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New Year’s resolutions are tricky business. They are obligations we put on ourselves to behave. And research shows they are not effective. By February more than 80% of people have abandoned their resolutions. And subsequently, they feel a sense of failure.
What Is a Resolution?

We set resolutions based on things we want to change or improve in our life. By definition, a resolution is “a promise to yourself to do or to not do something.”

Resolutions are focused on achieving goals at a future point in time. One challenge with this is waiting to start resolutions in the New Year may increase the likelihood that we behave in the opposite way until then. If you plan to eat better or drink less starting in the New Year, what are the chances you may overindulge before then?

For many people, a New Year’s resolution is made with strong motivation in January. By mid-February, the novelty of the New Year fades coupled with the increased demands of life. So the resolution starts to slip bringing a feeling of frustration or disappointment at “not succeeding” and a gradual abandonment of the resolution takes place.

Given the challenging year we have all had, this it is not the time to set ourselves for more negativity in our life.

What Is an Intention & How Can It Help

Intentions are about who we want to be in the present moment and how we want to show up in our lives. Intentions are based on our values in important areas of our life, such as our physical health, mental health, career, hobbies, relationships with family and friends.
Intentions are more forgiving without the built in succeed or fail dynamic that seems to come with New Year’s resolutions. The idea of intentions honours efforts and process, and not just results.
For example, you might choose a long-term goal of reducing stress by practicing meditation. This is a worthy and not always easily attained goal. Yet on a daily basis, your intention may be to sit for two minutes and pay attention to your breath. As long as you sit quietly, and focus on your breath, even if your mind wanders, it is success and living out your intention.

Start With the Here & Now

Goals and New Year’s resolutions are about the future. Intentions are rooted in the present. The future is full of unknowns and can give rise to uncertainty and anxiety. The present keeps us grounded.

Setting an intention starts with mindfulness. And this simple yet powerful 3-step method can help.

PBC – The 3 Step Method to Setting Intentions

  1. Pause – Stop what you are doing. Take a brief time out and check in with yourself.
  2. Breathe – Take a conscious breath to become centred and grounded.
  3. Choose – Make a mindful choice about an intention for that day, week or month.

Ask yourself:

  • How do I want to feel? (this could be today, this week or for a specific project, event or trip)
  • What do I want? Alternatively, what do I want to achieve?
  • How will I know when I have this? What do I need to feel, think, see or hear?
  • What resources do I have available and what do I need to achieve this?
  • What steps do I need to take?
Goals with Intention

Goals motivate us, provide structure and create a sense of meaning and purpose to our life. And when we pair that with intention, we get the best of both worlds. Goals with intention propel us towards our future self while keeping us rooted in the present. This way, life does not pass us by while we are planning for the future.

Research confirms that sticking to long term goals is easier when future rewards are balanced with immediate rewards. The rewards tend to be more experiential in nature and they are more about the process rather than results. For example, a long-term goal might be to obtain additional credentials in your work. An immediate reward would be the excitement and pleasure of learning something new.

Focusing on the process and on small daily intentions helps avoid becoming overwhelmed by the ambitious long term goals. We organize our days around gradual, incremental steps and learn to enjoy the journey without getting too anxious about the destination.

Taking an intention based approach to making change is a more gentle, compassionate way of moving forward. And I think we could all use a little more of that in the coming year.

by: Mary Joan Brinson MSW, RSW

A Quote to Inspire

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Daily Intention Tracker

Knock Knock Daily Intention Tracker is a tool we love and you will too! Instead of resolutions you can focus on intentions that you want for the day. It’s simple, focused and easy to see at a glance.