It’s pretty well known that most of us don’t keep our New Years’ resolutions. According to this fun little poll, over half of us don’t even set any to begin with!
Of those who do, the statistics aren’t bad, but the fact that a good majority of us don’t bother with resolutions tells me that they simply don’t work. (If you, on the other hand, are successful in your resolve, please keep rocking on with your bad self!)
I, for one, have never been good at keeping my resolutions. Over the years, I’ve tried different tactics: setting specific goals, setting vague goals, telling others about my goals in efforts to create accountability, and even setting micro-goals to lead me toward my macro goal. And every year, I “failed.” Early in the year. Like by January 10.
Last year I decided to try something new: I decided to set an annual intention, rather than a resolution.
I’d been spending more time in the yoga studio, practicing gratitude, and reading a lot of books to self-learn how to lead a more fulfilling life. All of these things were teaching me to be more flexible; to bend in the wind. With that mindset, a resolution felt too inflexible.
Now, you might be thinking, what good is an “intention”? Sure, I intend to do a lot of things, but if I don’t actually carry through with them, what good is my intent?
Isn’t it better to actually “resolve” – to COMMIT – to do something?
I think the problem for a lot of us is that if we misstep in our resolve, we automatically feel like we’ve failed. We’ve broken our promise. And once that promise has been broken, what’s the point in continuing, in re-promising?
I’ll certainly admit that resolutions aren’t all-or-nothing, but again, a lot of us feel that way. I’m pretty sure this is why setting resolutions doesn’t work for the general population. And just as we can agree that you don’t have to be “all in” on your resolution to have success, we can also likely agree that if something isn’t working for you, it might be time to try something new.
With the idea of trying something new, I set my intention for the year. My intention for 2018 was, ironically, “intention.” I felt that I was being too reactive and too rigid in my life, and my hope with “intention” was that I would slow down and be more deliberate in my words, actions, and choices. Here’s what I found:
Progress as a whole
One of the things I came to love about having a one-word intention is that it applied to all aspects of my life. Parenting? Check. Work? Check. Marriage? Check. Friendships? Myself? My health? Check, check, check. It literally didn’t fail: for every area in my life, I could improve by practicing intention. Because this idea impacted all facets of my life, I was also able to practice intention regularly, and so I got better and better at it and made strides as a whole.
Yet also, some is better than none
As I practiced, I found that it was easier to be intentional in some areas of my life than others. For example, I became much better at choosing how I spent my time than letting time or circumstances dictate what I did. I also found that I became more patient and loving toward my kids as I slowed down and thought about what my goals were as a parent. And I definitely made more deliberate life choices, like moving halfway across the country to Fort Collins.
I also found that I was really no good at being intentional in other areas of my life. Work is one area where I continue to be more reactive than I’d like. However, as I continued my practice, I found that I was slowly gaining ground there, too. And even those small moments where I practiced intention helped bring more satisfaction and ease stress. So, while I may not have been as intentional at work as I was at home, I was still seeing progress.
It’s easier to regroup
I also discovered that I would go days, or sometimes even weeks, not thinking of my intention. I’d often find myself at the ends of these periods realizing I hadn’t been practicing at all.
And, I started to think that perhaps the reason I was feeling so burnt out after those periods of non-practice was because I wasn’t being intentional. So, instead of beating myself up over it, or feeling like I’d failed, I would happily remember my intention and begin practicing again.
One word is all you need
I also really loved that I just needed one word to refocus. You can choose any word, like health, patience, love, commitment, or kindness. You just need to designate this one word as your “mantra” for the year. I think you’ll be surprised at all the places, and all the times, you use this word to improve your mindset, actions, and life.
While I may not have followed my intention every letter of every day, I definitely committed to it way more than any resolution I ever set. As we close out the year and I reflect on my intention, I realize that, as a whole, I’ve been much more conscientious, deliberate, and thoughtful during 2018. Not only am I proud of this, but I’m proud of what my life looks like – and how I FEEL – compared to this time twelve months ago.
And, like habits, intention is now a part of me. I’ve practiced it long and hard enough that as I set my new intention for 2019, “intention” will continue as a foundation for me to build from. I can’t wait to see what life is like after a few years of this practice!
So, who’s with me? I’d love to hear your intention below!