The New Year is one of those rare moments. A time when almost everyone reflects on themselves and resolves to make certain changes.
If you think back on your past resolutions, I can bet you they follow along the same sort of theme:
Have your resolutions been to eat less sugar, burn more fat, or quit eating out? Have they been about engaging in new hobbies or reading more and surfing the internet less? Perhaps they've been about finding love or letting go of love that has been lost. Maybe they’ve been more specific, or maybe you never have them at all, but traditionally the New Year is a reason to reflect, and then to resolve.
Most people start the New Year with high hopes. The New Year is representative of a clean slate, a new leaf, another chance. But it seems that the action of setting resolutions could be counter intuitive.
Resolutions typically involve something you want to start doing or stop doing. In fact, the definition of the word supports that thought.
1. a firm decision to do or not to do something
2. the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.
The definition speaks for itself – making a resolution is about making a ‘firm’ choice. It’s about solving a problem. But when we do that, we are saying that there is a problem that needs to be solved.
If you do, indeed, want to make a firm change, then perhaps this word isn’t problematic for you, but a resolution, by definition, is pretty cut and dry.
If you make the ‘firm’ decision to stop eating sugar and then you eat four cookies in 20 minutes, then you’ll feel like you’ve failed. When you feel like you’ve failed, you’ll automatically be hard on yourself. You will resolve again to do better, and when you slip up again, as you may do, you will go back to being hard on yourself. Or, alternatively, when you slip up on your resolution the first time, you’ll give up on it all together.
If life was as simple as making a decision about something and then automatically achieving whatever it is we decided on, this would be a much different world. But I think we all know that life doesn't always operate like that.
Instead, we make decisions and then we struggle through them. We work towards what we want in life, but we don’t always get it just because we’ve decided that we want it.
So I want to offer up a different word: intention.
1. a thing intended; an aim or plan
2. the healing process of a wound.
The difference between these two words is subtle, but it exists. It is the difference between making a choice and making a plan; the difference between solving a problem and healing a wound.
I like the word intention because it gives you some wiggle room. It allows you to think about what you want to achieve, or let go of, and then make an action plan. Setting an intention doesn’t ask you to solve a problem, it asks you to take aim. To do your best.
When you set an intention, you are setting off a process. You are understanding that all things take time and that you are going to allow this change to take place in your life, with good intent and the humility to know that sometimes you’ll encounter set backs.
When you slip up from an intent, it’s not as big of a deal. You don’t have to be as hard on yourself. You can have the best intentions, and still makes mistakes; that’s life.
We all intend to live a good life, but sometimes those intentions need to be clearly formed. By creating specific intentions we are visualizing what we want out of life, and we are giving ourselves the space to achieve whatever we put out there.
So this year, maybe instead of making resolutions, you’ll make intentions. You’ll intend to go to the gym more, you’ll intend to pursue your passions, you’ll intend to be the best person you can be. Will you always live up to your intentions? No. We never fully do. But by holding yourself to just a slightly lower standard, with slightly lower stakes, perhaps you’ll also give yourself more room to succeed.
Light. Love. Humility. And on we go.