I’m not overly big on setting New Year's Resolutions because I find that if we don’t stick to them, we get disappointed in ourselves, and it can actually hinder us rather than help us. I have found that setting an intention for the new year is far more effective instead (if you've already set New Year's Resolutions and really want to stick to them, it might be helpful to read my blog post from last year). If you are unsure of what intentions to set, jump to these journal prompts.
Why do I find setting intentions works better? By selecting an overall theme and intention for the year, it becomes much easier to actually reach your goals without feeling like you are not achieving them. It gives you flexibility to adapt what you focus on as your life ebbs and flows throughout the year.
When we set New Year’s Resolutions, we usually get specific about what we want to achieve and how we want to do it. For example, let's say your New Year’s Resolution is to get fit and work out more. You may decide that you want to go to the gym or do a fitness class at least 4 times a week. If your week gets quite busy and you start missing classes or not getting to the gym, you may either give up on your goal or beat yourself up for not sticking to it.
Being the overachievers we usually are, we may have a tendency to overload ourselves with too many resolutions or actions because we want to change everything at once. However, behaviors and habits are some of the hardest things to change, so trying to change too much all at once is a very challenging and unrealistic expectation of ourselves.
By setting 1 – 3 intentions, we can make decisions and align our actions to our overall intentions to feel like we are progressing towards them opposed to failing to achieve them and feeling bad about ourselves.
For example, if you set an intention of 'Fitness' or 'Health,' there are many different actions that can fall under this umbrella. You can adapt your actions to suit what is happening in your life during that time. If you start the year by going to the gym to catch a class a few times a week after work, when you hit a busy period where you can’t make it, then you can make an adjustment - you could start doing yoga at home in the mornings before work until you can get back to getting to a class. By doing this, you are still working towards your intention of Fitness or Health without having to feel guilty that you are not doing anything to work towards that goal.
Giving yourself flexibility and some leeway is critical to be able to stay motivated to stick to your goals for the year, without giving up or getting down on yourself. We can often ‘should’ ourselves into submission, which generally leads to our inner critic making us feel bad, guilty or shameful about ourselves. This is not an empowering place from which to operate in our day-to-day life, especially to achieve the success we truly want and actually feel fulfilled when we do. By showing yourself some compassion, forgiveness and encouragement, you will have a more successful year in achieving your goals overall. This isn’t about making excuses and just not reaching your goals, but it's about being fluid in how you get there, by making adaptations as you need to fit in with your life and build or maintain your own sense of self-worth along the way.
An example of one of my intentions from 2021 was 'Freedom.' At the beginning of the year, I was still working in my corporate job. I had just come off the back of a huge year where I was working anywhere between 12–16-hour workdays and working most weekends. I desired freedom of my own time, as year after year I found myself working more, and continued to miss out on quality time with my now-teenagers, who will likely be leaving home in just a few short years. So, I started the year with blocking out my calendar in advance to help manage my overloaded meeting schedule. I selected a few days a week and held myself to a time to stop working for the day so I could go for a walk or do a workout at home, and then spend time with my kids in the evening. I also committed to myself to stop working most of my weekends unless I absolutely had to. I adjusted my actions depending on what I needed to achieve that week. All of these actions helped me prioritize better, stop overcommitting and allowed me to feel a level of freedom within my situation without sacrificing my intention altogether.
My ultimate freedom was mid-2021 when I resigned from my role to work in my business full-time. Even though there are many things to focus on and get done, I am very conscious about maintaining a level of freedom and not falling back into the trap of working as much as I did in the past. I didn’t start the year with a plan to make such a big transition of leaving my corporate career, but every day I express gratitude for where I’ve ended up and meeting my intention of freedom, especially compared to where I was the year before.
To help you with this process, I’ve created a few journal prompts below to do some reflection on the year just passed, help set your intentions for the upcoming year and dig into what it would take for you to achieve them.
So, grab a notebook or journal and a cup of your favorite hot beverage and contemplate the questions below.
What went well for you in 2021?
What do you wish went better and why?
What learnings did you get about yourself in 2021?
What can you bring into 2022 with you (e.g., goals, new actions or behaviors you’d started, new beliefs you created etc.)?
If you had a magic wand, what do you want to happen in 2022?
List around 5 things that you want to happen in your life in areas such as career, health, relationships, financial, spiritual etc.?
Are there any key themes emerging? If so, list them out.
Now, select your top 3 main intentions for 2022.
Write them out as a word or a phrase, then describe what it means to you. For example, let's say one of my intentions is 'Being Healthy' – for me this would mean feeling fit and well not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well.
What could stop you from achieving this?