The countdown to the end of the year is on. The new year is right around the corner. Yes, it’s that time again – when people want to shed bad habits and start fresh. It’s time for setting New Year’s resolutions.
Or rather let’s not talk about New Year’s resolutions, but New Year’s intentions.
What is the difference between resolutions and intentions?
Resolutions have this notorious reputation for being difficult, unenjoyable, and somewhat of a sacrifice. Although some people are able to stick to resolutions, about one-third break them before the end of January.1 Popular resolutions include lose weight, quit smoking, save more money, eat better, drink less, travel more – all the most commonly broken resolutions according to Time.
The goals people often set are firm, restrictive, even draconian, and likely ghosts from New Years Past. It’s something difficult enough for people to postpone to “later” or a “more symbolic” time, like the new year, to attempt. Again.
The word resolution, which has various meanings, is about having determination, finding a solution, and come from the Latin word resolvere – “to loosen, undo, settle.”
One reason New Year’s resolutions barely see the light of day is many people are simply not ready. Perhaps not ready to go deep to what the real problem is. Some of these resolutions, like losing weight, often result from over-indulgences during the Christmas holidays so they are guilt-based and reactive. Let’s not forget that sugar is even more addictive than cocaine so it takes more than a strong will to loosen or undo this habit.
Other resolutions come about because people are either doing it for loved ones (like quitting smoking) or think the resolutions will make them happier, healthier, safer…even though they may still enjoy or are addicted to the “bad habit”. So the problem here to solve for them is not actually about eating too much, smoking, or gambling but rather how to please other people.
What about intentions?
Intentions are empowering affirmations and announcements of how people want to live their lives, whether it is being kinder to oneself or creating deeper shifts. There is already an in-built action – intend – in the energy. There’s a plan, a way to move forward. The word “intend” comes from Latin roots meaning stretch and tend and the Middle English word meaning direct the attention to.
We do New Moon intentions. We have good intentions. Words have power and the word “intention” is connected to a culture of working with natural forces and of well-meaning. It is more fluid and lacks the determination to fix that energetically comes with “resolution”,
Learning from Einstein
Resolutions focus on “what’s wrong”, real and perceived and seek to correct them through this lens. It was Albert Einstein who said that solutions can only be found from a consciousness different from which the problem was created. Thinking about solutions without going deep can only take us so far.
He also said that if he only had an hour, he’d spend only five minutes thinking of the solutions and the rest of the time on the problem.
Goals are often linear. Problem: I’m overweight. Solution: Diet. Problem: I don’t have enough time. Solution: Get up at 5am. Einstein suggests looking at the problem in every conceivable way, all possible angles, with imagination, to simplify it to really understand the root. The root of an overweight problem may not be eating too much.
Gary Taubes shares in his book Why We Get Fat some interesting insights on low conscious living and being overweight. This is definitely not the common and mainstream idea we have about weight gain. Perhaps this is something to look into then. Greater awareness and self-knowledge, at any rate, can shed light on where the obstacles actually are for us individually.
Moving up the Vibrational Ladder
Goals are also often based on lack or fear. According to David Hawkins (his book Power vs Force is a must-read), vibrations that are fear-based are forceful. This means low-vibrational feelings need constant external energy to sustain them. Higher vibrations such as peace, courage, and love are powerful because they are self-sustaining and self-propelling. Actions grounded in low vibrations require tremendous effort and energy to accomplish. This works well enough, at least for a period of time, for those with a will of steel but they are not sustainable.
Intentions, on the other hand, are rooted in the present and are formed from what is important and how to move forward in a congruent way and unfold. When people meet themselves in the present and bring it back to what they can do now, it is empowering. It is not about fixes but rather an inner journey and a daily practice. More of a heart-based right-brained activity. While on the outside actions moving away from a fear and towards a love may be similar (or even the same), the seed and the energy are completely different, giving rise to different results.
Because intentions are intuitive, purpose-led, and set from a place of self-love, faltering is just another lesson. These road bumps are opportunities to check in with the inner guru. Stop and smell the roses. Stop and tie the shoelaces. Stop and readjust the compass. Just stop. Breathe. Pause. Gather.
Breaking goals and resolutions, on the hand, feels like a big let down, especially early on (like February). It often causes self-confidence to plummet and self-judgment to set in.
Trevor Blake, author of Three Simple Steps, has said that “intentions are far more powerful to achieving dreams than goals. They are a lot of work. Intentions follow the laws of physics and nature.”
Tips on Setting Intentions and Living an Intentioned Life:
Setting intentions is not about doing away with goals altogether. It is about understand the difference between them and using them to the full potential. In a society that often measures worth by external parameters, setting intentions can create powerful internal and personal shifts. Getting to the why of what people want to do helps them set more meaningful goals, goals aligned with their life vision. It is about setting the stage for maximum success to realize potential and to achieve real change.
Living an intentional life has no musts and shoulds. Life is change and an adventure. Receive each day as new and full of possibilities. Start the day and see what can be done to affirm the intentions. It is about mindful living.
Write Down Your Intentions
Put on paper your intentions in a positive and affirming way. Try posting them at key places like your bathroom mirror, computer, and front door. Say your intentions out loud every time you see the reminders, and whenever you are having a “bad day”. This is what Robin Sharma calls the “morning declaration.” Declare every morning the vision you have for yourself.
Use Compelling Words to Set Your Intentions
Words like authentic, clarity, freedom, gratitude, and abundance are power words that are compelling. Using words that inspire us helps us keep on track. Using short powerful statements helps keep the intentions and us focused. They also make good mantras to use on a daily basis. Be sure that the words you use are concrete for you, in how they feel or look or sound. Use words that engage all your senses.
Share Your Intentions
It’s been shown that sharing what we desire helps us be more accountable, and thereby more likely to get us where we want to go. Choose positive and supportive people who want you to succeed. These people know when to cheer you on and when to call you out.
Why not start an Intentions Group and meet regularly?
Do Something Every Day
Setting intentions is the first step. Living your intentions requires you to take steps every day. Do something, no matter how small, to affirm your intentions. Be creative and have fun. This is your GPS for knowing you are on the right track.
Intentions are an ongoing process and are not set once, for an entire year. Life changes, we change, and what we desire changes along the way. Life throws out lemons and we make lemonade.
Check in often, get to know yourself well, and recalibrate your intentions to reflect these changes. When we do deep inner work, life does not magically become easier. Some people feel that as we “level up” what life throws at us also ramps up, based on the philosophy that God (or the Universe) only gives us what we can handle. Inner work builds resilience so we can recalibrate more quickly and respond in a more aligned way.
Celebrate the life you desire, especially as it unfolds. Acknowledge the change and celebrate you.
A new year is an exciting time. The start of a new cycle, for more opportunities to align ourselves with our true north. We have the power to say no and the power to say yes. See through the challenge, not turn our head away in negative denial. Let us look at our challenges with positive denial. Yes, it is happening but that is not the reality. We have all been through tough things and the failure comes when we fail to learn from the circumstance.
Use this time to set clear intentions for yourself. Dare to dream big and know that you are deserving. Who you are in this moment is perfect, even if you may feel differently in this tough moment, and it is determined by your willingness and readiness to receive. Are you willing to set your intentions?