THE BLOG
12/31/2015 11:40 am ET Updated Dec 31, 2016

Drop the Resolution and Live With Intention

It is New Year's and that "R" word has reappeared: Resolution.

I used to be all about resolutions. I would come up with a great list for each New Year, things that I wanted to change, things I wanted to work on, etc. The lists were great, but the resolutions never worked.

It makes sense that resolutions don't stick when you stop to consider what a "resolution" is: the solution to a problem, a decision or determination, an opinion expressed as part of a voting body. I am not a problem to solve, a determination to make, or an opinion that needs voting on. I am a human being, a divine creation, a co-creator in the world.

Several years ago, I tossed the list of resolutions and began writing letters of intention to my future next-New Year's Eve self. Rather than list a series of resolutions, I began to narrate the ways in which I intended to live for the next year. Every New Year's Eve, I reread my past-self's letter. Instead of seeing what resolutions I did or did not succeed in maintaining, I take in the progress I have made since the previous December 31, and see how, despite setbacks and unexpected challenges, I have persevered in creating my intended life. Then, I thoughtfully compose my letter of intention for my future New Year's Eve-self, recommitting to the next evolution in my creation.

Why set an intention over a resolution? In The Power of Intention, Wayne Dyer defines intention as "a strong purpose or aim, accompanied by a determination to produce a desired result." An intention is something you aim to achieve, something that has a purpose, something that you actively work to manifest in your life.

What is the difference between my making a resolution to go to gym 3-4 times a week, and setting the intention to live a healthier lifestyle? A lot. The former is a command that doesn't really come with much wiggle room. If I make it to gym, great. If I don't, then what? I may beat myself up over my inability to maintain the resolution, or I may say "I don't have time" and give up on the activity. All of this leads to a cycle of negative thinking and the resolution dissolves.

An intention, on the other hand, is different. Maybe my intention to live a healthier lifestyle includes hitting the gym four nights a week. Or maybe it means a thirty-minute walk around my neighborhood before or after work, healthy meals, and a healthy sleep schedule to start. If I don't make it to the gym once or twice, no worries, the rest of the lifestyle I am cultivating is there to support my desire for healthy living. The intention lives in more decisions than just going to the gym: I live the intention; I cultivate the intention, and watch as it grows. I can feed my intention to live a healthy life in ways I cannot feed a resolution to go to the gym more often (because there is only one way to satisfy that requirement).

Dyer discusses intention's connection to an invisible, omnipresent force (God, the universe, nature, etc.) that "manages all." In other words, an intention comes with assistance. There is catch, though, when it comes to this assistance: we have to activate, and surrender ourselves to, the intention so that we can participate in the power that surrounds us and begin to fulfill our life purpose. What is a resolution connected to? A voting body or a legislature? Not terribly inspiring. Oh, and with resolutions, we have to go it alone.

Compared to an intention, a resolution is relatively simple: it either is or is not, it sticks or it doesn't. Intentions require nurturing and cultivation, tending and care. Intentions require whole-hearted commitment to a purpose or an aim as well as a willingness to surrender ourselves to this all-encompassing force, to trust that, as we contribute each day to nurturing this intention, our vision and purpose will unfold in our lives. Intention also offers us the chance to create, to collaborate with the universe and the energies humming around us so that our visions manifest. A resolution doesn't offer much in the way of creativity: you do it or you don't.

I prefer the idea of creation. Yes, it may take longer, and yes, the intention requires more commitment, surrender, and trust to develop but in a strange way intention is the path of least resistance. Through surrender comes assistance. I give my intention up to a power beyond me, and knowing that I can actively contribute to the development of my intention every day is powerful. I am not bound by rigid resolutions, I am free to devote myself fully to my intentions and create the life of which I dream.

In the end, what will be more satisfying: checking off a laundry list of resolutions as complete or incomplete, or living each day with my purpose and dreams unfolding before me?

Follow the command of Henry David Thoreau as you enter the New Year: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."

Drop that "R" word from your vocabulary, and set an Intention. What future will you begin creating for yourself in 2016?