Why I Don’t Make 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. For the most part, they seem innocuous: we want to take better care of our health, get a promotion at work, or learn how to play an instrument.
But what if I told you these goals weren’t risk-free? 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 opposing ideas, as well as how to move toward goals that serve you instead of hinder 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: the kids need to be picked 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 and tumble off the wagon. Then we beat ourselves up, criticize our level of commitment or 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 goal attainment, 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 prevents us from doing what we want to do.
Think about other resolutions that cause the same effect:
“This year I am going to find a mate.”
“This year I am going to read two books per month.”
“This year I am going to increase my personal income.”
“This year I am going to keep my house so clean that guests can visit without warning.”
All great goals, but what if some of these take longer than a year? What if one month, you only read one book instead of two? What if you are working super hard on a project at work and the dishes don’t get done for an entire week? What if you go out on a series of first dates and make a whole bunch of friends instead of intimate partners? What if there’s a global pandemic and instead of getting the raise you hoped for you end up getting a salary cut?
If we fail to reach these goals, the outcome only leads us to one place — self-recrimination and disappointment.
If resolutions are a “no,” what can I try instead?
Instead of resolutions, emotional intentions have everything to do with how we want to feel as opposed to 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. 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 a sense of appreciation” 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 grateful.
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 trigger gratitude. Once you begin to feel this way more often, you might notice you’ve become more engaging, funny, creative, present and warm and you might notice others expressing their appreciation for you. This is what naturally happens when we’re feeling thankful. These 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.
The result is this… feeling good, hopeful and appreciative helps you achieve your goals with greater ease than it would be if you felt disappointed, tired and frustrated. So while the primary purpose of making resolutions with respect to your emotional state is to help you feel better, the byproduct is that you usually end up achieving your tangible goals as well — without needing to beat yourself up 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. With practice and deliberation, you will start to feel a greater sense of control and peacefulness because your emotional state is not linked to any external stimuli.
If you want to discuss your goals, resolutions, intentions and emotional states, please reach out! My intention is to experience true connection with every single person I spend time with.