Entering the New Year with Intention
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? How long do they last? If you find yourself wavering on your resolutions just days or weeks into any new year, you are not alone: research suggests that less than 10 percent of people keep their resolutions. If you are looking for a way to better sustain your resolutions, consider setting an intention first. Here, intention refers to something I encourage my yoga students to create at the beginning of each class, which is an affirmation of what is already within you to be who you want to be. Resolutions are related, but focus more on the actions you need to take to get there. Both are essential to realizing one’s potential, but resolutions are hard to sustain without the foundation of a clear intention. Said another way, it is important to affirm who it is you seek to be before deciding what you want to do. Reversing the order might cost you more time and other resources than you are willing to invest.
To set an intention that serves as a strong foundation for sustainable resolutions, follow these three ‘Ps’:
- Be Positive: Articulate how you want to be rather than the behaviors you want to stop. Just as telling a child “no” often yields more undesired behavior, telling ourselves we want to stop doing something tends to ramp up our focus on the very thing we are trying to avoid. Instead, shift those valuable attentional resources by creating a positive statement about the way you want to be with yourself, with others, and in the world.
- Be Purposeful: Focus on what is meaningful by honing in on the reason(s) behind your resolution. For example, if you’ve resolved to lose weight this year, ask yourself why and continue to do so until you end up with a response that resonates with you – not what others want for you. Seeking ways to align your behavior with what is at the personal root of your goal – good health, for example – can help broaden the ways in which you are able to meet the specific goal stated in your resolution.
- Be Present: State your intention in the present tense. Neuroscience research shows that imagining an experience can shape our perception and behaviors as much as actually having the experience, supporting the notion that the voice in our head that tells us whether we can or cannot do something really matters. In the same vein, speaking your intention in the present tense – e.g., “I am well,” rather than, “I want to be well” – can influence you on a subconscious level to behave in ways that are consistent with that intention, rather than pushing the change you seek into the future.
Once you have an intention that is positive, purposeful, and stated in the present tense, write it down, review it daily, and watch it manifest.