We’re already at another new year, can you believe it?
Did you set a resolution in 2021? After 2020, I think there was a general wariness about setting goals we couldn’t reach. After so many plans and goals and milestones were derailed indefinitely it was hard to imagine that achieving our goals would be easier in 2021. There was a lot less talk of New Year’s resolutions because we were all ready for the year to be just as unpredictable as the one before!
But to new year’s resolutions, I say good riddance! How many times have you set a last minute resolution, just to fall off of it by March? That’s the case with so many of us. With the excitement of a new year and the new start it symbolizes, it can be easy to get caught up in imaginary possibilities.
This will be the year I read 100 books!
This year I’ll cook every weeknight!
I’m not going to watch TV on the weekends this year!
We think of something that sounds good and healthy in theory, and don’t give a lot of consideration to why we haven’t been able to achieve it in our lives. There are a lot of factors that get in the way of reaching our goals that should be considered.
This isn’t to say that setting goals is a bad or foolish exercise! But it’s important to set goals that are specific, relevant to our lives + values, and achievable. That so often is not the case with new year’s resolutions. And setting a goal for an entire year is a big ask! If you have a resolution in mind, try to break it into smaller goals that don’t put pressure on you to perform perfectly for an entire year. As we’ve seen, a lot can happen in a year that you can’t predict!
Consider this year setting an intention instead of a resolution.
What does that mean? Well, a resolution is an objective you are resolved to achieve. It’s a clear thing you either do or don’t accomplish. An intention on the other hand, is a values based, overarching motive to inspire or encourage the behaviors you want. Okay, so what does that mean?
Let’s take one of the above examples. If the resolution is to read 100 books, what is the intention behind the goal? Maybe you value learning, and reading 100 books seems like a good way to get yourself to engage your brain in new ways. But 100 books is a lot! That’s almost two books a week to read, every week. While that sounds lovely–most of us can’t guarantee that we’ll have time for that in a typical week, not even considering the times of year that get even more hectic and hard to manage.
So instead of setting the goal of reading 100 books in a year, you can set the intention to engage in as many opportunities for learning as you can. This way, you’re not boxed into one thing–you could go to a museum or a local educational event, or take a class to learn a new skill, or watch a documentary instead of rewatching a show you’ve seen five times. All of these things work to follow the intention of engaging opportunities for learning, and it gives you the freedom to adjust to the ever changing circumstances of your life.
There’s more flexibility and more freedom in setting values based intentions. Humans aren’t machines! And while routines can be helpful for us, it’s not actually likely that we can do the same thing every day, forever. That flexibility that intentions offers us gives us the freedom to do what’s right for us in the moment, and empowers us to make changes based on our needs and circumstances.
So how do you set those intentions?
Take our example from above! Look at what your resolutions would be, and find the value behind it. If your resolution is This year I’ll cook every weeknight! what is motivating that? Do you want to be more mindful and intentional about nourishing yourself? Do you want to strengthen your cooking skills? Do you want to spend less money on take out? Your intention could be: this year, I want to be more intentional about how I nourish my body.
Or, look back to this last year. What things or moments were the most fulfilling for you? Why were they so meaningful? What things excite you the most? How can you incorporate these things into your life? Answering these questions is a simple roadmap to setting intentions.
If you don’t know where to start, here are five example intentions for the new year:
- This year, I want to engage in as many opportunities for learning as I can
- This year, I want to be more intentional about how I nourish my body
- This year, I want to be more engaged in my community
- This year, I want to create space for me to creatively express myself
- This year, I want to be more intentional about listening to my body’s cues