A few weeks into January and you may be feeling frustrated over a lapsed New Year’s Resolution. Don’t despair. Over 40% of us make New Year’s resolutions despite the fact that only about 8% of us actually keep them. Given this statistic, we might be tempted to rid ourselves of this annual ritual entirely. However, research informs us that if we do make a resolution, we are 10 times more likely to achieve our goal than if we do nothing at all. So, if we are unwilling to abandon our hope of change in the coming year, what happens if we make a New Year’s Intention instead? It’s never too late.
Unlike a resolution, when we use the power of intention to create change, we move beyond conditioned and often unconscious, repetitive thinking that tends to keep us stuck in habitual ways of being. Since our thoughts inform our behavior, and the majority of our thoughts today are the same as yesterday, we quickly realize why our resolutions fail. According to research, when we shift instead to intention, we foster more lasting change, especially when we ground our intention in the awareness found in a mindfulness practice.
If we look deeper into the latin origins of the word intention, we find that it means to “turn one’s attention”, to “lean toward”. Where would you like to place your attention this year? What do you wish to lean toward in 2017? Whether our intentions are to foster closer relationships, create greater health and well-being or overcome a specific challenge, we approach our intentions as we would a mindfulness practice:
Attention: Once you’ve set your intention, you focus your attention on that which you wish to cultivate. In this present moment. Your attention may wander. You may become distracted by the activities of daily life. Whenever you notice that your attention has drifted away from your intention, gently guide it back, just as you do your breath during mindfulness practice. Practice self-compassion and patience as you return again, and again, to your intention.
Non-Judgement: There will be moments, even days, where you stray from your intention. Positive or negative feelings may arise. Allow yourself the fullness of whatever you experience around your intention without judgement. Know that you can begin again in the next moment, with awareness, and the renewed commitment that resides in the settled mind.
Beginner’s Mind: Approach your intention with curiosity. New experience and insights may arise to offer fresh perspective on your goals. You may unearth the unconscious forces that would have derailed a resolution. Curiosity offers the opportunity for new learning at every turn.
Let go of Attachment: When we become rigidly attached to how the fulfillment of our intention may show up in our lives, we may miss all the wonderful and creative ways it is already unfolding. When we release our expectations, we lessen the frustration and disappointment that often accompanies a forced result. We can be surprised by and embrace the unexpected.
New Year’s Intentions grow from our deeper, essential desires. See where yours sprout from; a wish to be more connected, more generous, more playful? When we combine a regular mindfulness practice with the power of intention, we open ourselves to even more transformation and all the gifts the New Year has to offer. Inner Explorer created a special mindfulness practice to support you in making 2017 an Intentional New Year.
Lisa Grady is the Regional Director of Program Development and Outreach for Inner Explorer. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.