Forget Resolutions; Focus on Intentions

For many of us the new year is a time to re-adjust. As we embark on the journey into 2021, take a moment to contemplate how 2020 affected you. Living through a pandemic, a heavily polarized presidential election, and coping with the inevitable changes of life is something to acknowledge. When making a plan on how to approach this new year, many choose resolutions based on what didn’t work the year prior. According to Cambridge University, a resolution is, “a promise to yourself to do or to not do something.” However, how many of these promises do we break by the end of January?

Resolutions vs Intentions

This year instead of keeping resolutions, what if we restructure our approach and focus on intentions? Intentions are defined as, a present moment aim or plan of how we want to portray ourselves in our lives. Intentions are rooted in your personal values and give us direction as to how to reach goals in a constructive way. Having the “resolution” of losing weight becomes a lot more attainable when your ”intention” is to eat at least 1 fruit and vegetable everyday accompanied with a 20 minute walk. Both of these allow us to arrive at the same goal however, intentions set out a concrete road for us to travel on and give us tools that keep us strong along the journey to your goal.

Figure out your values

Each person’s values are at the core of finding the intentions to focus on for your new year journey. When setting your intentions, think about what is important to you. This can include hobbies, health and fitness, mental health, career, relationships, education, etc. These core values, “give our lives meaning and allow us to persevere through adversity,” according to The Self-Confidence Workbookwritten by psychologists Barb Markway and Celia Ampel. Here’s a helpful resource to discovering yours personal values.

Setting your intentions

John Montopoli LMFT, LPCC suggests using these 5 straightforward steps to help with setting your own daily intentions.

  1. Set your intention at the beginning of your day.
  2. Check in with how you are feeling and your energy level.
  3. After checking in with yourself, think about what’s most important to you today.
  4. Based on how you are feeling and what’s important,  make specific, manageable, and reasonable intentions and write them down.
  5. Set up periodic reminders throughout the day to bring you back to your intentions. These reminders can be set on your phone or by creating a habit of anchoring these intentions to different parts of your daily routine.  

Living intentionally takes practice and fortunately, you don’t have to wait for the next year if one day doesn’t go as planned. Intentions are based within the journey of making your values an active part of your life. It’s also an opportunity to practice self compassion knowing that tomorrow presents another chance. Here are some examples to start with suggested by Dr. Angelica Attard Psy.D and John Montopoli LMFT, LPCC:

  • Today, my intention is to be kind to myself/others by noticing my self criticism and judgment of others.
  • Today, my intention is to be present when playing with my children by carving out 30 minutes without interruption by electronics.
  • Today, my intention is to treat my body with respect by going for a 30 minute walk.
  • Today, my intention is to maintain an open-mind in my work meeting by listening to others’ comments before my own.
  • Today, my intention is to face the things that I have been avoiding by reviewing my to do list right after breakfast.
  • Today, my intention is to approach this day with courage by noting when I have fear and doubts and asking myself if this is in line with my values.

Remembering to be kind to yourself when running into challenges can keep you going. Share with us your intentions and how you plan on keeping yourself on track this year.

About The Author

Rudairo Segbeaya is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Pacific CBT’s Office Manager. Rudairo received a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of San Francisco in 2018. In 2021, she later received a Master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University.