Why Resolutions Don't Work

Resolutions don’t work because they follow the same principle as a goal. A goal is something where you set an end date, and you expect a certain outcome. What usually ends up happening is that if you do not meet that outcome by the specified date, then you will most likely feel defeated, frustrated and/or engage in self-defeating thoughts and behavior. 

I’d like to give you a different way to approach resolutions and goals. It’s called an intention. You may have heard this word used in a yoga class, either in the beginning and/or end of the practice. How do intentions differ from goals? The main difference between an intention and a goal is that in the case of an intention, there is no end point. You’ll still use a positive affirmation of something you want to accomplish. I like to think of an intention as a new direction you would like your life to go. However, where a goal would say, “By this date, I want to accomplish x, y or z,” an intention allows more freedom, space and flexibility. This is important because life will usually get in the way or throw you a bump or curve in the road.

Any time you plan something, something else inevitably occurs or comes up, throwing you off track. What’s the popular phrase, “Life happens when you’re busy making plans?” If we try to control the outcome of a goal or resolution, or what the end point looks like, we will most often end up disappointed if it doesn’t work out exactly as we planned. Goals and resolutions become finite and inflexible. Whereas an intention allows you to keep that direction you want to head, but when life gets in the way, or you hit a bump in the road, it’s not the end of the world. That bump or setback is an opportunity to bring your awareness back to the direction you wanted to head, and to continue with the journey. It allows the flexibility and freedom to enjoy the moment without the negative self-talk. 

Sometimes veering off course from your intention is a good and necessary thing.  Now, you may be thinking, “If I’m trying to eat healthier and exercise more, and I stop eating healthy and stop exercising, how is this a good thing?”  In life, we can’t predict the future and see what the end point is going to be. All we can do is focus on the present, and make each moment in our lives count. In yoga, emphasis is on the breath and being in the present moment as you flow through each posture. Meditation is the same; focusing on the present moment, focusing on the breath, and not getting caught up on what’s to come in the future. 

Practicing yoga and meditation consistently allows us to be aware of ourselves and our surroundings. It helps us to respond to what life throws at us, rather than reacting. In the case above, when you find that you have veered off course from your intention, a steady, calming breath can bring your awareness back to the direction you want to go. You let go of the self-judgment, self-shaming and self-sabotaging that usually accompanies resolutions. Instead, you acknowledge you have veered off course, and then bring the awareness back to your intention.  Intentions are infinite and fluid. They allow you to enjoy the moment, and let go of anticipation of the future outcome. 

So, instead of setting yourself up to fail or disappoint with a New Year’s Resolution, try setting an intention.  An intention should be a positive statement, in the present tense, that resonates with you. For example, if you want to exercise more, an intention may be “I am healthy and active in all I do.” Even if you do not feel healthy and active in the moment, say your intention as if it is already happening. Whatever you want for yourself, believe that it can happen.  Let go of how you think it will happen or when it will happen. Trust that it can happen, and be present for the journey that will ensue.

I’d love to hear from you! Let me know what your intentions are for 2019. Whatever your intention, I wish you much love and light as you embark on this journey.