New Year’s – Resolution or Intention?

Today, as I write, a turkey is slowly browning in the oven; I’ve baked an apple pie; there will be mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cheese, chocolate … all the things that make up a holiday dinner that I plan on working off over the next few weeks.  But if this year is anything like all my other years, it won’t happen beyond the first 2 or 3 days – if that. When I honestly think of it, the only people I know who can cut back after this season are people who’ve done exactly that all their lives – like my sister.

Sadly, diets don’t really work for me.  What does work for me, beautifully, is focusing my daily life on living it in a way that makes me feel fulfilled.  Not exactly a goal, but an intentional way of living.

New Year’s resolutions don’t work because, according to Steve Errey, they’re often based on other people’s ideas of what is good and right – on what we think we should do, rather on what we want to do; resolutions are like goals, which assumes that we are somehow inadequate and need more of something to feel better about ourselves; resolutions often aren’t actually personally relevant to us – otherwise they’d already be a part of our lives; the timing isn’t great – the new year isn’t a great time to change something that’s probably been with you for a while.  Ray Williams in his article on Why People Can’t Keep Their New Year’s Resolutions, cites a number of studies that demonstrate how difficult it is to change a habit, and that when we attempt to “force” ourselves to change – as we do with resolutions – we’re actually simply reinforcing the habit.  Change takes time, and it also takes more than a resolution.

What works better is to set a New Year’s intention for this new year that both inspires and motivates. This is because, as Jesse Lively beautifully points out, intention is a process; something we can focus on day-by-day.  An intention is a guide rather than a rule; it’s something we can text and challenge, something that can be modified and used flexibly to fit our daily circumstances.  There are many ways a New Year’s intention differs from a New Year’s resolution.  Here are a few –

New Year’s resolutions are goal-oriented, which means they are future-focused.  Intention is process-oriented, which means they are all about the present.

New Year’s resolutions are about what we think we should do, rather than what motivates and inspires us. Intention is all about inspiration.

New Year’s resolutions demand that we change habits and well-entrenched ways of doing; intention demands we examine and test, seeing if how we live works with how we want to live.  Living intentionally means we are inspired, in the present, to change what doesn’t work or no longer works, for what does, in the present moment.  It doesn’t require us to bend over backwards attempting to rewire ourselves overnight.

Here’s a 3-step process that can help you determine and then set your intention for this coming year.

  1. Look at what inspires you: spend some time over this next week taking a look.  It might take a while, and needn’t be hastily determined.  Go for a walk, meditate, spend some quiet quality time with yourself determining what you want to focus on.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, simply meaningful to you, right now.  For me, my inspiration for this year is better health.
  2. Then set an intention: one that will provide a focus for you; something you can use as a guide every day.  For instance, is what I’m doing going to improve my health? Or might it hamper my health?  This includes physical, mental and emotional activities. Decisions and choices suddenly become a lot easier for me.
  3. Know there will sometimes be setbacks: life happens, and we can’t always take strong steps every day.  By knowing our intention and focus, we also know that some days are better than others; we have built-in flexibility.
  4. There will be deviations: because things change, and what might have worked within our intention and focus a week ago, may not work today.  Our intention, not some set of rules, is the determiner.  It lets us bend with the day, flow with the circumstances.

By setting a New Year’s Intention, you are providing a beacon for yourself, because it will guide you on a daily basis based on inspiration that is personally meaningful to you.

What does inspiration mean to you?

I want to invite you to my free webinar, 3 Brief and Unusual Strategies to Manage Stress on January 5, 2015. You’ll be able to use these short, yet powerful, techniques anywhere to transform your day from stressed out to super, freeing yourself from that rock you might be stuck under.  If you’re interested , click here to register.

Arthur’s Story – Never Give Up

Quote of the Week
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.
-Helen Keller

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