Out with Resolutions, In with Intentions

Hello 2016! The start of a new year is always filled with hope, possibility and, of course...resolutions! But as you can tell by the title of this post, I'm suggesting that we say no to resolutions and embrace intentions instead.

It may seem like semantics to some people, but I feel that there are major differences in the energy and emotions behind the concepts of resolutions and intentions. Those of you who've been reading my posts will remember the distinction I made in my post on values between the "have to" versus "want to" values. Resolutions are filled with a lot of "have to" energy but intentions have a "want to" vibe about them.

Resolutions are often fear-based, meaning that we make them to avoid what we consider to be past mistakes and to try to distance ourselves from the emotions and experiences, such as pain, rejection, anger and sadness, that resulted from our old habits, behaviours and patterns. I'm not saying that resolutions are bad. The aim in making them is a desire to do and be better in the New Year but the underlying motivation is often because we didn't like past results. Some of the major reasons that resolutions are broken is that we resolve to make a change that we're not ready for, or it's not something we actually want to do or are prepared to do. Rather, we make these resolutions because we feel it's something we should do. Resolutions are also seeped in guilt: guilt about the actions or behaviours that led to the creation of the resolutions in the first place; and guilt if we aren't able to keep these resolutions. Seriously, this is heavy stuff. No wonder many of us have resolved never to make resolutions!

Where resolutions are about moving away from things we don't want, intentions, on the other hand, are about moving closer to what we really want. Again, this may seem like semantics, but in terms of energy, this is a huge distinction. In my coach training with iPEC, intentions were defined as: "the message you give yourself about what you're planning on doing". Instead of being fear-based, intentions are conscious-based, meaning that they are full of "want to" energy. They are consciously chosen, done on purpose and completely intentional. Intentions are hopeful, future-focused and put you in control.

There's a lot written out there on the power of focusing on what you want rather than on what you don't want. Our attention and energy create the results we see. It's like when you were learning to drive and the instructor (aka. your dad) told you not to look at the curb. Why was that? Because if you look at the curb, you'll end up driving into it - even if you really want to avoid it. The takeaway lesson here is: look in the direction you want to go!

Despite the fact that we know these things, I still find that for many of us, the focus remains on what we don't want for ourselves and our lives. We're much less clear on what we do want. So let's flip the switch and start setting some intentions! I know this may seem like a daunting task, but I promise you, it's so worthwhile. I'm going to break down the process to make it less overwhelming for you.

Start by reflecting on the different areas of your life. What aspects of your life would you like to enhance? Maybe you want to live more in accordance with some of your top values that you haven't been honouring or maybe you'd like to nurture and share gifts that you forgot you had or have been taking for granted. Perhaps you want to boldly put a dream out there that you've never had the courage to do before. What do you really want for your life?

Now comes the detective work. We've got to figure out if that sneaky "have to" energy is trying to hijack our supposed "want to"-based intentions. To get to the bottom of this, ask yourself some questions about each of the intentions you just set: Why is this intention important to me? How will my life be different if I make this change or live my life in accordance with this new intention?

How much were your answers focused on avoiding negative stuff (ie. fear-based) and how much were they aimed at moving you towards what you want (ie. conscious-based)? Please keep in mind that we're so used to thinking about what we don't want. So be kind and patient with yourself if you find that your intentions were more fear-based. Just keep repeating the process until you come up with some conscious-based intentions that you're excited about.

Here are some other tips to help you create amazing intentions:

Get super specific with them. That way you can actually measure how you're doing. An intention of "being happier" will be hard to implement and hard to measure. How do you plan to "be happy"? How will you know if you're happier? It's very important for you to be clear on what exactly it is that you want to see happen and to know the time frame around when you want it to happen. It might seem tedious, but take out that fine-toothed comb and get detailed. It's a critical step in the process.

Take your intentions and break them into bite-sized pieces. I'm all for dreaming big, but I also know that creating successful and sustainable change is all about carving up your big, fabulous dream into manageable and achievable steps. It may not seem very glamorous or exciting to make these small changes, but there's no better recipe for overwhelm, stress and giving up on your goals entirely than going crazy big right out of the gate.

To get you started, I thought it might be helpful for you to have an example. Here is one of my 2016 intentions: I want to make my health a priority by getting 8 hours of sleep nightly, meditate daily and exercise 2-3 times per week. I place a high value on physical and emotional well-being, so this intention allows me to honour those values. I believe that this intention will enhance my life by giving me more energy to be the person I want to be and to do all of the things I love.

Remember guys, this is a process. We're not always going to be perfect. If over the course of the year you find that you've lost your direction, remind yourself to look where you want to go and you'll be able to find your way back.

I wish you a new year filled with happiness, love, adventure, fun and awareness!! As always, I'd love to hear from you. What are some of your intentions for the year ahead?