Why New Year’s Resolutions Can Be Harmful (and how to set intentions instead)

Do you find yourself feeling extremely motivated around the holidays to write down a list of everything you want to accomplish for the upcoming year? Most people do.

This is because most of the time, your list of New Year’s resolutions is just a page full of mental blurbs. Many of the goals and resolutions stay on the list and remain unfulfilled.

You might look at the list and attempt a few of the resolutions, but then another month or two goes by and you still aren’t feel satisfied.

The reason that these lists of resolutions can be harmful is because a lot of the time, they’re not properly put into effect. They’re just an idea or aspiration that you wrote on paper, but something you don’t actually know how to implement into your life.

The list ends up haunting you by the time summer comes around because you haven’t gotten around to the third resolution, and by the time fall comes around, you just push them off until the following year.

This is something that I did for years, not understanding the pressure that I was putting on myself by writing down my goals. I thought that I was being healthy and proactive by making a clear note for myself to see and be constantly reminded, thinking that the pressure of the clock ticking would help me to accomplish my goals.

What I wasn’t noticing was that as I was getting older, it started affecting my self- confidence by watching these aspirations get brushed under the rug; noticing that I wasn’t accomplishing any of them.

It makes sense that resolutions don’t stick when you stop to consider what a “resolution” is: the solution to a problem, a decision or determination.

Here’s the kicker.

You are not a problem to solve, a determination to make, or an opinion that needs voting on. It doesn’t matter what you didn’t accomplish last year. You can take a step in the direction of accomplishing goals when you feel ready.

Months may pass by, but one day you’ll decide that you’re ready to make a plan. Your aspirations might change over time. What may have seemed important six months prior may no longer serve you by the time the end of the year rolls around.

Rather than list a series of resolutions, I’ve begun to determine the ways in which I intend to live for the next year.

Instead of seeing what resolutions I did or did not succeed in maintaining, I take in the progress I have made since the previous year, and see how, despite setbacks and unexpected challenges, I have persevered in creating my intended life.

“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.” – Ellen Goodman

Setting Intentions

Instead of the pressure of checking off resolutions throughout the year, try setting intentions for yourself.

There may not sound like a huge difference between resolutions and intentions, but there is a world of difference.

What is the difference between making a resolution to go to gym 3 times a week, and setting the intention to live a healthier lifestyle? A lot.

The former is a command that doesn’t come with much wiggle room. If you make it to gym, great. If you don’t, then what?

People tend to beat themselves up over their inability to maintain the resolution, or they may say “I don’t have time” and give up on the activity altogether.

All of this leads to a cycle of negative thinking and the resolution dissolves.

The solution?

Setting one powerful intention. Instead of a slew of resolutions, set an intention that you can work towards cultivating by the end of the year.

We may not always be able to meet our needs and desires immediately as they arise, but we can still tune into the messages that our body, mind, and heart send to us, and honor those.

This is the blessing of self-care. Being able to make choices accordingly for your life when it feels best for you.


The Traveling Yogi

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