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Published: June 8, 2024

Why You Should Set Intentions, Not Resolutions

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Is it almost the New Year already? It seems like just yesterday we were setting resolutions, hopeful about accomplishing new goals and making positive changes in our lives.

But while we often do our best to stay focused, resolutions don’t often pan out the way we’d like. We lose steam by the end of January, and then endure guilt and shame at having abandoned our own desires.

The problem? Resolutions are too specific. They work for short-term goals such as going for a run today, but don’t have the sustaining power you really need to keep up your motivation all year long. Resolutions also tend to focus on fixing flaws rather than addressing something deeper. Think about it, the resolution of losing weight implies you are currently overweight, the resolution of getting a better job reminds you that you’re currently miserable in the one you have, and even something like “traveling more” can trigger self-criticism at having a lack of adventure in your existing life. No wonder they don’t work, they’re nagging reminders of our shortcomings!

If resolutions haven’t proven effective for you in the past, then it’s time to try a new approach.

Last year we highlighted a few resolution alternatives, including choosing just one word, doing more of what’s good, and creating monthly mini-goals. This year, we want to simplify it even more.

Set an intention.
Unlike a resolution, which is a promise you make to yourself, an intention is a mindset. It’s less specific than something like exercising 3 times a week, but it’s also more connected to the core of what you really want, and therefore leaves you more open to fulfilling that in a variety of ways.

Here are examples of resolutions:

  • Meditate 5 times a week for 10 minutes each
  • Avoid junk food
  • Reconnect with an old hobby

And here are their corresponding intentions:

  • Develop a calm mind
  • Live more healthfully
  • Make more time for creativity and play

The difference is subtle, but it’s just enough to shift how your actions unfold.

To use the first example, developing a calm mind could certainly include meditating 5 times a week, but it also leaves you open to all sorts of possibilities that contribute to the same effect, thereby leaving you far less bored (or likely to quit trying) as the year goes on. Developing a calm mind could manifest as a class you take, spending more time in nature, reading some books on wisdom traditions, re-evaluating your relationships, etc. By not limiting yourself to one specific method, you open yourself up to a range of possibilities and increase your chances of ultimately reaching that deeper goal – sometimes through surprising ways.

Give it a try this year and see how it goes. At the very least you’ll take a break from resolutions and might discover that you don’t even miss them!

What’s your intention for the new year? Share in the comments below!


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