Setting Intentions, Not Resolutions

At this time of year, many people are making their New Year’s Resolutions, promising themselves that they will improve their lives in some very real, tangible way. And they mean it.  Here are the top resolutions:Change road sign

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Volunteer to Help Others
  3. Quit Smoking
  4. Get a Better Education
  5. Get a Better Job
  6. Save Money
  7. Get Fit
  8. Eat Healthy Food
  9. Manage Stress
  10. Manage Debt
  11. Take a Trip
  12. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
  13. Drink Less Alcohol

So I guess this is a good time to admit that I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. Why? Because I know they mostly don’t work and I see evidence of this every year at my health club. You’ll notice that at least three of the resolutions above have to do with becoming healthier. This is something most people do at a gym, sometimes in addition to outdoor sports or training to do outdoor sports.

Crowding the Gym

I belong to The Longfellow Club in Wayland, MA and I’m there almost every day. I do a water aerobics class four times a week and on other days I use the treadmill and the weight machines. I followed this exercise routine even when I was employed. On Saturdays and Sundays I’m in the pool at 8:00 a.m., so you can tell that physical fitness is very important to me.

Most of the time, I can pull into the Longfellow parking lot and find a space with no trouble. From now until the end of March, however, parking will be tight. The treadmills will be crowded and my favorite one—the one that allows me to see the broadest range of TV news—will be taken. Lap lanes in the pool will churn with white water. Tennis courts will pop with neon-green balls.

The Crowds Dwindle

This is the annual blitz of the New Year’s Resolution Crowd. Having made the big promise that they will get fit, eat better, lose weight, or train for the Boston Marathon, they will go at it fast and furious—for three months. The crowds actually start to dwindle by the end of February but they are totally gone a month later, leaving the parking lot, the gym and the pool to us regulars for the rest of the year. This pattern is as predictable as snow in winter and heat in summer because it happens at the same time every year.

What of the folks who made all those brave resolutions with every intention of carrying them out? They have returned to their “regular” lives of going straight from home to work and from work to home without making the time for exercise. They listen to all the little excuses their bodies make for not doing all that inconvenient, time-consuming, sweaty, hair-mussing, and exhausting activity. You know what they are:New Year's Resolution

  • It’s too hot
  • It’s too cold.
  • I don’t have time.
  • I’m too tired.
  • It’s out of my way.
  • I have to get home / to work on time.
  • I’m late already.
  • I forgot to pack my gym clothes.

And on and on. The result is that the resolution they made once at the beginning of the New Year has waned and lost any power to change their behavior a mere 60 to 90 days later.

Instead, I take a different approach: setting intentions, not making resolutions.

Setting Intentions

First, I recognize that all my thoughts and every decision I make during the day help to create my reality. That means thinking about the messages I’m giving myself and how they are helping me to achieve the reality I want—or not. Every thought has a creative power and will help you to draw into your life the reality that you desire. If your thoughts are negative, that reality will follow.

Second, I meditate almost every morning. During that 20 to 30 minutes, I set an intention for the day that is positive and concrete. I may, for example, tell myself that, “Today I will be creative and productive with my writing.” Or, “Today I will do the first three things on my To Do list.”

Third, don’t beat  yourself up if you forget or fall back into old behavior. Just pick yourself up and put yourself back on the path of thinking positively about the reality you’re creating.

Intend It. Repeat

Instead of making one resolution once, I make that resolution regularly, usually every day. That effort reinforces what I want the reality of my life to be. In “A New Beginning—1; A Handbook for Joyous Survival,” Jerry and Esther Hicks state the Law of Reality Creation this way: “Intend it, and allow it—and it is.” They add the follow-on: “Offer only those thoughts and words that are in the direction of what you want.” That means, don’t contradict yourself in the same thought by putting out a reason why you can’t have it.

Does it work? I talked about this ability to create a positive reality in a previous post: “MAKE The Force Be With You: The Power of Positive Thinking” and gave several real-world examples of how it has worked for me.

You don’t have time to meditate? When I was working I found it difficult to meditate in the morning because my brain was full of plans, ideas, concerns, and worries about the day ahead so I would try to sit down and meditate at night. But even if you don’t have time to meditate, don’t know how to do it, or have concerns about meditating, you can still give yourself positive, reality-creating thoughts anywhere at any time.

Anywhere, Any Time

deer in the headlightsWhenever I get in the car, for example, I tell myself: “For this segment of my day, driving to the gym, I intend safety and a road clear of obstacles.” I added the last part in November after a four-point buck jumped a stone wall and landed in the road in front of me. Does that mean the intention doesn’t work? Not at all. The deer didn’t hit me and I had plenty of time to stop and not hit him.

If I get a scratchy throat or start coughing I do NOT say, “Oh, I’m getting a cold,” because that’s not the reality I want. Instead, I say, “I am strong and healthy.” That is positive message that points me toward good health and feeling better.

The 90-Day Intention

If you have already made your New Year’s Resolution, great! Now you know what you want and have set the intentions to make that reality happen. But don’t stop there. Repeat that message to yourself at least once a day. Repeat it when your mind or your body is trying to stop you from doing it. Repeat it before you got to bed at night and when you wake up in the morning—even as you’re standing in the shower.

Try just doing that for 90 days—the time when New Year’s Resolutions begin to fade and the parking lot empties out. It will make a difference.