How to Set Intentions, Not Resolutions, This New Year

Another new year, another batch of “I resolve to…”s. We all know the drill: we promise ourselves we’ll lose weight, spend less, or see family more often, and that once these things happen, our lives will magically transform. But most resolutions are significantly more unattainable than their makers believe — so this year, we’re turning to intention-setting instead. The good news? It’s easy to do (a few simple word swaps and mindset changes can do the trick!).

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Resolutions are goals,” says Joan Hyman, a professional travelling yoga instructor who has led teacher trainings and retreats all over the world. “They set us up for failure because they don’t give us a plan for how to [achieve it].” Intentions, she says, are more like a how-to for making your life better, keeping you accountable in the process. While a resolution tethers you to the future with no clear path forward, an intention grounds you in the present. “[Intentions] take the pressure off,” says Hyman. “It’s not so do-or-die, black and white.”

Here’s how to set your own intentions this year:

Find what brings you joy.

The law of attraction states that by focusing on the things that bring you joy, you’ll bring more positive experiences into your life – so give it a try! Get out a notepad and write down the things you’re passionate about. What brings you happiness and gives you purpose? Hyman suggests that “even if it’s gardening, and you have no idea what the outcome of that is – garden! Things will start to slowly unfold.”

Come up with a mantra.

Once you have your list, come up with a short mantra incorporating some of the things you’ve written down. Instead of resolving to lose weight, “what you can say is, ‘I intend to practice self care daily’,” says Hyman. Or, if you want to buy a car, your mantra can be ‘I will become more disciplined with my finances.’ Hyman says your mantra can even be just one word like patience, loyalty, love, or openness.

Keep it positive.

Every time you find yourself falling into the trap of listing out things you don’t want to do, remember to “think the opposite,” says Hyman. Instead of saying you’re not going to live with fear, think ‘I intend to trust more freely this year.’

Share with a friend.

Find a friend who knows and supports you and tell them about your intention – because while intentions may make us more responsible for our actions, we’re all bound to have slip-ups. A friend or mentor can help get you back on track when you find yourself thinking negatively or are struggling to stay in the present.

Create a vision board.

A good visual never hurt anyone. “One of my intentions was to be more patient, but I knew I was going to be tested,” says Hyman. So she created a board with clippings of words, phrases, and images that served as reminders of the long-term rewards of staying true to her mantra every time she felt her patience waning. Tip: make sure to keep your vision board somewhere you can easily see it every day.

Let it go!

Say your mantra each day when you wake up…and then let it go. You’ve planted the seed, now don’t think too much about it! “For things to manifest, we can’t hold on too tight,” says Hyman. If you’re struggling with this step, try meditation or yoga to help ease your mind and put yourself in a state of greater awareness.

– Alexis Bridenbaugh