Written by: Perrin Jones, LCMHCA, NCC, MT-BC
We’ve all heard the staggering statistics about new year’s resolutions failing. Even so, year after year, we put immense amounts of pressure on ourselves to change various aspects of our lives. Going into 2022, many of us are feeling fatigued. We have experienced a level of shared trauma throughout the pandemic that will be felt in waves for years and years to come. We’re stressed out, tired, burnt out, and just generally over it. Maybe it’s not due to the best of circumstances, but perhaps this is the year that we can kick the traditional new year’s resolutions to the curb and focus instead on setting intentions for our years and our daily lives.
Intentions Versus Resolutions
It may seem like semantics to debate the differences between intentions and resolutions, but there really are key differences that we can focus on. Intentions are less specific than goals and resolutions. When we set goals, therapists often use the SMART goal-setting framework, focusing on making our goals specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-constrained. It’s important to have goals – they keep us driving towards where we want to be in various aspects of our lives. It’s also important to pair these goals with key shifts in our mindsets that can allow us to have higher success rates. That’s where intention setting comes in.
Intentions are inherently broader than goals. They can be described as less tangible and, oftentimes, more spiritual. They are guiding principles from which we would like to live. Frequently, intentions may focus on overarching aspects of our lives where we want to center our attention. Being more present, focusing on wellness, bettering our mental health, doing more of what brings us peace and joy – these are all intentions, and they often sound less punitive than the goals that we set for ourselves around the new year. They also allow us more wiggle room for days (weeks…) where we don’t meet our resolutions. It’s easier to come back to an intention than it is to revisit a goal that we have knowingly or unknowingly cast aside.
Setting Your Intentions
So how do you go about setting your intention? It may be helpful to begin by clarifying what you felt like you lacked last year or a dream or hope you have for your life in the future. Remember to make it broad! Plan to incorporate this intention as a daily part of your mindset. If you meditate, perhaps you can choose a mantra that represents your intention, or you can meditate on what your intention means to you or what your life would look like if you fully lived out your intention. Journaling can also be helpful in this area. Plan to mindfully check in with yourself daily or throughout your day and ask, “what am I doing to live my intention today?” This can help give you some achievable action steps to take, but it’s important to focus more on the journey than the destination, as we often do when we set resolutions for ourselves. Be flexible in your thinking and, most of all, be kind to yourself.
Coming out of a very challenging couple of years, it is crucial that we use goal and intention setting to fulfill us rather than to beat ourselves up. If you’re feeling worn down or have a poor track record with setting resolutions, intention setting may be the way for you to still focus on hopes and dreams for yourself without the added pressure.