There is something staunch about the word resolution which I have never really taken to (read; compulsively rebelled against), but there is another way to set off into 2022 with more being positive and less being punitive.
While a resolution is a firm decision to either do or not do something, dictated mainly by the thing in question (aka dragging yourself reluctantly to the gym) and not about your own attitudes towards the thing (aka a hard done by Eeyore aura).
The problem with resolutions, is that they really are setting you up to fail because although there is a goal in mind, there is no roadmap about how to get there or — perhaps more importantly — how actually enjoy the process as opposed to a year of miserable foot-dragging compliance.
This is where intentions step into the game. These statements focus on what we would like to nourish or welcome in our lives with more of an emphasis on the present moment.
Instead of being a pass or fail, like resolutions such as “I will go to the gym 5 days a week in 2022” or “I will eat less chocolate biscuits in a post-dinner feeding frenzy” an intention takes the pressure off by encouraging you to meander in a certain direction.
For example the aforementioned biscuit quandary can be reframed as an intention by thinking about what we actually want to change when we remove the biscuits. In my case, I want to be more healthy and not mindlessly guzzle sugar when I am feeling tired in the evening, so I could reframe it as “I intend to be more mindful about what my body really needs.” If I wanted to eliminate the biscuits because their brown chocolatey coating clashes dreadfully with my orange living room walls, I could reframe it as something like “I intend to be more attuned to my aesthetic ideals.”
Below is a little ‘how to’ guide on how to set intentions which you can repeat everyday to try and keep you drifting in the right direction with small positive choices which are what, ultimately, lead to lasting, enjoyable life-changes.
1. Make a List of What Brings You Joy
It’s time to get off the binge purge cycle of self-improvement and think about what actually brings you joy or purpose as it’s these little things which should perhaps be allowed more space in the busy day-to-day.
If you want to do more exercise, think of the sort of activity you actually enjoy and use this as a neat little starting point to spider out from. For example if you like surfing, but live 300 miles from the sea, maybe it’s time to buy a longboard and live your best life.
If you’re wild for your pet cat, dog, hamster or goldfish, you could just set an intention to dedicate more time to doing fun stuff with your animal friend and see what unfurls. If you’re a dog person this could be getting into hiking, undertaking emotional support animal training to bring furry comfort to others, obedience training, wild swimming — heck — even making your own brand of gourmet dog food and becoming a business person. Setting off in a direction you enjoy and are passionate about can lead to unexpected places you potentially wouldn't have found with a straightforward resolution.
2. Make it Into a Mantra
If one of the things on your list which brought you joy was driving, but your car is a battered old wreck and you know you need to replace it to continue to enjoy your jaunts to the countryside, It can be hard to know how to craft a positive mantra!
For the above scenario, maybe something like “I intended to become more mindful about my finances” could help you reevaluate what you're spending money on and put it somewhere which really matters to you — like a new vehicle and the freedom it would bring.
If you desperately need to slim down your wardrobe and start afresh, you could go for something like “I intend to make space in my home for things aligned with who I am today.”
3. Invite Positivity In
Instead of thinking about what you don’t want to do, try and flip-reverse your statements so they focus on the positive outcome as opposed to the negative. For example, if you want to stop worrying all the time, you can choose something like “I want to trust more freely” or “I will focus on the now.”
4. Make it a Daily Practise
Diana Raab, a psychologist and author, explains that it’s important to “commit to your intention,” making it “a part of your everyday thinking.”
While they might seem more flimsy and non-specific than a resolution, the real power of an intention comes from remembering it and thinking of it at various points in your day. As intentions are impossible to fail and not loaded with implied judgement, it’s possible to do this without denting your self esteem and feeling defeated.
If you thought about a resolution so relentlessly, it would actually potentially be damaging as you would be constantly judging your experience and how well/badly you are doing.
The power of intentions comes with gentle non-judgemental, daily practice and evaluation which is a lot about how achieving goals works in reality. This satisfying mirror process really can help make things stick in 2022.