We’ve made it to the start of a brand new year, and can finally say goodbye to 2020. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back! You deserve it. We can’t argue that the prospect of 2021 brings some hope, as most people have adapted to life in the “new normal”.
Almost a year into the pandemic, we can start to gain perspective on what positive changes the experience has brought to our lives. One of the first that springs to mind for me is that we’ve all been forced to slow things down, take a breath, and rethink what’s most important in our lives. As a result, many of us have already begun the new year armed with a long list of new year's resolutions we want to get to this year.
I’m usually in the same space, but over the festive season break I listened to the most exquisite meditation on setting intentions for the new year, rather than conventional resolutions. This got me thinking about the way I want to go about the new year, and perhaps the essence of this kind of thinking could perhaps inspire the way you’re going about setting goals for 2021.
The Trouble with New Year’s Resolutions
Let me level with you a bit first. You don’t have to toss out all the action steps and goals you’ve made so far, ok? In theory, setting resolutions is a great idea, as it can be a catalyst for positive life changes. The trouble with this type of goal setting is that as we’ve seen on mainstream films and television, they tend to come with two noteworthy downsides: low accountability (who remembers the Friends episode that saw everybody failing with theirs!) and high personal expectations. Often, these goals are short sighted, “want” driven and most people pile on too much to realistically achieve. When we don't nail our goals, (not because we can't achieve them, but because more often than not we want them done in a 'too much, too soon, too fast mindset), we can unknowingly enforce a feeling of failure. The result is essentially being back at square one, possibly feeling worse about it than you did before. 2021 is the year to say “no, thank you” to this. Setting new year's intentions is definitely the better option for the best results.
Resolutions vs. Intentions: What’s The Difference?
So what sets the two apart, after all? There is a key distinction between resolutions and intentions. Resolutions are task based, and grounded in “doing vs. not doing”. Intentions on the other hand, are a softer, more compassionate expression of our deepest wishes and hopes, and slowly chipping away at getting closer towards these with patience and excitement. 'Intentions are qualitative, where resolutions are quantitative' as mentioned in the Intention's For The New Year Meditation. Setting an intention allows us to express what we hope to embody as we move forward with our lives, without adding the pressure of making it excessively measurable. Intentions allow us to move in and out of the things we aspire to as life permits us to do so, rather than going the rigid route and being unnecessarily hard on ourselves in the process.
Getting Going With Intention Setting
Whether you’re reading this in January, or halfway through the year, it’s never too late to set intentions for yourself for the year. If you’re wondering about how to go about doing so, start by thinking about the things that bring you joy. You might even be tempted to come up with or research some positive affirmations, which can come in handy if one of your intentions is to bring more positivity into your daily life this year. When setting other intentions, steer clear of using language like “In 2021 I must…” and “By x date I will have…”. Try phrases like “I’d like to see more of…” and “I’d like to spend my free time doing…” to drive the process forward. Touch on the areas that are most important to you, like family, friendships, health, intellectual life, skills development and more.
Remember that personal growth doesn’t happen on a straight path, a