When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, it’s easy to make a bunch — you’ll pay off all your credit card debt and finish writing that book. But you then find yourself not achieving any of them. That’s why intentions are better than resolutions for 2022. YouGov found that approximately one in four Americans said they made New Year’s resolutions for 2020 and about half of the respondents said they kept actually kept some of them. So why is it so easy to break our resolutions, which are like promises to ourselves?
“People fail to keep their resolutions because there really is no concrete plan or objective,” Dr. Fumi Stephanie Hancock, psychiatric mental health doctor and author of multiple books, including Release Your Vision Torch: A Blueprint for Success, tells TZR in an email. “Some set resolutions because they see others doing it and feel obligated to also. But with intentions, you’ll have an exit strategy if results are not looking like you’d anticipated. Then you can pivot.”
Licenced Marriage and Family Therapist Oliver Drakeford says there is something quite rigid or binary about resolutions — that there are only two possible results: you will succeed at keeping the resolution or you won’t. “I prefer living in life’s complexities and teach my clients to embrace the shades of gray in between the black and white,” he tells TZR in an email. “Intentions allow for us to be open to the myriad of outcomes that might occur if we are open to more than two potential ones.”
Ahead, read on as experts build their cases for intentions over the standard new year’s resolutions. Take notes.
Intentions Have Specific Plans Behind Them
Hancock says the word "intention" denotes you have a plan, purpose, objective, and/or goals. “There is a sense of responsibility and added determination to see it through,” she says. “You have a set plan and structure with the understanding that it must be flexible whereas resolutions are not. You begin to really map out your journey while considering other things that may happen and could impede your journey.”
Liza Colpa, 500-RYT meditation and yoga teacher with several manifesting meditations on Insight Timer, also says intentions may work better than resolutions. “I believe super accessible, habit-building, and pleasurable intentions may help people stay in alignment with these goals because the key isn’t about the goal, but the journey toward it,” she tells TZR in an email. “If we say, ‘I want to get up every day at 5 a.m. to run,’ start with simply getting up, or simply running. Maybe underneath that goal the intention is to move more or one day run a marathon.” But you don’t have to run a marathon this year, she says, or the next. “If it happens, great, but the intention is that you went on the journey of simply trying,” she adds.
Intentions Allow For More Creativity And Adaptability
Drakeford says he thinks people fail to keep their resolutions when the goal is too specific and inflexible. “There is a psychological phenomenon known as ‘functional fixedness’ that resolutions might lean toward,” he says. “This is a cognitive bias that limits the ways you can imagine using something to what you are used to using it for. For example, if you only write down notes from a phone call on a Post-it Note to scribble a note down while on the phone, you won’t think to use it as a bookmark or coaster for your coffee. Similarly, if there’s only one way to reach your resolution, it makes the journey much more challenging, but intentions allow for creativity and adaptability.” He says intentions open you up to possibilities and creativity. “They are a big-picture view of where you want to go and they allow you to be open to new ways of getting there,” he says.
Drakeford says that if making resolutions is easier for you, you can start with one (or however many) and then work away at it until it’s more flexible and open to possibilities. “Turn the resolution from specific, turn-by-turn driving instruction into a general idea of what direction to head in,” he says. “‘I will work out every evening five times a week’ is a very specific set of driving instructions whereas ‘My intention is to work out more than I did last year’ is a general direction in which you want to head in.” Most importantly, he says, the intention allows for new possibilities — or new ways of navigating — in the direction you’d like. “Working out at the gym five times might get you healthy, but it limits creative ways to reach the same goal, like walking to work one day or taking the dog out for an extra walk over the weekend,” he adds.
Intentions Change Your Frame Of Mind
Intentions can change your frame of mind, which is another huge benefit, Drakeford explains. “There’s a lot of research coming out about how our mindset impacts the way we filter out information from the world,” he says. “In The Serendipity Mindset, in one study, a group of volunteers who set a positive intention found a five-pound note [a bit more than $5] on the sidewalk that had been planted by researchers. The group of volunteers with negative or neutral mindsets walked right past the same note — they didn’t even see it. So intentions open up our world to possibilities, creativity, and ways to reach our goals if we go off-course.”
When Setting Intentions, Look At Your Pain Points For Guidance
Hancock says that when trying to come up with your 2022 intentions, ask yourself what your pain points are at this time. “Then create a book of intentions rather than just the clichéd annual ritual (which is the yearly resolution),” she says. “Do you want to start your own business? Then start with your genuine intention and begin to map things out in the form of vision mapping and a business plan.” She says to note that vision mapping is different from a vision board. With the former, you write out a very specific vision and road map of how you’ll get there.
Hancock says she did this herself several years ago when she lost everything, including her businesses, cars, and home — she became homeless with two young boys. “I saw no way out of the shame, guilt, and embarrassment I was going through at the time,” she says. “My New Year’s resolution had no steam or legs behind it, but my intentions did. I mapped out the exit strategy and followed my written intention to the letter.” Her book of intentions was then born, as was a series of books.
Also Think About Your Life Purpose…
Hancock says that in the advent of the pandemic, many people are having to rethink their life purpose. For instance, some are quitting jobs which they felt had not served that purpose — and they have no clue what is next. But intentions will help — just like they helped Hancock, she points out. She says she had dreams — but they were only dreams until she started to put legs on them. “‘Intent’ provided me that opportunity and the ‘how-to,’ as well as empowered and encouraged me to keep moving,” she says. “I was no longer confused: My vision was clear because of the plans which were written down right in front of me. Any fear and doubt that I would fail dissipated because I was well-prepared.”
Colpa adds that we need to be more compassionate when it comes to our intentions and goals. “How things happen in our minds is very rarely how they happen in real life,” she says. “So getting clear on the energy underneath the intentions and goals, staying true to yourself, and being proud of all the little steps helps to keeps us motivated, focused, and flexible.”