It’s that time of the year again, when there is talk of setting New Year’s resolutions. While they are popular, I personally have abandoned the idea of making New Year’s resolutions.
Not because I don’t think they are a nice idea, but because I dislike the negative way in which they are framed.
Usually, they focus on giving up something or trying to change our lives in a way that is very dramatic. Also, because they are often so rigid and difficult to attain, it’s easy to feel like we have “failed” by February… because our size “0” jeans don’t fit!
So, is there another way that we can try to harness the energy of the New Year and create positive change in our lives? Yes, when we set an intention instead.
Intention vs. Resolution
Here’s where I can offer you an alternative to the traditional resolutions: a New Year’s intention. More than just semantics, it’s a change in concept, in mindset. While resolutions are resolving to make a change, intentions are about shifting your energetic focus.
One of my favorite sayings is “where the mind goes, the energy flows.” We want to harness the incredible power of the mind to create positive change in our lives, without the pressure to succeed or the fear of failure.
New Year’s intentions are sending our focus to something we would like to change, improve, or alter in our lives. With an intention, we observe what happens when we shift our attention to this area.
So, let’s say, for example, your resolution for the last three years has been, “I am going to do yoga three times a week.” Instead, your intention could be, “I will be present and enjoy my yoga practice.”
Through mindfully practicing yoga, we will enjoy our time on the mat more and want to practice it more, without the pressure of having to make it to your mat three times a week. You may find your practice far more often than three times a week, or maybe some weeks it’s only once, but it’s a mindful, present practice.
Or let’s say your resolution was, “I am going to keep a daily gratitude journal.” Your intention could be, “I am going to focus more energy on all the things I already have.” You will then set your focus to feeling grateful and, of course, you can journal about it, but without the pressure to write something daily.
Process vs. Outcome
Intentions focus on the process rather than the outcome. It’s about shifting the mind and sending energy with the idea that, when this happens, good things will manifest from this energy.
“Process” is a word we associate with work. This naturally sounds less appealing than just enjoying the reward, the “outcome.” But intention is a more relaxed approach. It teaches us to have a bit of faith in the universe that change will come from shifting our mindset. It is often only through this relaxed, positive approach that we can create sustainable, long-term benefits in a mindful way.
How to Choose your Intention
The work happens before the process. Setting a clear intention can be a challenge. We must have a clear idea of where we want to direct our energy in the coming year. It can’t be too vague, nor too specific. It has to genuinely be something that you feel you need, rather than something society thinks you should have.
To start off, I recommend taking some time before the New Year to reflect on the past year. Think of where you sent most of your energy. Was it, perhaps, all spent on family? Or, maybe your year was very work-focused and you experienced a lot of career success. Whatever your main focus, take some time to review how it made you feel at the end of the year.
Do you feel good sending so much energy to this space? Do you want to continue in this same manner, or do you feel that there are other areas of your life that need more energy?
Next, take some time to consider the other areas of your life where less energy was spent. Your relationships, your work, your health and wellbeing, your friendships, and your passion. Are they getting the attention they need for you to live a balanced life? Meditate to find which area could use a little more of your intention/attention.
Once you have an idea of where you would like to send your energy, narrow your focus a bit. Where would you really like to try to be present in your life? If it’s working on your health and wellness, do you need to shift your focus to mindfully enjoying healthy, nourishing foods? Or do you need to work on making sleep a priority, and therefore, creating a beautiful bedtime routine to help you focus on getting a restful night’s sleep?
Creating Ritual Around Setting an Intention
Setting an intention is more meaningful when there is a special ritual around it. Once you have an intention in mind, creating your own unique ceremony can be a beautiful way to seal your intention.
Take some time to establish a sacred space for your ritual. You could choose a spot in nature, such as at a park or beach, or in a place indoors, with your yoga mat and an altar of sacred objects, like crystals and mala beads. Perhaps you could journal about your intention to begin sending your energy to this space, or you could meditate on it.
You will find that, with a special beginning to your year, the energy will already start to flow into this area of your life, and you will begin the year in a positive way. It’s also beneficial to take something from your altar to have on display where you can see it, to serve as a reminder of your intention throughout the year. This might be a special symbol, a piece of jewelry, or a crystal, for example.
Remember, intentions are flexible. You can’t “break” an intention the same way that you can break a resolution. Rather, you can revisit your intention at various points throughout the year and continue to focus (or refocus) your energy. Having a beautiful ritual to set your intentions will help you start the new year in a far more positive and gentle way than setting strict resolutions.
Stephanie Johnson is a passionate school teacher, yoga teacher and environmentalist. As a primary school teacher, she incorporates yoga teachings into all aspects of her students’ learning. She has a severe and incurable case of wanderlust and has traveled to over 50 countries, with more plans to jet abroad in search of yoga and adventure.