Why I Set New Years Intentions and Why You Should Too
Happy New Year Everyone! This time of year everyone you know may be talking about how they are or are not setting New Years resolutions. Some people love the idea of NOT having a resolution for the New Year, while others seem super intoxicated by this idea that the New Year represents a fresh start where anything is possible.
I'm not going to lie, I like the idea of a fresh start just as much as the next person. There is something about the start of a new month, or a New Year that just seems to bring about a kind of hopeful energy that because the year is new, somehow that means that all the things I would rather leave behind in the past year magically fall away...but it doesn't quite work like that now does it?
We don't wake up on New Years Day and magically become new people, but if we really think about it, is that something that we truly would want anyway? Our vices, stresses, busy lives, and challenges all come with us into the New Year, but so do all the wonderful things that make us who we are! I talked about this a little bit on New Years Eve on my instagram but I really believe that we grow and become better versions of ourselves because of, and through the tough times. We also learn during these times what really is important to us, and we are forced to look internally to discover what it is we really want in our lives,.
I know right now you are probably being inundated with social media posts or friends/family members who are vowing that the New Year is YOUR time to lose those 20 lbs, get healthy, and become this super human that you were always meant to be. Somehow over the course of 24 hours your past self became a person associated with failed resolutions, and the new year is your ticket to health and happiness. But let me ask you this...other than waking up a day older, has anything about you really changed? 24 hours is not nearly enough time for habits you wish to be rid of to be broken, and it certainly isn't enough time to have changed how you mentally think about your life.
I would also go as far as to say that some of you are already feeling defeated Day One of this New Year because of an already failed, unrealistic resolution. You ate a leftover holiday cookie, and somehow this cookie because it was eaten on Day One of 2017 somehow becomes so much different than the same cookie you ate 24 hours ago. You feel guilty and as if all of your plans for "getting healthy" and "losing weight" in the New Year are hopeless...because you ate a cookie. But guess what it's not the cookie that is the problem, it is this mentality that is forced on us that for some reason a day of the month, or time of year equals change. It doesn't.
Change has nothing to do with what day it is, and guess what your body actually has no idea that today is January 1st, 2017. Your mind may, but your body doesn't. Your body just knows that it is sometime in the Winter months (here in the Northern Hemisphere) and it is probably working hard to fend off all the colds/sickness that come along with this time of year. But your body absolutely could care less whether it is January 1st, or December 1st.
Your body also doesn't thrive off of absolutes, your mind does. Your mind is the one that makes you think that just because you didn't get your workout in this morning then your day is ruined and you might as well just start fresh tomorrow. Your body doesn't work like that, your body responds in the moment with exactly what you give it. While your mind may tell you to think that today is lost and you can start getting healthy again later, your body wants you to just start right now. Because change happens in the moment, its doesn't wait for tomorrow, it doesn't have a start and end date, it happens during random hours, in the middle of the week, and on imperfect days. It happens when you look inside yourself, and that is why I believe in intentions versus resolutions, and hope you will too.
So why do I believe in setting intentions versus resolutions and what really is the difference? Why don't we start with the definitions of both.
Intention: (n) Is a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future.
Resolution: (n) A firm decision to do or not do something.
Catch the difference? At the root of every intention is a mental state of commitment towards a specific action. While on the other hand a resolution really has nothing to do with any kind of mental commitment, and instead is rooted in black and white, to do or not do something, leaving little room for any sort of process. While the end goal or outcome can be the same for both resolutions and intentions, it is the process and mental state that is so different.
So how do you go about turning your resolutions into intentions? Here are five tips that I think will help lead you in determining how to switch your mind from the absolutes associated with resolutions, and open you up to the powerful nature of intentions.
- Create Positivity: At the root of every intention is something positive. Think about a goal you have and then begin to re-think how you could reach that goal from a positive way of thinking.
- Be Realistic: It is important to set realistic intentions and also set intentions for shorter time frames. Look three months ahead and set an intention for the next three months. Setting year long intentions can be too abstract, while three months seem more achievable and attainable. The beauty of an intention is that it represents a process, and can be revisited often.
- Write Your Intentions Down: Now that you have identified what it is you wish to change/bring in or out of your life, write your goals down. Next identify how or if any of your goals are connected and identify which goal seems to be the most attainable. For instance say two of your goals are to lose weight, and eat healthy. Eating healthy will directly affect your weight loss, however eating healthy is very abstract. Instead focus your intention as "I intend to fill my days with colorful fruits and vegetables that nourish my body". In a few months reflect on how you are doing with this intention, and notice if you have lost any weight.
- Take Time To Reflect On Your Intentions: Many of us fail at achieving the changes we wish for ourselves because we set wonderful intentions and then fail to consistently reflect on them. Our minds require constant reminding, and it is important for our success and motivation to stay focused on what it is we are hoping to achieve through our intentions, and why.
- Practice Kindness: Setting intentions, and practicing them daily can be very emotionally draining. Not everyday is going to be filled with rainbows and sunshine, and it is important to practice self love and kindness on the days that don't necessarily go our way. They are as important of a part to the process as the good days, and require our love and attention.
Since the idea of setting intentions instead of resolutions may still feel a little abstract, I wanted to share with you a few ways to turn a resolution into an intention.
- Resolution: I will workout everyday; Intention: I intend to move my body daily.
- Resolution: I will eat "clean" and stop eating sugar; Intention: I intend to nourish my body with whole foods that I enjoy and make me feel good.
- Resolution: I will be a better mother/wife/husband/dad/partner; Intention: I intend to be kind and positive to myself and those I love.
See now how resolutions have a sort of negative exclusivity to proliferate an all or nothing mentality, and intentions support a more positive, all-inclusive way of thinking? Now it's your turn, what is your resolution for this year and how can we turn it into a more positive intention? Feel free to leave your response in the comments and we can work through them all together!