Last year, I waxed poetic about whether New Year’s resolutions were doomed to fail.
This year, I want to suggest we throw out resolutions entirely. Resolutions are so 2019; 2020 is all about Setting Your Intentions.
What’s the difference, you might ask? Well, Intentions focus on the process, while Resolutions focus on the outcome. If we vow to run a marathon, but only manage a half-marathon, instead of feeling pride for the strides we’ve made, we feel let-down. This year, why not take joy in our accomplishments instead?
1. Enjoy the Journey!
As Tom Cochran once said, “Life is a highway; I want to ride it all night long.” Resolutions can be painful – standing naked on a cold scale in a brightly lit bathroom agonizing over a pound of water weight comes to mind. Conversely, setting intentions shouldn’t be an agonizing process. Growth can be uncomfortable. We’re trying something new. We’re going farther than we’ve ever gone before. We are – as Mates of State once sang – the Challengers of the Unknown! While I’m not suggesting avoiding discomfort entirely – we’re much more likely to stick to changes we feel passionate about and actually enjoy!
Setting an intention to read more female-written books or spend more time doing a hobby we enjoy is a lot easier to see through than going on a restrictive diet that will leave us crashing and miserable a week into February.
Life isn’t meant to feel like a moving walkway in an airport and treating it like one is a surefire way to end up demotivated and frustrated. Making a positive change should be an exciting experience. You are an adventurer in this thing called life! Take some time to smell the roses along the way and celebrate small triumphs. You’re better than you were yesterday.
2. Be Kind to Yourself.
If you’re someone who can only focus on the things you did wrong or the ways you fell short, try to display the same compassion and empathy for yourself that you do for your loved ones. Would you beat up your potty training puppy for having an accident in the house? Or chastise your friend for being 20 minutes late to your lunch date? Would you judge your mom for having an extra cookie? We wouldn’t dream of being cruel to the people we love but often won’t extend that same kindness to ourselves. We’re imperfect beings and learning is a lifelong process. Grant yourself some grace.
3. Celebrate Your Failures!
Failure is a necessary part of getting better at something. Failure is a lesson we need to learn or we’ll keep repeating the same mistakes. It’s rare in life that our first attempt is the best. Let your failures motivate you instead of discouraging you. I recently got a few writing rejections, but it was also the first time I actually submitted my writing anywhere. After years of calling myself a writer, I’ve ticked a necessary box into actually becoming one – falling on my ass. It sucks not to get accolades for something you’re passionate about, but putting yourself out there is the only way you can hope to achieve success.
Let’s face it – everyone loves a makeover story. A story of transformation. A phoenix rising from the ashes – stronger and better. We all love a movie montage that skips all the boring parts of actually doing the thing. What we don’t often see is all the work that goes into making lasting change. Often, when we compare our achievements to others, we only see the end result. Nobody likes to Instagram the ugly moments. We all like to create the illusion of success. But all successes in life have had to go through a lot of setbacks. The only way you can truly fail yourself is to not try at all. So go ahead – make some big, glorious mistakes in 2020! Don’t take yourself too seriously and remember to laugh.
While we try to avoid the rigid resolutions of the past, it’s still important to stay accountable. Meditate on your intentions, strengthening your resolve going forward. Keep a journal and write daily pages tracking your improvement or your stagnancy. And remember, while setting measurable goals is great, it’s also important to touch base with ourselves throughout the process. Have we grown? Have we gotten better? How do we feel? What resistance have we encountered – from ourselves or other people – as we change and grow? How can we change course with the new information we have? What have we learned?
Ask anyone who has a long marriage or raises children and they’ll tell you it isn’t a choice they make once. We have to make the decision every day to try to better ourselves. To put the work in. To show up. To communicate. Likewise with intentions. It’s great to set one, but if you don’t follow through, there’s really no point, is there? Just as you go to a doctor to monitor your health, checking in allows you to remain honest with yourself and authentic with your intentions.
5. Create Some Rituals.
Rituals aren’t just for summoning demons anymore. One of the keys to forming a lasting habit is to create rituals. Burn some sage before you meditate. Ring a gong before you start a yoga session. Set a timer for an hour when you sit down to write. Let yourself only watch Netflix while you work on your knitting project. Ritual creates comfort and consistency. There’s a reason we celebrate holidays the same way year after year – because it makes us feel warm and cozy. Likewise, if you’re too entrenched in a certain ritual and you’re bored – try mixing it up. Instead of running on a treadmill day after day, go for a hike outside. Instead of always writing on your computer, take up a paper and pen. If you’re a person that feels caged by routine, make up your own rules. As long as it works for you and keeps you motivated.
I’m going to end my post with this tweet from Sagittarian Mind – and while it doesn’t exactly practice kindness to yourself, it’s important to keep in mind when setting your intentions this year.
This year, I intend to make progress on my book and to continue submitting my writing.
What are some intentions you’re setting for yourself this year?