Resolutions, Goals, and Intentions
It’s that time of year; my social media feed is filled with weight loss promotions whether it be for equipment, diets, workouts, programs, and everything in between. As a matter of fact, my local gym where I just cancelled my membership last month also called today, and e-mailed, to make sure I knew about the “incredible deal” they have running to kick off the New Year. Many people are reflecting on the year that was and looking forward while creating new goals or a New Year’s Resolution. Even if you’re like me and aren’t particularly thinking about it, chances are there’s no running from it and it’s being shoved down your throat like it is mine… Hey Annick, you should be thinking about this… 2023 is just around the corner!
Although I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with wanting to better ourselves, I think it’s worth exploring the why and the difference between a resolution, a goal, and an intention.
First things first, according to the dictionary of Cambridge, resolution is “the act of solving a problem.” You might be thinking, “duh, that’s a resolution,” but what is the underlying message? There is something wrong with you, something that needs fixing. This doesn’t sit well with me given the fact that I am really trying to believe that I am enough just as I am. Pssst… you are also enough just as you are!
But for now, let’s continue on with creating a New Year’s Resolution. A resolution usually looks something like (and I will continue with the weight loss theme because that is all I’m seeing these days) “I will run at least 30 minutes 5 days per week.” The resolution focuses on checking off that box but as a result, leaves very little room for error. Sick with a flu that knocks you our for 3 days? You fail, and chances are once you fail, you won’t bother continuing on with that resolution. I mean, have you ever heard anyone say “Yeah, I totally crushed my New Year’s Resolution, apart from the 10 times I slipped up” or “My running streak is 365 days if you count the 15 days I didn’t run.”
Okay, so obviously I don’t love resolutions, but I do see value in the concrete, specific, and measurable aspects of it (hello SMART goals). So, let’s look at goals instead. A goal might be to lose 10lbs. by December 31st, 2023. Fine, I see nothing wrong with that. A goal doesn’t mean that you are broken and you need fixing. You can be enough just as you are AND still want to be better tomorrow. That, I can get behind as someone who loves to constantly learn, grow, and strives to be better every day. Goals, however, focus on the end result, not the process, which also ends up being a win or lose situation. You either lose those 10lbs or you don’t. 9lbs? Not good enough, and you’ll end up feeling like a failure instead of celebrating how far you’ve come!
So although goal setting isn’t all bad, it’s really the journey that’s most important. As James Clear says, “goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.” So, go ahead and set goals, but make sure you plan how you’ll get there, too! And don’t be afraid to break down bigger goals into smaller, more manageable ones. Achieving those smaller goals along the way will help you stay the course and will help you celebrate regardless of if you achieve the big goal or not.
Intentions take on a very different feel. Setting intentions require us to look inwards at our core values and therefore focuses on what makes us feel happy and fulfilled. It encompasses so much more than simply looking at if we check a box or achieve a goal. An example of an intention would be to live a healthy and active life. This leaves room for mistakes, but also allows space to change, modify, learn, grow, and just be human, which in turn, becomes a powerful tool for creating lasting change.
Now trust me, as a super organized person who loves things to be black and white, I struggle with the idea of simply having an intention for the year. It almost seems too fluffy, too broad, and way too easy to say it and have nothing to show for it afterwards. I love plans, and how-tos, and schedules, and and and, but what I love about the idea of intention is the flexibility that it allows.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I’m not suggesting we all give up on setting goals and solely live with intentions, but I’m wondering if there could be space for both! Maybe my intention for 2023 is to live a healthy and active life, and to help me stay the course, or to get back on it when I fall, I will set some goals like running a half marathon, losing 10lbs, and focusing on my mental health. Maybe having an intention to fall back on when I slip will give me the strength to get up back up and keep trying, because there will be more to celebrate at the end of the year than if I simply achieved my goals. Maybe if I get injured and can’t run for a while, it’ll be easier for me to find an alternative way to move my body if my goals are driven by my intention.
Food for thought, if nothing else. Whether you’re into making New Year’s Resolutions, goals, intentions, a mixture, or none of the above, I truly wish you all the best in 2023!