Don’t Set Resolutions, Set Intentions
At the start of a new year, a resolution can seem like a guarantee for self-betterment. Our lives are as fresh as this new year, with no baggage or habits to hold us back. Right? Sadly, no. As bright eyed and hopeful as resolutions are, they often fail to take into account the context in which they are made. Resolutions are almost always a play at self-improvement, but improvement is a word that demands incremental success – not windfall overhauls. Since we’re in the space to be making changes, let’s start by remixing the way we set our goals. Instead, let’s set intentions.
A resolution is a pass/fail exam. The result is finite, and with only 8% of people keeping their resolutions, the test skews towards “fail.” An intention gives us space. To explore our idea; to fail; to breathe; to change. By setting an intention, we communicate to ourselves that we are going to try our hardest at something, and invite ourselves back to realign with said intention should we stray. Research suggests that it is incremental changes that build a sustainable habit: it’s much harder to quit something cold turkey than it is to gradually reduce usage and refocus your energies. It also gives us an opportunity to focus on what we want for ourselves. Goals tend to be framed around reducing a negative or unappealing behavior, but that often means withholding a form or pleasure or coping. Cutting out sugar is a great imperative, but going from even an average sugar intake to nothing at all creates a dynamic shift in your daily routine… and in your body. Rather than frame our goals around what we are and aren’t “allowed,” we should instead focus on moving ourselves in the direction of our goals at a sustainable pace.
To set an intention for your new year, ask yourself: what do you want to change or accomplish? It’s likely that something will bubble up pretty organically. I want to lose weight, or I want to establish a creative practice. You can write them down, or just acknowledge them as they arise – whatever feels right to you. Intention setting is about well… intention. In the spirit of giving your wants and needs the attention and consideration they deserve, choose one or two of the intentions that arose for you, and try listing some positive, feel-good steps towards living out that intention. For example, if your intention was Losing Weight, your steps might be:
- Eat one salad a day.
- Get outside once a week, no matter for how long.
- Check in with my body to assess how full I am.
If your intention is Establish a Creative Practice, your steps might be
- Journal once a week, even if it’s just bullet points about my day.
- Visit the art gallery once a quarter.
- Finish one drawing a week.
You’ll notice that while the intentions are broad, the steps are positive, specific moves that support the intention. Intentions aren’t a pass-fail test: they are a journey towards something you want for yourself. They are an opportunity to check in with what you want every day and take small, actionable steps towards achieving them. In 2018, let’s breath more and gasp less. That’s our intention.
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