As the new year began, many of us made resolutions that typically involved making behavioral changes, such as resolving to lose weight or exercise more often. Despite our best efforts, it’s not uncommon to have difficulties staying with our resolutions, and we may quickly find ourselves abandoning them altogether. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, setting intentions can be a more life-affirming way to support yourself and work towards improving your sense of well-being. With more than half the year behind us, let’s revisit those lost or forgotten resolutions and explore the key steps for setting meaningful intentions.
What’s the Difference Between Resolutions and Intentions?
With resolutions, we set a goal of something we wish to accomplish. In the case of a New Year’s resolution, we commit to achieving that goal for an entire year, which may not always be realistic given the reality of our lives. If we are unable to achieve our resolutions, there’s an inherent sense of failure that we may experience. This can be damaging to our sense of self-worth and confidence.
By contrast, intentions are based on our values and can guide and motivate us in making changes in our lives without the pressure of achieving a specific goal or objective. For example, a resolution might be “to go to the gym three times per week” whereas an intention would be “to find more ways to incorporate exercise and support wellness in my life.”
With intentions, there’s more flexibility, and they allow us to make choices that serve our needs in the present moment. For instance, in the previous example, you might choose to go on a brief walk or practice breathwork on a particular day to best express your intention.
Three Steps for Setting an Intention
Intentions can serve as our guiding principles; they reflect our values and how we choose to approach our lives. Here are three steps to follow for forming and setting intentions:
1. Be clear on what’s important to you. Think about what matters most to you and what you’d like to create in your life. Intentions can be in any area of your life, including overall well-being, relationships, and work. To help gain some clarity when forming intentions, ask yourself these questions:
- What would you like to nurture in your life?
- What would you like to release or let go of?
- What are you grateful for?
- Who would you like to forgive, including yourself?
- What makes you feel happy or proud of yourself?
- What words are you drawn to or would you like to align yourself with?
- What fears would you like to let go of?
2. Create personal intentions that resonate with you. Setting intentions that are meaningful for you helps empower you to make the desired changes or shifts in your behavior. And because they are personal and in alignment with your values, they come from your heart as well as your mind. Here are some examples for setting intentions:
- This year, I want to create new opportunities for learning
- This year, I want to find more ways to nourish my body
- This year, I want to be more involved in my local community
- This year, I want to allow space for my creative expression
- This year, I want to find more peace and balance in my life
- This year, I want to embrace change and act with courage
- This year, I want to approach life with an open mind and heart
- This year, I want to find more ways to connect with others
- This year, I want to practice greater acceptance
3. Set aside time to reflect on your intentions. When setting intentions, it’s beneficial to choose just a few that are most important to you. Otherwise, you can overwhelm yourself with your list of intentions. You may decide to state your intentions as a daily or weekly practice throughout the year, but reviewing them as needed can also be helpful when you’re feeling challenged by the demands of life. They can help ground you and keep you connected to what matters most to you.
Setting an intention at the beginning of a new year can be a powerful practice. Intentions enable us to embody our values and move towards a greater sense of fulfillment and self-compassion as we embark on meaningful change in our lives.
If you’d like help exploring ways to support your sense of purpose and well-being, including setting intentions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We can help you find ways to cultivate techniques for building resilience, navigating life’s challenges, and increasing your self-awareness.
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