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Ditch Resolutions, Set Intentions Instead

Ditch Resolutions, Set Intentions Instead

With a new year just around the corner, there is an obscene amount of motivational quotes, resolutions, and lists with boxes to check off flooding the interwebs. 

“New year, new me!”

I’ll admit it. I usually fall victim of this. That this year, I will somehow magically have all the motivation, energy and magic to be that perfect self. Well, it hasn’t worked in years past.. so why would this year be any different?

One problem is that resolutions are often set with no change in behaviour, no change in mindset, or the basis of everything we do, no change in our psychology. 

The other problem with resolutions is that it sends the message (consciously or not) that you are not good enough as you are now, and as soon as you fail at this (usually astronomical and unrealistic) resolution, you are a failure. It tells you that in order to be happy or successful, that you need to hit a certain number on the scale, or that you need to live a rigid and strict lifestyle in order to achieve something. 

A resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something.

Anytime we have firm, strict or rigid rules, or  we are setting ourselves up for failure. Sure having strict rules can help us achieve short term goals (I once went on a crazy macro diet weighing and logging everything I put into my body to cut weight to qualify for provincials in weightlifting, and was successful in achieving that goal) but what happens when you achieve that goal, are you truly happier? Is it sustainable? What if you don’t achieve it? Are you left with anything in the rubble?

Goals are the object of a person’s ambition or effort, a desired result

Again, we are looking at outcomes here. When we focus our energy on the result instead of the process, there are two possible outcomes:

  1. We achieve our goal and find ourselves either no happier than we were before or unable to sustain the habits we created to achieve that goal
  2. We don’t achieve said goal and we feel like a failure and that all that effort was for nothing

Side Note: There is nothing wrong with setting goals. Goals provide structure and challenge us to reach beyond our comfort zone. However, when our goals are outcome-based without any focus on the process, we can run into problems. 

This year, instead of resolutions, I’m setting intentions. An intention is a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action. 

Intentions give you guidance without a rigid set of rules. Instead of focusing on what you’ve accomplished, it focuses on who you are. It’s important to be clear on your intentions before setting goals. 

Here are some questions to ponder to help you form meaningful intentions:

  1. What is your why? What do you bring to the world? What gets you up in the morning? What drives you?
  2. What are your values? What kind of person do you want to be? What guides your decision-making?
  3. How do you spend your time, energy, money?
  4. Does the way you spend this time/energy/money align with your values?

Goals focus on achievement and doing, intentions promote a state of being.” Matthew Trinetti of Give, Live, Explore

This year, my intention is being more present in everything that I do. Present in my work, in my relationships, and most importantly, present with myself. Here’s what it may look like:

Work – Present at work means being focused on the task at hand and not multitasking. The books Deep Work by Cal Newport and Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi really helped me understand the value of setting time aside with no distractions (no emails, turn notifications off) especially when doing creative work. 

In order to be present at work, it will be important to set time aside to recharge when I’m not working. I recently watched an amazing TED Talk called “How to turn off work thoughts in your free time” that I recommend checking out. It talks about the effects of bringing work into other aspects of your life and how it negatively impacts not only your non-work time, but your work as well. It also provides clear strategies to set boundaries so you can show up and be present in whatever you are doing (even more challenging when you do not have physical boundaries such as when you work from home – check out this post on “Tips for Working From Home.” 

Relationships – reaching out to friends and family more and letting them know that I’m thinking of them; asking more meaningful questions and practicing active listening; putting down the phone!

Myself – setting aside time to reflect and check in so I know if I am living to my values. Saying no more so I can say yes to things that matter – not doing things solely because I think I “should.” Quiet time to recharge; tapping into my creative self. Living in the moment and not thinking about what I need to do next (this is really hard for me and the TED Talk I mentioned above enlightened me and gave me some strategies to improve this).

So set yourself up for success in 2024! Stop creating lists and throwing all of your hard work away the minute you miss a day (How many of us started a diet and the minute we took a handful of M&M’s at a party thought, ‘to hell with it’ and finished the entire bowl). Strive for progress, not perfection. Focus on the process, not the end result. Focus on your sense of being, and the achievements and goals will take care of themselves (or at least lay a foundation to set you up for success).

You certainly need actions to back up your intentions, but don’t put the cart before the horse.

What are your intentions for 2024? 

PS – this message is a reminder for me as much as anybody else, but I hope it resonated with you and you’ll join me in ditching resolutions and instead set intentions.