It’s that time again, the time that we’re bombarded with people talking about making new years’ resolutions, by those beautiful, misguided, semi-well-intentioned people, who think a simple date is going to be enough to effect behavioral change.
I love goals and lists, and resolutions are no exception. Each year, I read article after article about how to keep your resolution, or better resolutions, or better things to focus on. A few kick ass body positive feminists made a point of changing “resolutions” to “revolutions,” which was very appealing, but I don’t know if it fully captures the spirit and means to make these goals stick.
In yoga practice, the concept of intention is fairly central; the idea that instead of a goal, you set an intention, which allows you to be present in the moment of practice. Goals are great, but they’re finite, and set you up for always being dissatisfied; you’re not enjoying the present, because you’re waiting to feel good at some point in the future, or kicking yourself for messing up in the past.
Here’s an example. A goal would be “save $1000 in a year.” You set the goal, you figure out your budget, and a year later, you have $1000. What then?
Intention is a bigger and more global idea, and it focuses on our big picture lives. Goals are made within an intention, but intentions are not pass/fail. They are not time limited (which readers will recognize as an essential piece of goal setting strategy). Intentions guide our larger actions, guide our goal setting. If we get good at setting intentions, our actions and goals will flow naturally.
Intentions center us, allow us to live in the present and define ourselves less by achievement, more by presence and effort. It focuses us on qualities and virtues to cultivate, rather than actions we can point to and say “look, I’m this.” It focuses us on the present, how we are being in the present moment, rather than how we will feel in the future.
Instead of making a new years resolution this year, try setting an intention, and seeing what goals flow. I will give two intentions I am setting for myself in 2016 as examples.
- Be a better friend.
- Prioritize self-care.
Both of these are TERRIBLE goals. They’re vague and not time limited. But goals flow easily from these intentions. If I want to be a better friend, I could have goals like:
- Call one friend a week I don’t usually talk with
- Send a letter to someone once a month
- Make brunch plans at least once a month
These are good goals – realistic, time bound, achievable, specific. And they flow from an intention; if I don’t do all my goals, that doesn’t make me a failure, because I’m working from an intention to be a better friend, and that’s something I am constantly working to improve and solidify. If my only goal was to call one friend a week, and I did that, eventually it’ll be like…ok, now what? What else can I do?
Set an intention this year – be present, focus on the intangible, and stop being judge and jury on yourself. How’s that for starting 2016?