Something like 80% of all New Year’s resolutions fail in the first two months of the year.
This year, instead of being a statistic, what about setting intentions instead?
Why do New Year’s resolutions fail?
Resolutions tend to be a list of things to stop doing, or vague goals that are difficult to measure. They also tend to involve big changes to your life- without a clear path to follow or a logical next step in the plan.
If resolutions are destinations…
Intentions and habits are the route to get there.
Think of intentions as a practice: something that you can do weekly or daily to lead you to your larger goal.
Setting intentions for the New Year might include eating vegetables in every meal, walking a certain amount of steps per day, or drinking water before each meal.
Intentions tend to be goal focused, but flexible- so if you miss out on a day or two, no problem! You can pick up right where you left off, no need to feel ‘guilty’ or like you’ve failed.
The reason why New Year’s resolutions fail
- Your resolution is vague and hard to measure. How many times have you heard (or even set) a resolution like ‘I want to get in shape’ or ‘I want to get organized?
These can be amazing resolutions that can truly change your life, but these phrases don’t actually mean anything. Think about it this way- if you can’t measure it, how do you know if it’s successful or not?
- Your resolution is too extreme. YES, you can make huge changes to your life, but many resolutions fail because they are just simply TOO extreme.
For example, if you set a resolution to lose weight, but your idea of weight loss is dropping 5 kg in a week, that is both unhealthy and unrealistic.
Extreme resolutions create an almost immediate sense of failure, which means that instead of reassessing the resolution, you’re much more likely to simply give up.
- You’re not actually ready to make this change yet. This happens quite often with resolutions that include giving something up- like smoking or drinking.
Being prepared for change is just as important as the change itself- and is the reason that failure is so common.
- You don’t have a plan. Without a plan, there is no progress.
Most resolutions fail because the goal is the focus, not the process. In order to reach your desired result, there needs to be a plan in place.. and that plan needs to be PROGRESSIVE, REALISTIC and CONSISTENT.
However, the plan should be flexible, and offer solutions for when things get hard, life gets stressful, or when you simply don’t feel motivated.
What exactly is an intention, anyways?
Intentions are practices, not goals. An intention helps align you with your values and desired outcomes, but without the external pressure that you often feel when you set a goal.
With an intention, there is no ‘I should’, ‘I have to’- an intention not driven by shame, but by purpose. Your intentions will bring you closer to the person that you want to be.
Why set intentions?
Intentions are practices that are aligned with your goals and values. Think of intentions as the path to a destination- there are many different paths you can take, but they all lead to the same outcome. Intentions are flexible, and can shift throughout the practice.
Goals, however, are often rigid and inflexible- if you don’t reach your goal (for example, you lose 8 kilos instead of 10), it means you’ve failed. The practice of setting intentions and practicing them is flexible, and there is no ‘failure’. Intentions flow naturally from what you prioritize in your life, instead of being task oriented and often going against your inherent priorities and values.
I’m going to give you some examples of how to set realistic intentions, and how they can help lead you to your goals in a way that resolutions often fail.
Resolution: I’m going to stop eating carbs!
If this is your resolution, you might follow a strict low carb diet for a few weeks, and daydream about eating pasta or a piece of toast.
Finally, you break down and have a plate of pasta, and you feel guilty afterwards.
You may or may not go back to the diet, but the cycle of on again/off again will most likely continue.
For more on why this might be a bad idea… read this blog post.
Intention: My intention is to eat more nourishing, whole foods.
To practice this intention, you would make sure to stay on the perimeter of the grocery store when shopping, you will fill your grocery list with vegetables, fruit, lean proteins and other whole foods, you would browse healthy, whole food recipes, and you would choose healthier options when eating out.
The outcome of both with probably be similar- if weight loss and/or improved health is the underlying goal, BOTH the intention and the resolution will help this come to fruition.
However, the intention is aligned with the underlying value: a healthier lifestyle.
But which one do you think is more likely to last?
Creating habits that will actually last through your intentions
Finally, I’ll leave you with this. Anything that is worth doing is going to require EFFORT.
However, you are much more likely to be able to maintain effort over the course of time if the process is in line with your overall values. Before setting resolutions OR intentions, ask yourself a few questions.
What do I spend my free time doing? What is important to me? What am I willing, ready and able to change about myself or my environment?
These answers may be surprising, and will offer you insight into what you truly value, and what intentions might be the best for you to invest in for the future.
For guidance on what types of intentions you could set this year, and ideas on how to get started with intentions, watch this video.
Don’t forget to hit SUBSCRIBE on my YouTube channel, and comment below the video to let me know about your intentions for this year.