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Why intentions are more fun than resolutions

This is the point when it all starts to slide. It’s that wicked time of year when good intentions hit real life.

Your New Year’s resolve to – lose weight, spend less, be more organized, eat healthier, be more patient, fill in your aspiration here – has started to fade. It seems so doable, and even fun, when you announced it (to yourself) in that post holiday sloth. Weeks of excess eating, drinking and spending made you long for a more virtuous life.

You’ll learn new recipes. You’ll feel better when you start exercising. Imagining those clean closets feels positively freeing.

So you sign up for the diet plan, buy the organizing system, order a relationship book, join the health club, insert resolution-assisting purchase here.

Now you feel even better. This is nothing like all that other stuff you’ve wasted money on. No, this is an investment, an investment in a better you.

Then comes mid-January, when real life buries your good intentions until they become unrecognizable bumps in your yard.

But, there’s a way to win. The secret is to shift your gestalt to reframe the shape of your goals.

Instead of making resolutions, try setting intentions instead.

Instead of saying I’m going to lose weight, set an intention to eat healthier. For me, intentions are more flexible, they give you room to maneuver and regroup. Intentions are powerful because they feel more personal.

When you’re trying to lose weight, you’re focusing on the outcome, the outcome is defined by absence, the thing you want to go away.

But an intention to eat healthy is more honoring and affirming. It’s more about how you want to be, than a rule you have to follow.

Even if you occasionally, or even regularly, overeat, you’re not falling off the wagon; you’re just not honoring your intention for that moment in time. Psychologically, it’s easier to regroup and get back on track, than if you broke a resolution.

Personally, I always set two intentions every year, one for my professional development, and one for my personal life.

This year, my professional intention is: My work will be exciting and feel natural. In this case, it’s not necessarily about what I’m going to do, it’s about how I want to feel about my work. For me, this particular intention becomes a barometer for decision-making. When I take on a new project or pursue a new client, I intend to ask myself, does this feel exciting and natural?

If the answer is no, the next question is what can I do to make it more exciting and natural (for me)? That doesn’t mean I’ll turn down everything that’s not thrilling, but it does give me pause to think about how I work.

For my personal life my intention is: I will be more fully present for the three most important relationships in my life, my husband and my two daughters. The operative word here is more. I’m sure I won’t be perfect, but I believe that when I reread this in December that I’ll be able to say, yes, I was more present for the people I care about the most.

If you’ve already abandoned your resolution, or you’re wavering, try reframing it into an intention. You’ll feel better about it, and you can go back to it all year long.