Originally published on the Inspired Recovery Blog
to come to a definite or earnest decision about; determine (to do something):
to deal with (a question, a matter of uncertainty, etc.) conclusively; settle; solve:
to have in mind as something to be done or brought about; plan:
to have a purpose or design.
The act of setting resolutions has become synonymous with the New Year. This practice is based on having a fresh start, a burst of energy and motivation to better ourselves as the calendar changes. But we all know what tends to happen with resolutions. They fade, they get forgotten and they fail.
It’s true – as one year ends and a new one begins, it’s a great time to take stock of where we’ve been and where we’re headed, in a physical, mental and spiritual way. Taking inventory should not be self-critical and setting forward on our course doesn’t need to be pressured either.
So, I suggest a shift in practice from creating resolutions to setting intentions.
The above are definitions from dictionary.com. It’s important to see the subtle difference in language here. Resolve is about results while to intend is about the plan. Plans can change. Intentions are flexible, whereas resolutions tend to be more rigid. When we create a resolution it usually has a black and white result attached – “I will do X thing by Y date.” This is a set up for self-criticism and a feeling of failure when that thing doesn’t happen by that date. Self-criticism decreases motivation and energy. This is the antithesis of bettering ourselves.
Intentions can be more general and allow us to remain non-attached to outcomes. It’s process oriented and tends to be based more on areas of personal growth that we are already invested in, as opposed to external results that can be expected of us.
“I intend to see more of my friends.”
“I intend to be less graspy in my relationships.”
“I intend to be more present and focused with daily tasks.”
These kinds of statements leave room for life to happen – we don’t have to predict when or how they will occur, but we get our energy aligned with the desire for these things to come to fruition. Whether they do or don’t, we can then look back on the process from an observant standpoint and ask why, rather than criticizing what didn’t get accomplished and view it as a reflection of our worth. We then can choose to shift, revise or recommit to our intention, keeping a sense of motivation and perspective.
I’ve been doing this practice for several years and it’s made the New Year more exciting and rich for me. I suggest writing down intentions so you can come back in a few months, a year or several years and see how things tend to manifest in ways you couldn’t have predicted or expected. It’s a process that can be inquisitive, curious and lots of fun rather than stressful and fraught.
What are your intentions for 2018?