New Year, New You? Are Intentions Better Than Resolutions?
Written By: Jessica Eiseman, MS, LPC-S, NCC, CCTP
Doesn’t that saying “New Year, New you” just bother you? Like I wasn’t good enough last year, so I need a different me this year? It just has a certain negative tone to it with a lot of expectations tied to it. We start out each year with these huge expectations of ourselves and what we will do differently, only by February to be over the resolutions we set for ourselves. And if you’re like me you might say “well, I already haven’t been going to the gym every day for an hour, so might as well not go today” and then today leads to tomorrow and then next thing you know it’s New Year’s Eve again and you are shaming yourself for not doing the resolutions you set for yourself this last year.
Resolutions vs Intentions
Several years ago I decided instead of resolutions I would instead set intentions for the year. It might sound not so different, but the way we talk to ourselves makes a BIG difference in how we move forward. I mean, if I yelled at you like a drill sergeant vs speaking to you kindly like Mr. Rogers, you would notice a difference. Let’s break it down:
Merriam-Webster defines intention as: “a determination to act in a certain way: RESOLVE.”
Dictionary.com refers to intention in this way: “1. An act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result. 2. The end or object intended; purpose. 3. (intentions) Purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct.”
While both say that the word intention is a noun, it seems though that the quality of an intention is a verb. We are determined to act. Our purpose, our intent, is to act in a certain way.
Now resolution on the other hand is seen as “a firm decision to do or not to do something. “The action of solving a problem, dispute or contentious matter” (dictionary.com).
This to me seems more permanent and very black or white. If I set a resolution to not eat chocolate this year, I better not even have a piece near me or I fail my resolution. However, if I set an intention that I will consciously make an effort to eat less chocolate this year, then this mindset sets me up for greater success.
Why Intentions May Be Better
I tell my clients in therapy, “If I tell you not to think of a pink elephant with purple spots. Don’t think about a pink elephant with purple spots; do NOT think about a pink elephant with purple spots.” All of us are now picturing that dang elephant. And if you are stubborn like me and someone tells you NOT to do something then by goodness if I wasn’t thinking of that elephant then I will think about it on purpose! Also, how much stress is it going to cause me that I have decided this year I will SOLVE my chocolate addiction after my many years of eating it in excess??? #nopressure
Think about it this way, intentions are a kinder, gentler way to be purposeful about the way we act toward a specific thing. Since I have started to set intentions each year, while it definitely has not been perfect, it has definitely given me more successes. That being said, what are your intentions this year? We would love to hear them!