Setting New Year’s Resolutions vs Intentions

The start of a new year is a time for reflection on the past year and for many setting resolutions for the upcoming year. Studies show that resolutions often fail within the first six months. Instead of setting a resolution, try a concept from yoga called setting an intention. You may find it more enduring.

Photo Courtesy of Melanie Shields Photography
Photo Courtesy of Melanie Shields Photography

Since as long as I can remember, people around me have determined New Year resolutions for themselves. It seems to take shape as a statement. A statement to do or stop doing certain things for the betterment of the person.

According to NBC News the most common resolutions for 2017 include:

  • Get Healthy and Fit
  • Get Organized
  • Live Life to the Fullest
  • Learn New Hobbies
  • Spend Less/Save More
  • Travel
  • Read More

It is quite amazing that after the overindulgence of the holidays, our response is to arrive at a harsh decision to better ourselves. Thus we see droves of folks packing the gyms in January in an attempt to “boot camp” themselves to increased fitness, for example. The inevitable result is that they can’t achieve their expectations because the goals were over zealous.

By mid-February gyms start emptying because of injuries or commitments that were set too high. In fact research shows that only eight percent of people achieve their New Year goals. By the six month mark, about half of people with resolutions are not meeting them.

In general, the advice given to remedy the resolution failure rate is to take a more incremental approach. For example, one author recommends setting no more than two goals with a six month timeframe. At the six month mark you can assess your progress or lack thereof, and see if the goal is worth continuing or changing.

Others advise to focus on making small, incremental changes to whatever it is we wish to improve. Make one change in your diet towards healthy eating has a better chance for success than making a wholesale life-style shift.

In yoga, at the start of every session, it usual for the teacher to ask participants to set an intention for the practice. An intention is an aim, a direction of something you want to focus on and improve. An intention allows for deviations from the aim, accepting them and re-adjusting.

For example, my intention may be to improve my balance by doing certain poses. Yet during the session, despite my best efforts, I may find that my body is tired and that I can’t perform the balance poses better than yesterday. Instead of criticizing myself, I keep to my intention trusting and accepting that the act of doing them today will help me in the long run.

This is the distinction between a resolution and an intention. A resolution is focused on the final outcome and assumes a linear progression towards that goal. A deviation from the outcome is a failure. An intention lets go of the outcome and focuses on the process. The journey is important. The act of being present and doing it as best you can today is the outcome.

 

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One comment

  1. For me it’s long been visualisation in alpha meditation, aiming at the destination and letting my mind take me there. Recently started yoga too, and really enjoying it.

    Like

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