a positive call to action. When I remind myself of my desire to create space for family and friends, I may schedule a coffee date, invite my neighbour over for a glass of wine, or say no to an obligation that takes me away over the family mealtime. At each check-in, I think about how I can live the life I want for myself. I also endeavour to do one thing right at that moment to honour my intention, like turning off my phone for 10 or 15 minutes to chat with my kids about their day.
I have outlined below what I see as being the fundamental differences between intentions and resolutions. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you’re planning for the New Year ahead!
Recommended Reading: Check out my Fave Five email “Rethinking Resolutions” for more tips on how to live with intention. I’ve provided links to some great articles, books and podcasts for you!