The new year is upon us, and with a new year comes an enduring sense of rebirth and new possibility. Out with the old, in with the new. If you’re like millions of Americans, you will be participating in a ritual of change along with this rebirth of the solar calendar: New Year’s Resolutions.
All resolutions are about changes you hope to see in your life – to be kinder, to lose weight, to work harder, to be more patient, to seek help, to get healthy, or to learn a new skill. Some are global declarations: “This is the year!”
In particular, you might be seeking a new job or career, to make more money, or to go back to school. Whatever your resolution may be, there’s one simple exercise to make your resolution stick: make it a New Year’s Intention instead.
Intention vs. Resolution
The difference between a resolution and an intention may seem purely semantic at first. If you take a moment to recognize your physical feelings related to each word, however, you’ll likely discover the difference. The energy of a resolution resides exclusively in your head, whereas an intention resides deeper in your body, in your heart and chest.
To make a resolution to do something is to make a determined decision, like an earnest boy scout. But true life changes cannot be made through will power alone. Pure human-will exhausts itself quickly without emotional fuel.
In an emergency, you might find that with fear and hope, your determination can move mountains. But over an extended period of time, the will to change your life requires sustained devotion as well. Sustained devotion comes with a deep belief in the cause for which you are acting, and a love for the recipient (you).
Take a Step Back
If you want to change your life – make an intention to do so – an intention that is grounded in your love for yourself. If you can’t find that love or belief in yourself, then you need to take a step back. Your first New Year’s intention may need to be “2014: Learn to believe that the changes I want are possible.” It may also be valuable to make the intention to learn more about yourself.
If you want to change your life or add something to your life, start from a place of forgiveness for whatever you’re trying to rectify. If you make a decision to change your life out of self-hatred or judgment, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment (and the suffering that comes with it).
Once you’ve forgiven yourself for not already being where you’d like to be, then make your intention for changes in the future.
When You’ve Got Your New Year’s Intention
When you’re clear about your New Year’s Intention, write it down. Write it down and put it on your wall, your refrigerator, or on your bathroom mirror.
Whatever it is, write it proudly. Write it big. Add details. Add color and images. Make it visible to help you believe that it can be a tangible part of your life.
Then, make a commitment to your intention with your whole being, not just your brain. In committing to your intention, allow the time you need for that change to take root. Plan to check-in on your goal regularly throughout the year.
Putting Money in the Bank
Focusing on positive life changes and your belief in those changes is like putting money in your psychological bank account. With self-love and intention, you’re enhancing the resources you need to fund your desired changes for the future.
The opposite is also true. By making resolutions that are based in judgment, self-hatred, and “shoulds“, you’re stressing your personal resources and robbing your energy bank of what you need to transform your life.
Helpful Advice from an Ancient Poet
There is a beautiful quote from the Sufi mystic, Rumi, that I hope will provide a little fuel in your mission to make a New Year’s intention based in heart and not mind alone. Whatever you hope for your future, in the depths of your being, is information for the guiding force of your individual life.
“Let the beauty you love be what you do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”