Why You Should Set Intentions Instead of New Year’s Resolutions

When it comes to ringing in the New Year, it’s hard not to get a little carried away with the resolution making (and let’s not even talk about the effects of champagne on goal setting). But, by now, you have probably learned that the majority of New Year’s resolutions don’t stick. For me, after years upon years of making the old “Eat better” “Work out more often” type of goals, I’ve given up on once-a-year life overhauls. As soon as work and life get going following a blissful holiday, the gym and salads get the short end of the stick while deadlines and household chores take over. While it’s OK and reasonable to accept minor setbacks, the guilt that comes with not attaining New Years resolutions can make us feel like failures. Amirite?

That’s why this year we’re going to change the wording a bit. Instead of resolving to do better, we’re going to set intentions for the NY. Personally, I think we need to take better care of ourselves by cutting ourselves some slack at the same time as treating our bodies, and each other, with respect.

For non-yogis, here’s a little Intention Setting 101. Basically, think of this process as a gentler way of going after goals. “We can use our intentions to turn our lives around by focusing our intentions on striving to continually move towards our better selves, which typically means being more mindful and honest with ourselves,” says Robin Yolanda Lamarr, massage practitioner, movement instructor and owner of Royola yoga, Pilates and massage business in Hamilton, Ont. “Be more mindful about what we eat. Be mindful about how we relate to others. Be mindful about how the body feels and how we can move to make the body feel its best.” While “mindfulness” is a hard concept for some to grasp, think of it as just paying close attention to yourself and your feelings—we give you permission! Put your phone down and think about the decisions you’re about to make. “Do I really need another croissant today? Will this cigarette actually serve me in achieving my best self today?” says Lamarr.

I learned about setting intentions in yoga class. The teacher always told us to set an intention for our practice. At first, I was confused about what that meant, thinking “I’ll perfect my downward dog” and things like that. But as time went on, I developed a more free-spirited approach. Sometimes I would intend to rid myself of negative self talk, other times I would work on relieving that tight-chest feeling by focusing on my breath (screw trying to be super-flexible), and that was enough. But intention setting goes way beyond the yoga class, as I’ve now noticed, and I look forward to putting this practice to use in 2017. Here’s how to do it.

1. Set Daily Intentions

The great thing about daily mini-goals is that they add up to something great, and you can change them to suit your mood. “This will set you up for success—but make sure to use positive language!” says Lamarr. “For example, if you want to get fit and eat healthier, instead of saying that you’re going to hit the gym every day for at least an hour and that you’re going to give up gluten, sugar, meat, dairy—everything that tastes delicious—start small: Try something like, ‘Today, I’m going to set aside 30 minutes to move my body’ or ‘I’m going to look up easy and healthy recipes.'”

2. Move Onto Long-Term Goals

Once you’ve successfully attained your “smaller” intentions, you can start developing them, but be specific. You can map out your weekly and monthly plans. For instance, Lamarr advises you allocate a day a week for certain activities: “This week I’m going to go to the gym for at least 30 minutes on Monday and Wednesday. Sunday, I’m taking a yoga class. Sundays are my meal plan and prep days. Saturday is my day of rest and small indulgence.” By categorizing your intentions, you start to create a varied, reasonable schedule (a.k.a. not piling it all into one day).

3. Review Your Intentions

You know the saying: Out of sight, out of mind. Record your intentions and post them somewhere convenient—whether it’s on your mood board or in your agenda—and keep referring back to them. “I think starting your day by setting intentions and ending your day by reflecting on what you’re grateful for is an amazing and powerful practice,” says Lamarr. “It keeps one feeling positive and present.”