In our achievement-oriented society, we often confuse goals, resolutions, and intentions. A goal is attached to a desired result; it is measurable and dependent on an outcome. A resolution is a a formal expression of a commitment. Our goals and resolutions are set in part by our constant self-scrutiny—our expectations that we may have of ourselves or those we may believe others expect of us. Both goals and resolutions imply that there is something about us that needs to be resolved or fixed. While I’m not trying to start the new year off on a negative note, the reality is that most New Year's resolutions go unfulfilled past January—yet we continue to make them year after year. There is a disconnect here between our desires and actions, a disconnect that is never helpful for our self-esteem.
Speaking as a psychotherapist, it is readily apparent to me (although sometimes less so when I am assessing myself) that we struggle with setting realistic expectations for ourselves. To put it bluntly, the combination of the pressures of our aforementioned achievement-oriented society with our difficulty accessing self-compassion is a recipe for failure. The language with which we frame our resolutions tends to be judgement- and result-focused; it lacks the positive, encouraging self-talk that promotes acknowledgement and celebration of the process towards a result. But what if we applied the concepts of authenticity and congruence of language to help create our New Year’s ‘insert-better-word-here’ so we could feel better about ourselves? Instead of busting our butts to fit into a disconnected resolution, what if we reframe the way that we conceptualize our New Year’s resolutions? In other words, what if we say what we mean and mean what we say? A resolution revolution!
We often reference 'intention' during yoga practice. Both ‘resolution’ and ‘intention’ have similar meanings, but why is it that the latter often feels “softer” and more accessible? I like to think of an intention as a heartfelt desire, something birthed in my heart’s centre, and thus, something truly authentic. I also prefer to differentiate between “setting an intention”, “manifesting an intention”, and “cultivating an intention”.
- Setting an intention is similar to making a resolution: “happiness is on the horizon.”
- Manifesting an intention uses the Law of Attraction to reframe your desires as reality: “I am happy and therefore attract happiness
- Cultivating an intention is about process and closely tied to motivation: thinking of happiness as a daily practice or verb.
All three have purpose and benefit as it’s hard to go wrong with accessing your heartfelt desires.
By ensuring that your self-talk and the language you use to set, manifest, or cultivate your intentions is realistic, authentic, and positive, you may surprise yourself to see your motivation continue past January. Why? Plain and simple: it feels good to speak nicely about yourself, and as human beings, we are motivated by what feels good. It’s a personal preference what type of intention you may choose for yourself in the coming days and months ahead and what process you use to realize it. I personally find most value and warmth in cultivating intention—and I will be welcoming the new year as such!