Stop Setting New Year’s Resolutions. Start Setting Intentions.

Setting intentions is more powerful than resolutions

Stop Setting New Year’s Resolutions. Start Setting Intentions.

The Curse of the New Year’s Resolution

We can’t help it. Every year as the dawn of a New Year approaches, we make promises to ourselves.

“This is the year I lose the weight”. “I am finally going back to school”. “This is the year I leave my job”. “I am going to get my house in order”. We create such lofty goals for ourselves because we want better for ourselves.

There is a part of ourselves that knows that things aren’t working. We know that we’re not happy and we commit to doing something about it.

You get all the journals. Perhaps you make announcements to your friends and loved ones in an effort to have accountability. You look at yourself in the mirror and say “This time is different! I promise!”

And we often start off good, reading all of the ways to improve ourselves and making promises.

The “Get a New Hobby” Resolution

Let’s face it. These past few years have been a challenge. The promise of a new year with new dreams and hopes seems really appealing. However, you need to start looking at the internal workings of your mind, your beliefs, and your values. Without that, you are setting yourself up for another pattern of goals set and disappointment. Let’s try and shift our attention to setting intentions.

We have the best of intentions when we set goals

Once we establish resolutions, we then go about setting goals. Maybe you create SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely). You try the manifestation method. Sometimes you just wing it. Or you believe in willpower and the power of your mind to just “do it”.

And yet study after study shows that setting resolutions don’t work. Studies approximate that between 8% and 9% of people actually achieve their goals. It is unclear how many sustain their goals once they have achieved them. But clearly, we are struggling with this concept.

With such dismal statistics, many people have given up setting resolutions they know will fail year after year. Many people stop setting them. But so many continue, with the hope and optimism that one day they will achieve their goal.

I think that it is our nature to set goals. Evolution is hardwired within us. We want to (and should) better ourselves because we know that there is more out there. We are capable of having and doing more than what we currently have. So I support people setting goals. But they have to be the right goals.

The Problem With Goals

The problem with goals is that people see them as having an end date. Most people have the “And they lived Happily Ever After” mentality about goals. They think that there is a beginning and an end.

Setting intentions helps you get clear about your goals

The reality is that goal achievement is just the beginning. Once you find the partner, you still have to work at the relationship. You don’t just get to you goal weight and stop exercising. You don’t get the promotion and don’t have to go to work. We’re looking at goals all wrong.

Somehow, we assume that goal achievement will fit nicely into our existing lives. We don’t realize that our lives will have to fundamentally change. We will have to become different people as we set out to accomplish new goals.

As a therapist, goals are important to establish in order to help clients feel better. Goals help them and deal with issues that are not serving them or are making them unhappy. Many come to therapy to feel better. They can acknowledge their suffering.

But oftentimes they attribute their unhappiness from significant things like bad relationships, childhood traumas, anxiety and grief. In can also be every day issues like weight gain, job dissatisfaction, or poor self-esteem.

One of the first activities I do with clients is to ask them why they want to work on their identified goal. Based on their answer, I ask them to visualize a future wherein the problem was solved or their goal was achieved. Often, people have a hard time with this exercise. People are often so caught up in the problem that they never bother to think about what life will look like if the problem stops.

Immediate responses are often, “Well I’d be happier”.

I then push back “how will losing weight, addressing trauma, leaving your job, etc. make you happier?”

Setting intentions focuses on the life you want

The focus of our work together becomes about identifying and clarifying your values. Goals can only be established after you have identified what is important to you and why it’s important. Values are important because when life happens and you don’t “feel” like doing something, you can lean into your values and act accordingly. If you’re interested in learning more about your values and the activity I do with clients, sign up below to get a copy of the values exercise.

You Must Get Clear on What You Want when Setting Intentions

“What is your definition of happiness?” This becomes our starting point. I encourage you to start off by asking yourself why you are setting this goal?

Is it internally based (i.e. I’m tired of being unappreciated and unhappy)? Is it externally based (i.e. people will like me, people will notice me)? Often, I find that people set New Year’s resolutions with an external focus, rather than an internal one.

While the external focus is valid, it is much easier to give up the external focus when things get difficult. Secondly, ask yourself how will your life improve/ what will life look like if you achieve the goal. Because many people don’t ask themselves this question, they cannot sustain their motivation.

In addition to this, people depend on motivation and willpower to achieve something. This is the WRONG focus and difficult to sustain. It’s about setting up your environment to make change easy.

Thirdly, I explore with a client the potential consequences of achieving their goal.

Clients express being puzzled by this question. Immediate responses are “What are you talking about, there is no downside to achieving my goal”.

Allow yourself to really explore this. There is always a consequence to change. Whether it be having to buy new clothes, or starting a new job making more money, you may actually have to stop being angry and resentful. You can no longer hide, you may actually have to stand up for yourself, you may actually have embrace success.

Ultimately, setting goals is about changing your identity and you have to be prepared for that. And oftentimes we aren’t because it becomes overwhelming. CHANGE.IS.HARD!

I find that setting intentions and working at those intentions is the better way to truly get what you want. Because what you want is true happiness, freedom, flexibility, autonomy. It’s not a new job, more money, more confidence, less anger. Let’s explore how to actually implement change as it relates to a common goal like weight loss.

Things to Consider When Setting Intentions

1. Explore WHY it is you want the change.

“I want to be around for my children and able to keep up with them” (internal). Vs. “I want to be skinny and fit into my jeans by the time I go on vacation” (external). Neither are wrong, but they need greater exploration.

2. What would life look like if you achieved your goals.

“I would be able to take my kids to the park and play with them”. Vs. “I will look hot on vacation”.

3. What are the potential consequences to getting what I want?

Note that this exploration should take you some time. Really ask yourself what can be the unintended consequences and write down all of the possibilities.

“What if I find that I don’t like playing with my kids, what if I’m no good at parenting?”

“What if my kids still don’t want to do things with me?” Vs. “Am I going to have to give up McDonald’s?

Can I afford a new wardrobe?

What if no one notices me in my skinny jeans?

What would happen if EVERYBODY notices me?

Will my friends and family get upset because I’m no longer the heavy one?”

4. Acknowledge the potential discomfort and explore your readiness to become a different person.

“I’m scared that I won’t be a good parent even when I am able to run around with them, and also I’m kind of scare about being a good parent.

I may be a better parent than my parents were to me and that’s scary”. Vs. “I may upset people with my weight loss and I’m sort of uncomfortable with all the attention because I’ve never had it before.

I’m scared that people may only like me because I’m skinny and not because I’m a good person”.

5. Make the intention setting focused on internal change.

“I am committed to being a good parent. Vs. “I am committed to this journey because I really want people to see me”.

Setting intentions is about making identity change

6. Set your intention.

“I am a great mother to my children”. Vs. “I am someone who stands out”.

7. Once you set your intention, your job is to do something on a daily basis to make that statement true.

By setting your intention, you expand what it means to be and have the things you want.

You should take the time to define what your intentions mean and be creative. Being an exceptional mother can mean so many things beyond running around after them.

Perhaps it is cooking for them healthy meals. Maybe it’s helping them with homework. Or reading to them, not yelling all the time. It could be unrelated to them such as exercising (with and without them).

Standing out can mean holding the door for someone, raising your hand at the next meeting, offering someone a compliment.

8. Identify what you can do on a daily basis to make that intention that you set true.

I am a huge proponent of habits, establishing them, setting aside time for them and working on them. Habits are defined by a set of actions, which completed with regularity and consistency lead to an overall, improved life.

We all engage in habits. They are both productive (or not) and mindless. Things like brushing our teeth or eating a big tub of popcorn at the movies are habits. There are several books on habits, willpower and motivation out there, so find one, read it and implement.

What most of these books will argue is that motivation and willpower are a myth. Success happens in the implementation of micro habits that ultimately lead to long term success.

Motivation is what shows up on January 1st. But what keeps you working on your goals come March 1st are habits. I believe in showing up every day, for 15 minutes doing something. Have a to do list, set a timer, go for it and STOP when your 15 minutes are done. Seriously. Don’t think. DO.

Oh, and get a habit tracker to see how well you are doing with being consistent. As an aside to all this habit forming, I want to call out all of the fantasizing and procrastinating that tends to happen. Before we start something new, we set conditions.

Stop Making Excuses

We often procrastinate doing the thing because we think it has to be perfect. “Before I start my exercise journey, I NEED to get cute outfits.” “I NEED to get cute glass containers before I start this new diet”. “Well, before I start cleaning my house, I NEED to get organic cleaning supplies and bins”. “Before I start writing my book, I NEED to set up an office and buy that cute Ikea desk”.

STOP IT! These are excuses. That cute outfit is not going to get outside and run for you. Those glass containers are not going to cut up your veggies and magically have them show up in your skillet. Those cleaning supplies aren’t going to magically clean your floors. The bins will not magically get rid of the socks with holes in them. That desk isn’t going to write the chapter of your book.

Setting intentions begins with you, not an external reason

Spoiler alert

YOU are the one making these things happen. So it’s up to you to show up for yourself and your goals. These are ways that your brain is trying to trick you from doing something it may perceive as scary. Having resources and items are cool and would be nice, but they are not necessary.

People who often have all of these great plans and get all of the things, are just creating more work for themselves. More laundry, more dishes, more clutter, more stuff. You can succeed with your lap for a desk. An oversized t-shirt to work out in is just fine. A plastic container for your veggies will still make them accessible. As you begin to truly embrace this new identity, you may decide to splurge and get all the nice things. But do not use the excuse that not having something is keeping you from being successful.

You, your fears and your worries are the things that are holding you back. If you just commit to something every day, in time, you will see the change.

9. At night reflect back to yourself.

What did you do today to make your definition of “I am a great mother” true? Did you sit down to have a meal with them uninterrupted by phones? Perhaps you didn’t yell when they asked you for the 1,000th time where their socks were? Did you listen to them about their school day. It could be something as simple as doing a load of laundry containing their favorite sweater.

The beautiful thing about this is if you did NOTHING today to make that statement true, you have the next day to make that statement true. When you look back at the end of the year, hopefully you will have memories and moments (than non-memories and unhappy moments) to support that intention.

10. Finally, give yourself some positive self-talk.

We are all trying our best and in our quest for perfection we are creating needless suffering.

Setting Intentions: In conclusion

We all want to be better, but just allowing yourself the opportunity to do something better should be commended. While we don’t want to be endlessly complimenting ourselves, we should acknowledge the good things that we are doing. Working to make a better life for ourselves and our loved ones should be commended.

As a therapist, I am always a proponent of engaging in therapy. It can help you sort these issues out in a much more in-depth fashion. This list only scratches the surface of what you are capable of doing. So take the time to invest in yourself and your well-being.

My name is Edwige and I am a therapist who specializes in mom issues (stress and anxiety) and trauma. Find me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Prev Post

A New Year is Coming: 10 THINGS TO DO TO PREPARE

December 1, 2023

Next Post

20 Attainable Resolutions for Building a Healthy, Happy Life

January 12, 2024
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap