With 2016 wrapping up and 2017 just around the corner, a lot of people are reflecting on what was and looking towards what will be.
I’ve never been a “resolutions” person, but I have been a “goals” person; and I think I’m starting to turn into an “intentions” person. So…what? Semantics!
Here’s how I would distinguish between resolutions, goals, and intentions; as well as how they can all fit into your life.
I would look at resolutions as “new habits.” The New Year is a great time to take a look at habits you would like to implement going forward, but you don’t have to wait for January 1 each year to implement change in your life!
A lot of times, resolutions fail because people try to make sweeping changes all at once. Think: “On January 1, I will: 1) start working out seven days/week, 2) stop eating sugar, 3) sleep 8 hours per night, 4) drink 2L of water a day, 5) stop smoking/drinking, 6) stop eating after 8pm…” So on January 2, when they wake up sore and hung over, they feel like they’ve failed and “why bother!?” Does that sound familiar?
I don’t believe that resolutions are bad, or doomed to failure; I think they have a place as part of the larger picture.
Maybe you are (or want to be) a goals-driven person. Goals are concrete and have “by when” dates associated with them to help maintain accountability. Goals can be separated into areas of your life (personal, health, career) and are usually broken into time frames (1 year, 5 years, 10 years). Lululemon is known for their goals, and have great goal-setting worksheets.
I see goals as a great way to organize your thoughts. The challenge with goals is that, because they’re concrete, some things in life don’t “fit” into them. Read: “I will be pregnant by age 29.” Yeah…that did not happen (I’m well past 29, no kids)! It’s not to say that it couldn’t have, but the situation at 29 wasn’t right for it, and thank goodness I wasn’t pregnant at 29!
So, intentions, they sound so lofty, but used correctly, they can be extremely powerful. Intentions are great for visioning your life. Intentions provide you with an overall concept of what you want in life, but they don’t have “by when” dates attached to them.
One of my favourite yoga sutra is: Prayatna shaitilyananta sama patibhyam.
Translated to mean: Relax the intensity of your effort and meditate on the endless and copious amounts of energy within.
To me, this sutra is the essence of intentions. It’s not saying don’t try or don’t have effort. It’s saying create a vision/set an intention/aim in a direction, then release that energy to be worked on by the Universe (or whatever it is you believe in). The main caveat here is to trust the energy and work with it, not against it.
For example, “My intention is to be fit and healthy as I age. To me, that looks like making my meals at home, drinking enough water, being physically active at least five times per week, and enjoying my life.”
I wouldn’t set that intention, then continue to eat out, not work out, drink only coffee, etc. and expect to magically become fit and healthy!
I also wouldn’t set that intention then fault myself for having a busy week and needing to eat out. I would do my best to find a healthy meal instead of giving up and eating at a fast food restaurant.
Some questions to think of when setting intentions, thank big-picture here:
- What is your vision for your life?
- What matters to you?
- How do you want your life to feel in the future?
- What are the elements of your life that make you happy?
- What do you want more of?
- What makes you feel fulfilled?
Whatever tool(s) you use to look at and vision your life, I strongly suggest writing them down!