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New Years Resolutions? Or New Years Intentions?

“When we cultivate a sense of caring and self-kindness toward ourselves, when we fail or experience shortcomings, instead of self-judgment and criticism, we build resilience that can contribute to motivation and lasting change”

Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? Do you know that list of things you need to achieve this year? The things that, if achieved will bring you resounding joy and fulfillment, and if you don’t achieve (i.e. fail) will bring dismay, disappointment and reiterate the fact that you’re a loser?

I recently talked with Matt, a vet from a large corporate practice.  He said that he used to be a “chaser.”  For most of his life, he chased happiness, perfection, and prosperity, frequently using the mindset “if only I (had the perfect job, had enough money, had the perfect marriage).,” or “when I (lose 10kg, get that promotion, find a girlfriend).” 

Every year, he would make a New Year’s Resolution, connected to one of his “chases” – I will resolve to work out every day; I will start looking for a new job; I will join online dating… to finally feel fulfilled and satisfied in his life.  He was always successful out of the gate, but one setback spiraled him out of control, and by February, he felt defeated and a New Year’s Resolution failure, contributing to his sadness and depression.

Sound familiar?

This year, how about we set ourselves intentions rather than resolutions.?

 Unlike resolutions, which are tied to a specific outcome and can be more prone to failure, intentions allow us to recognize where we are in the moment and be present and aware at that moment, embracing the journey more than the result.

Intentions focus on attitudes instead of outcomes and accomplishments. The problem with outcomes is that you do not have absolute control over what eventually materializes. For example, you can work hard, but you may not necessarily get that promotion, so resolving to get a promotion this year is risky business

Every time we carry out our intention, we have achieved something worthwhile. If we resolve to cut down on eating (as opposed to losing 10kg), then, every time we deny ourselves a bag of crisps and every time, we don’t buy Snickers at the corner shop, we have succeeded. The reward can be instant if you allow it. Seems a bit airy-fairy? Because success breeds more success, it may be the reason that you succeed this year where you didn’t last year (or the year before that). Losing weight is the by-product of changing our attitude. Changing your attitude is a real success and something you do have control over.

If your new year intends to spend 10 minutes or more in mindful meditation in the morning as soon as you have your coffee in hand. Once you’ve done it the first time, it feels like a real start. Twice and you’ve set a precedent.

Three times and it’s become your new normal, a habit, part of your regular morning routine which you just do without questioning .and you’ve achieved your goal already because the goal was to meditate, not to become a monk by March.

 Because now the alarm is set on your phone for the same time each morning, you have literally ‘created time’ for yourself to benefit from however many minutes you’ve decided upon.

 If you skip a day, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it means you’ve skipped a day. It doesn’t undo the previous day’s work or negate its benefits. It doesn’t mean you can’t meditate tomorrow. It’s not a failure. It’s a skipped day.

 When we cultivate a sense of caring and self-kindness toward ourselves, when we fail or experience shortcomings, instead of self-judgment and criticism, we build resilience that can contribute to motivation and lasting change. Hence, when we stray off the path of our intention, if we learn from the experience, identify the triggers which push us off the path, and get back on the path without self-depreciation, it builds more resilience every single time. These are the ways we keep the good intentions running at full throttle for the whole 12 months.