Why you should stop making resolutions
Have you ever made a resolution? Many of us do it around the new year, when we feel a personal reset is in order. And for the most part, they seem harmless: we want to take better care of our car, get a promotion at work, learn how to play an instrument.
But what if I told you these goals weren’t harmless? That, while effectively neutral, they were taking up space in your life that could be directed toward making different kinds of resolutions? And what if those other kinds of resolutions — the kinds you’re not making right now — could radically change your life, turning it into an intentional process of emotional wellbeing?
If you’re interested, then it’s time we started talking about emotional intentions versus personal resolutions. By the end of this article, you should have a good grasp on the difference between these two dialectical states of being, as well as how to move toward goals that serve you, instead of hindering you.
So, what’s the problem with resolutions?
Resolutions seem harmless. But are they? Let’s take one extremely common resolution and see if that holds true. Most people make commitments to exercise and “get healthy” at some point in their lives. They start going to the gym, eating well, running every day and working on their physical wellbeing. All of this is good, right?
It would be, if we didn’t know what usually happens next. Life gets in the way of the goal: kids need picking up from school, a work project takes up your entire night, or laundry hasn’t been done — and just like that, exercising falls by the wayside. The result? We lose our momentum, tumble off the wagon. And in response to that, we beat ourselves up, criticize our level of commitment, call ourselves worthless.
Are we worthless for doing laundry instead of going to the gym? Of course not! But when we attach our emotional state to our level of goal acquisition, our minds allow us to think this way. This is the problem with standard resolutions: they’re an easy way to trap ourselves in an awful emotional state that actually prevents us from doing what we want to do.
If resolutions are a “no,” what are intentions? And how can I use them?
Instead of resolutions, emotional intentions have everything to do with how we want to feel, instead of what we want to do. Rather than beating yourself up for not necessarily exercising, the new goal becomes not beating yourself up over small things. Instead of a traditional goal-oriented resolution, your resolution becomes the following: “What kind of mental and emotional state do I want to live in?”
That’s a powerful question. And by leading with that question, our goals and other needs tend to fall in line. To demonstrate this, here’s an exercise for you: instead of picking three or four new goals you want to focus on, pick just one emotional intention you want to lead with. Start with something simple. “I want to feel good” is a great intention to have. If this is your intention, then your job is to look for any experience in your daily life that will allow you to feel good.
Maybe someone makes a joke. Or you have a lovely lunch with your coworkers. Or your kid wins her volleyball game and tells you all about it at the dinner table. Any of these experiences can be used to help you feel amazing. Once you do, you might notice you’ve become more engaging, funny, creative, present and warm. This is what naturally happens when we’re feeling great about ourselves and our lives. And those feelings influence how we’re going to feel tomorrow, because each day informs the day after.
See where this is going? Instead of a checklist of resolutions, we’re looking to achieve a cycle of positive reinforcement through strong emotional intentions.
In the end, feeling great about something helps you do it better than you would otherwise. So while the core goal of having better intentions is to make you feel great, the byproduct is that you usually end up achieving your goals anyway — without holding your feet to the fire if you don’t. See how it works?
Intent is a game-changer. It helps us reorient our minds and approach everything we do in a new way. And once you’re really good at it, you start to notice that your intent can literally change the way the world responds to you — because your positive state is not linked to any external stimuli.
Of course, that’s advanced stuff! Which is why, if you’re curious about learning more about resolutions, intentions and emotional states, you should look into the experience that spawned this whole conversation. I hope it’s as helpful to you as it’s been to me!