How many times have you gone into the New Year with every intention of following through with your New Year’s resolutions, determined to create a positive change in your life...only to barely make it to February and feel like a total failure?
You’re not alone. And you’re not a failure.
Whether the resolution is to start exercising, lose weight, eat healthier, or save money, countless people vow to “do better” in the coming year by setting a list of goals they want to achieve or habits they want to break. Did you know that some 25% of resolutions don’t even make it to the end of January, though? Only 8% of people that set New Year’s resolutions actually follow through on them throughout the entire year.
Maybe it’s time to rethink how we approach making changes for the New Year. Rather than making resolutions the way we’ve always done, perhaps it’s time to find a new way to approach being the change we wish to see. New Year’s is a great time to set the intention for new beginnings; we just need to go about it in a way that actually works.
Taking a New Approach to the New Year
Despite going into the New Year with the determination to see our resolutions through, the reality is that one in four will give up on most (if not all) of their resolutions before Valentine’s Day. Come March, most of us won’t even remember what our resolutions were.
Why don’t resolutions work?
For one, many of us make resolutions based on what we think we should be doing, rather than what we actually want to be doing. Here’s the thing, though. “Should” is typically based on the expectations of others—whether society, family, or friends.
We believe these things we should be doing will somehow make us “better,” even if they’re not important to us personally. When is it ever easy to follow through on something we don’t really want to do? Instead of making resolutions based on what we believe we should do, it’s time we take a good look at what we want to do instead.
There’s also the word “resolution” itself. Defined as “a firm decision to do or not to do something,” a resolution sounds like something strict, something that must be done or else. A “firm decision” is very serious, already setting the stage for something that is going to be difficult to achieve.
Rethink Your New Year’s Resolutions by Setting New Year’s Intentions Instead
What if, instead of setting resolutions, you chose instead to set intentions for the New Year? Intention is defined as “a thing you plan to do or achieve” or “what one intends to do or bring about.” Something you want to do sounds much more appealing than something you have to do, no?
Setting intentions removes a lot of the pressure associated with resolutions. Approaching the hope of a new year intending to make positive changes to your life holds such a different meaning than resolving to do something differently.
Following are a few ways to take a new approach to the New Year by setting intentions instead of making that firm decision to make great change.
Get Clear about What You Want and Why You Want It
What is it you plan to do with this new year full of possibility? Before setting your intention, it’s important to get clear about what you really want and why you want it.
Maybe it’s your intention to spend less time on social media, start a new business or simply bring more joy to the lives of others in the coming year. It could be that you want to become more organized so you can stop procrastinating and finally make your dreams come true. Maybe you’ve heard about the benefits of meditation and want to create a regular meditation routine.
Whatever your intentions might be, it’s important that they come from your heart. When setting your intention, ask yourself why you want to change that area of your life.
Is spending too much time on social media causing you to compare yourself to others and decreasing your self-esteem? Do you want to eat healthier because you honor your body and physical health or because you think you “should” be making healthier choices? Do you want to meditate because your best friend does, or because you’re serious about reducing your stress and becoming more centered in the coming year?
When you’re clear about what you want and why you want it, it becomes easier to set your intentions and identify what needs to be done to achieve them. The more specific you are in setting your intentions, the more likely you are to attain them.
Set Your Intentions from a Centered Space
Rather than reverting to the old way of writing your resolutions down on a piece of paper on New Year’s Eve, consider setting your intentions for the New Year from a peaceful, centered space. Create a special time to set your intentions when you won’t be disturbed so you can focus clearly on what it is you wish to create.
Following is a simple visualization for setting yourself up for success when setting your New Year’s intentions:
- Allow yourself to sit or lie down comfortably and focus on taking ten deep breaths, slowly inhaling and gently exhaling through the nose. When you feel as though you’ve settled into a calm, centered, relaxed space, bring into your awareness the area of your life you’d like to transform. Imagine the highest vision for this area of your life as if it’s already happened and you are presently living this reality.
- How do you look? How do you feel? What are you doing? Who is there with you? What is happening around you? What are daily practices to keep you anchored in this ideal vision?
- Make this vision as compelling as possible. Your vision isn’t something that needs to be created, it already exists inside of you. You just need to take the steps to access it. Give yourself time to sit with this vision, perhaps focusing quietly on your breath while you envision the highest outcome of you living out your intentions. Once you are clear, ask yourself what you will need to achieve in order to fully step into this version of your life.
- Next, identify the action steps you need to do each day or each week to support your intention. Ask yourself: “What do I need to do today to move me powerfully forward in my life toward my goal?” Is there a practice you can be doing to embody your vision? Maybe it’s making the time to meditate for five minutes each morning before scrolling social media, learning time management tips to become more productive, or committing to making a new recipe each week that supports your intention to eat a healthier diet.
- Take a moment to visualize yourself inside a picture or movie in your mind where you are seeing yourself take action, where you’re feeling inspired and empowered because of the progress you’re making towards your goal. As you look around, notice how your life has changed as a result of you achieving your goal and how you feel living your intention.
Be Mindful of the Journey, Not Just the Destination
While creating a vision that supports our intentions offers a glimpse into the possibilities for our future, it’s important to focus on the process and the small, daily action steps we’re taking towards our goals rather than the end-goal itself.
Change happens step by step, and the more mindful we are of each step we take toward our goal, the more likely we are to achieve it.
What does it mean to be mindful of the journey we’re taking towards our goal? Mindfulness is simply “paying attention, on purpose to the present moment, without judgement.”
When we become more mindful in approaching our intentions, we are constantly returning to the present moment. We become more aware of the actions we’re taking right now that support or hinder us achieving our goals. If we slip, we simply bring ourselves back to the present moment and begin again, without judging ourselves for any self-perceived mishaps.
Change is hard. If it were easy, more people would achieve their goals and less people would feel like a failure every year when they fall short of their resolutions. In the end, New Year’s resolutions are all about self-improvement and making positive change. This year, why not rethink the way you do New Year’s resolutions by setting heart-centered intentions instead?
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.