Each new year we are encouraged by society to set New Year's resolutions. It's a time that's supposed to be filled with new hope of making things different in the coming year. Ironically, resolutions often leave us with feelings of failure and hopelessness. Therefore, I have a wish and a hope. I wish that you start to encourage yourself to set intentions rather than resolutions.
Words: Lotte Bregendahl Laursen
What are New Year's resolutions?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines New Year's resolutions as "a promise that you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year." In short, New Year’s resolutions are when people decide to take action and work to-wards a goal. The most popular resolutions revolve around losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier, stop smoking, drinking less and learn a new hobby or skill. Having goals in life is important, so why is it that resolutions very often fail and leave us sad and disappoin-ted?
I believe there are two main reasons. Firstly, a lot of people struggle to know how to set proper resolutions and goals. They choose something they want to do, but they don’t have a plan on how to accomplish it. This leads to failure to achieve the goal. Secondly, we tend to view resolutions with an all or nothing mentality. This means the first time we blow our diet or miss a workout we throw our resolution out the window completely. Resolutions are some-thing that we either succeed or fail at. It’s black and white.
“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace, and love.”
Self-acceptance and self-improvement - how do we find harmony?
My heart wants to use the New Year as a time to reflect on the year that has passed by. I like to ask myself what felt right, what didn’t feel right, and look into areas of potential growth. And my mind wants to use the New Year as an opportunity to look ahead and discover the ways in which I can improve myself moving forward, based on insights that I gained looking back. However, I've never really liked resolutions. Too often they involve behavioral changes that we know would be beneficial; eating better, exercising more, writing more, waking up earlier. But we often find ourselves in a mental tug of war with our resolutions. And some-thing that's become very clear to me is that I struggle with the future mindset that inevitably comes with setting goals. I find myself striving, wanting, sometimes forcing, all the very opposite of being mindful.
The big questions here are, how do I accept myself and the present moment as if I am in a mindset of wanting different for myself? How do I find the balance between tuning into my body and heart and meeting ever-changing needs, and staying consistent with the behaviors I have determined I need to bring into my life? I want to believe there's an evolved state where self-acceptance and self-improvement can live harmoniously, but I have not yet disco-vered this state of balance. And that is okay. We are all a work in progress, discovering and starting over every day.
The power of intentions
However, there is something very important I have discovered: The power of intentions. Therefore, I have a hope, and a wish. I hope that you'll choose differently for yourself this year. Instead of a slew of resolutions, I hope you'll set intentions. When you set an intention, the idea is to manifest something you want to do - not something you believe you should do. Intentions are about the longings that have been haunting us. They can have to do with things such as relationships, love, self-improvement, or career, and they have the power to affect our emotional, physical, and psychological selves. Unlike resolutions, intention-setting focuses less on goals and more on the journey which leads to certain outcomes. Think of it this way: Intentions focus more on internal power and long-term change, whereas resolutions focus more on external, and sometimes, short-lived rewards.
Intentions are about reconnecting with our authentic selves. It enables us to reconnect with what we need - mind, body, and spirit. Intentions seek to address this residue from within in order to achieve change, whereas resolutions most often set awareness on the achievement of something externally. The difference is subtle but important. An intention is a positive call to action about something you want to, rather than something you don't want to but feel that you should. Setting an intention is about giving direction or meaning to life.
"Cultivating compassionate awareness and making choices accordingly feels so much more freeing than a resolution or a goal. I am free to call forth whatever feels right".
Living consciously and compassionately
My intention is to live consciously and compassionately in as many moments as possible, whatever that moment may bring. This means listening deeply to myself and listening deeply to myself means resting if I'm tired; moving when my body needs to move; nourishing myself when I'm hungry; stopping when I'm full; silencing my inner critic; acting with kindness, towards myself and others. The list could go on. When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace, and love. We may not always be able to meet our needs immediately as they arise, but we can still tune into the messages that our body, mind, and spirit send to us, and honor those. This is the blessing of self-care.
Cultivating compassionate awareness and making choices accordingly feels so much more freeing than a resolution or a goal. I am free to call forth whatever feels right. And most importantly, from this place of consciousness, we can meet each other with true kindness. We can connect with strangers and loved ones with an open heart. We can allow generosity and patience. We can be with the people and experiences of our lives in a meaningful, pre-sent manner.
Do you want to learn more about how to listen to yourself in this way? Book a session today and learn more about some possible ways to connect with yourself more deeply in the new year.