As we age, our priorities and goals change. We may no longer have the same desires and motivations that we did in our younger years and what was once important to us may no longer hold the same significance. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge ourselves and continue growing as individuals. In this article, Dr Ellen Albertson will explain why setting intentions is more powerful than setting New Year’s resolutions providing tips for creating meaningful and achievable goals for a fulfilling midlife.
Do you set New Year’s resolutions? You’re not alone. According to a YouGov poll over a third of American adults plan to make New Year’s resolutions in 2024. From saving money and exercising more to losing weight and switching careers, come January we set resolutions to feed our craving for change.
However, while New Year’s resolutions can help you set goals and improve your life only about 9% of Americans who make them keep them. By the end of the first week in January 23% of people have broken their resolutions and 43% have quit by the end of the month.
If you want to rock your midlife, setting New Year intentions is a more effective and sustainable alternative that will connect you with your passion and purpose as well as guide your actions and mindset so you can hit your goals and grow.
The problem with New Year’s resolutions
When you set an intention instead of a resolution, you stop thinking about wanting what you do not have and start channelling your energy toward what you want to achieve.
In contrast to intentions, New Year’s resolutions tend to be future-focused, goal-oriented, and rigid. For example, “I will lose 20 pounds“, or “I will get out of debt“. The emphasis is on the destination, not the journey, and values generally are not incorporated. Resolutions can also be unrealistic, and rather than mindfulness, there is often an all-or-nothing mindset associated with them. They are also accompanied by high expectations and pressure which triggers anxiety and stress undermining motivation.
These issues make resolutions difficult to stick to and adjust as circumstances change. For example, if your resolution is “to get in shape” and you miss your morning workout because you overslept you may feel like a failure and quit going to the gym.
What is an intention?
An intention is what you intend to do, be, or achieve. Like an arrow focused on a bull’s eye, intentions are the purpose or aim that guides your actions, behaviours, and decisions. They are statements or affirmations that express how you want to show up and the qualities you want to cultivate in your life.
Intentions are powerful because they help you make conscious decisions that are in alignment with your values. That’s why they are frequently used in mindfulness, meditation, and personal development practices. Intentions are also powerful manifestation tools because as the late author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer used to say, “Our intention creates our reality.”
There are six key characteristics of intentions:
Intentions are phrased in the present tense. The emphasis is on how you want to be and the qualities you want to embody NOW. This makes them very powerful because the only time you can change your life and manifest what you want is in the present moment.
Intentions are closely connected to your core values – what you want your life to stand for. They mirror the type of person you want to be rather than the specific achievements or outcomes you desire. At the same time using them as a north star can help you achieve your goals with less stress and effort.
- Adaptive and flexible
Like spandex, intentions can expand, stretch, and evolve as your circumstances change. At the same time, they provide a guiding framework that can be applied to numerous situations.
- Encouraging mindfulness and self-awareness
Intention-setting helps you to become more conscious of your choices, behaviours, and actions which increases mindfulness and self-awareness. This makes them very empowering and helps you to become the conscious creator of your life.
- Intentions take a holistic approach
This can incorporate numerous aspects of your life such as personal growth, career, play, health, and relationships. This type of approach promotes balance and well-being.
- Focused on the journey, not the destination
Intentions are process, rather than goal-oriented. They emphasize the steps you take and the attitudes you cultivate as you transform. Intentions are also forgiving and allow you to navigate challenges without feeling like a failure.
How to set intentions
First schedule a time to set and write your intentions. Find a peaceful place where you won’t be disturbed. Before setting them determine or review your core values to help guide the process, think and dream about what you’d like to create in the coming year and how you’d like your life to look and feel.
Do some brainstorming around actions you could take to move you forward towards the transformation you want before putting your thoughts on paper.
For example, if your dream is to find a great life partner you might list “learning to love myself“, “determining the qualities I’m looking for in a partner“, “hiring a dating coach“, “writing a fantastic profile on apps“, “getting an attractive headshot”, or “join some meetup groups that interest me“.
When you’re ready to write your first intention choose one area of your life that you intend to transform. Examples include career, finances, home environment, fitness, health, relationships, social life, education, and spirituality. It’s helpful to determine what area of your life is most in need of transformation. Then, consider what core values your intention is connected to. For example, if a core value is freedom and you want to transform your finances align the intention with financial freedom.
Finally, determine how you want to feel as you align with your intention – happy, energized, creative, grateful, confident, or playful. This is important because while thoughts define what you want, feelings magnetize what you want to manifest in your life.
Now, it’s time to write your intention by filling in the blanks below:
I intend to ________ by _________so I feel__________
Here are a few examples of intentions to get inspiration from:
- I intend to treat my body well by exercising daily, sleeping 7-8 hours a night, and eating a whole foods plant-based diet, so I feel healthy and vibrant.
- I intend to prioritize self-care in my daily life by taking time every day to give myself what I need so I feel energized and balanced.
- I intend to view challenges as opportunities by cultivating a resilient, growth mindset so I feel empowered and confident.
- I intend to live in abundance by being mindful of how I spend money, so I feel financially secure.
Powering up your intentions
Once you’ve determined what’s important for you to achieve this New Year, what would give you purpose and more energy, it’s time to power up your intentions with clear action steps.
- Put your intentions list in places where you will see it every day.
- Create some SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive) to make the intentions actionable. However, remember to be flexible and growth-oriented.
- Turn them into a mantra using an “I am” statement. For example, “I intend to treat my body well” can become “I am taking great care of my body.”
- Set an alarm on your computer or phone to remind you to review your intentions.
- Find an intention buddy who can provide you with accountability.
- Spend a few minutes every day visualizing your future self and experiencing the high-vibe emotions that you wrote in your intentions list.
So, are New Year’s resolutions still worth it when you grow older?
Working on your personal growth shouldn’t have an expiry date, but in order to achieve your goals you should first take some time to reflect on your values and priorities. What is truly important to you at this stage of your life? This will help you set intentions (rather than resolutions) that align with your current desires and motivations to become the best version of yourself.
Remember, rather than wishing for something, you should make conscious decisions focussed on self-love, not self-loathing. Be kind to yourself, rather than judgmental. Forgive yourself, if necessary review your intention and determine what you need to do this year to get back on track. If not now, then when?