New Year: Resolutions vs Intentions and Goals


It’s that time of year again – setting a “New Year’s Resolution” (or six). I will lose ‘x’ kg.  I will exercise more. I will give up ‘xyz’.

It is something that has always intrigued me as often it has come up in conversation as the “yes I will set one, but I know I will break it within a day”.  So what’s the point?

As people I believe we are driven by self-betterment and goal setting is part of this; it just seems to be that January 1 is the trigger date for most.  Each new year presents a clean slate, so it just makes sense.

This year I have created my intentions, and aligned my goals with them, rather than setting a “New Year Resolution” – this phrasing is very deliberate by me.  It changes a single, but very significant factor: 


In the past a lot of my resolutions were based around something I thought I should be doing, rather than what I wanted to be doing or how I wanted to be feeling.  I was really only setting myself up for a pass/fail result. Using a great big stick to beat up on myself when I didn’t get it ‘right’ and therefore failing dismally in the process.  Was I ever happy with the results I achieved – rarely.  My most successful resolution was quite liberating - the year I resolved to give up on New Years Resolutions!

This is not to say that I don’t have any goals to focus on and achieve; quite the contrary – I always have a list full of them.  It is just that my goals align with my intention and energise and fulfill my spirit.  I focus not only on the goal outcome, but how achieving this goal will make me feel.

So what is the difference between a resolution and an intention?

A resolution is a course of action with a firm determination.  It doesn’t give you any leeway or room to move.  It is focused on change; but usually something that is “wrong” with us.  This can even be seen in people’s wording – “I will lose…”  If we deviate from our course of action we feel guilt and shame for being weak or lazy and worse still, if we don’t achieve this course of action we are a “failure” and feed into our negative self-worth.

An intention is an objective that guides our actions.  It is self-directed and purposeful, with room to change and adapt to circumstances.  Intentions are a commitment to align our actions with our values and our purpose – they reflect who we are as people and make as feel energized, fulfilled and in balance.  Intentions are the higher framework that are underpinned by our goals; enabling us to live our purpose.

So how do we successfully live our intentions and achieve our goals?

1. Reflect on your Intention/s

What or how do we want to be living, feeling or contributing to myself, family and others?

2. Re-frame your Goals

What am I gaining?  Rather than ‘losing’ something, what am I gaining from this experience – health, energy, heartfelt connections and relationships…

3. Chunk it Down

Intentions can feel large, and so too can the goals that align with them.  Don’t make things too big to tackle in one bite – think of the steps needed to get there!  Remember – how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

4. Create a Strategy and Action Plan to Achieve your Goals

This follows on from the step above. In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery – “a goal without a plan is a just a wish”.  Write it down, hash it out and create specific steps to get there.

5. Acknowledge and Celebrate your Achievements

Even the small ones count!  It is building on these that lead you to your desired outcomes.

6. Learn from your Mistakes

View mistakes as an opportunity to learn and do something different next time.

7. Lastly, remember…

It is not entirely about the destination, but the journey taken to get there.

I wish you an amazing 2015!

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Photo Credit: Emotive Images