What is Your New Year's Intention?
I’d be willing to bet that the majority of people reading this have heard of and probably even participated in setting a “new year’s resolution.” New year’s resolutions are typically more long-term goals that we set for ourselves to accomplish within a 365 day timeframe and they might range from going to the gym on a set schedule each week, losing a specific amount of weight, volunteering a set number of hours each week, saving a specific amount of money, quitting a bad habit that we have picked up, starting a new hobby/interest, landing a dream job, or buying a new car. If I’m being honest, I have set many new year’s resolutions that would fall into all of the categories above. However, my personal experience with actually staying motivated to accomplish new year’s resolutions that I have set for myself in the past was inconsistent and always short-lived at best. Admitting that I did not hold myself accountable to achieving my new year’s resolutions in the past, even now, makes me feel pretty discouraged and defeated. Have you had a similar experience where you’ve set a new year’s resolution or even a life goal that you didn’t end up following through on? When this happens, it’s common for us to feel embarrassed, guilty, ashamed, or just generally like we are failures and if you are like me and want to avoid those negative feelings, this might leave you far less likely to opt into resolution or goal setting in the future.
Fortunately, I had a really eye-opening experience a few years ago that totally changed my perspective on setting new year’s “resolutions” and I want to share it with you! I was invited to a vision board making party the weekend before New Year’s Eve and told to bring along craft supplies (glue, scissors, markers, construction paper, colored pencils, crayons, paint) that I had on hand, a blank canvas, and any old magazines or newspapers that I didn’t mind parting with. When I arrived, there were about 8 other people who had done the same so the amount of craft supplies that were collectively available for all of us to share was quite impressive! The host of this gathering led us through some self-reflection on what we loved and enjoyed about the past year and what we felt challenged by or struggled with most. Keeping both the peaks and valleys of the previous year in mind, we were then directed to create our vision boards for the coming year as a visual representation and reminder of what we want to intentionally focus our energy on. This is when I started to recognize the difference between setting a goal or resolution and setting an intention. Intentions lead us to developing a vision for our journey rather than leading us to judging ourselves based on a desired, fixed outcome. Intentions serve as a guide for us in being mindful about embodying the kind of person we want to be and living the kind of life we want to live whereas resolutions typically are outcome-driven and inflexible so either you accomplish them and succeed or you don’t and you fail.
So, why do I recommend that others try setting New Year’s intentions over New Year’s resolutions this year? Setting an intention gives us the freedom to develop guiding principles that support us in being more mindful overall. This really translates into being more gentle and forgiving with ourselves even when we recognize that we have strayed away from aligning with whatever intentions we have set because we are not stuck in a rigid mindset or “all or nothing.” For example, a New Year’s intention might look like “I will be more mindful about moving my body so that I don’t feel inactive” where as a New Year’s resolution might look like “I will go to the gym at least 5 days per week.” Even if you don’t have the time, resources, or desire to create a vision board that is a physical reminder of your New Year’s intention, I would strongly encourage you to take some time in the next few days to really reflect on how you experienced 2020:
What worked for you?
What didn’t work for you?
What would you like to leave behind as you start a new year?
What happened this year that was in your control?
What happened this year that was out of your control?
What can you do for yourself in the coming year that will help you to live a happier and healthier life throughout 2021?
How will you hold yourself accountable for sticking with your intention?
How will you measure your success with progress and long-term commitment to your intention?
How will you celebrate your small and large successes?
Another tip that I’ve found to be helpful in creating and setting intentions are being specific and writing my specific intention out whether that is on a piece of paper, the notes app in my smartphone, an email I send to myself, a journal, a vision board, or any other method you find useful for keeping track of important information. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can even share your intention with others to hold yourself accountable in being consistently mindful of your intention for the year and/or encourage them to take part in setting and being accountable to their own intention for the new year! Most importantly, as you begin the New Year, don’t be discouraged when there are instances that you catch yourself out of alignment with your intention; instead of feeling ashamed, discouraged, defeated, or embarrassed make your mind up that you will use those instances to learn and grow.
Sending you all happy, healthy wishes for this coming year,
Program Director, Youth MOVE New Hampshire
PS. Interested in hearing more about intention setting? Check out the Youtube video linked below: Episode 19: New Years Intentions Vs. Resolutions Posted December 30th, 2019
Description: In the final episode of the year, Lyn discusses the difference between New Year's Resolutions and setting intentions for the new year instead and why she recommends the later. After talking about the difference between them and how to set intentions, Lyn guides you through a meditation to connect you with your new year’s intentions!