Why I stopped making New Year’s resolutions, and you should too.
I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a few years ago.
They ended in epic failure as I did not lose 20 pounds, stick to a diet, or exercise more. My hopeful resolutions withered, and faded into my old routine. It was one year of failed resolutions too many, and I gave them up.
Resolutions are often wrapped up in shame, as we try to rid ourselves of things we feel badly about. We fantasize about a fresh start, and shedding the extra pounds, laziness, and whatever else we wish we did better. We see resolutions as an opportunity to bring an end to these things by setting concrete goals to reach. It sounds appealing at the time, but we rarely achieve them because we put too much pressure on ourselves trying to change things quickly based on a holiday. If we hit February without much progress, it’s all over.
Last year, I tried something different. Rather than set results based goals, I set intentions. With intentions, we can mindfully choose to make changes in how we live our lives on a daily basis. Setting intentions are a call to action. To think about each day as we live it, putting our attention on making better choices for ourselves one day at a time.
Setting intentions are the beginning of our journey, not the end. We work on making changes in our daily routine, and we don’t worry about goals to reach down the road.
I started by making a list. Things I’d like to have in my daily life such as better nutrition, increased fitness, meditation and journaling. Things I could do every day that would enrich my life.
Then I picked one, and focused on weaving it into my daily routine. Only after it became second nature to me would I move on to the next one.
By setting intentions this way, I was able to make significant changes in my daily life. It’s amazing to look back after a year and see how much things can change. Important parts of my life, such as daily smoothies, meditation, paddle boarding and journaling were added through setting intentions. And I enjoyed every step of the way, one thing at a time.
Setting mindful intentions is fun and enriching. Here are four tips to help you get started:
Make a list of intentions that are important to you, and choose one to start with.
They can be anything that will enrich your life. Pick one that is easy and meaningful to start. The easiest way to change your life is one thing at a time.
I picked better nutrition. I wanted it to be easy and fun. Something I could be mindful of each day, and enjoy. I decided to make myself a fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie every day. This was be a big change for me—I was always too light on the fruits and veggies. After two months, I felt great, and it became an important part of my daily routine.
Work on one thing at a time.
I wanted to set myself up for success. Sometimes we can take on too much at once, and lose our momentum.
It can take a couple of months to make a new habit, so stick with it. Once we have practiced, and it feels like a natural part of our lives, we can move on to the next intention.
Once smoothies became a natural part of my daily life, I moved on to something else on my list— adding a daily meditation practice to my life. I approached it the same way I had with the smoothies, committing to at least five minutes a day. Setting my intention in a way that was fun and doable.
I had the same success with adding meditation as I had with smoothies. If we work on intentions this way, we can make changes that have staying power. The pace might be slower, but the results last much longer.
Being mindful doesn’t mean being perfect.
We can try our best, but if me mess up sometimes, that’s ok!
Changing parts of our life isn’t easy, and we have to allow for some struggles. We don’t have to be perfect. We can be kind to ourselves and focus on progress over perfection.
We can set intentions any time of year.
We have extra motivation with the start of a new year and a clean slate.
Hidden in that perception is the reality that picking a calendar day to change your life is arbitrary. We can set intentions any day of the year, and we can add to them at any time. When it comes to intentions, there is nothing magical about January 1st. What is magical is setting them, practicing them, and watching our lives change in the process.
“First it is an intention. Then a behavior. Then a habit. Then a practice. Then a second nature. Then it is simply who you are.” ~ Brendon Burchard