With the year coming to a close, you've likely started to think about resolutions you'd like to put on your new year checklist. But how many times have you started the new year off with a bang, ticking boxes, and kicking goals, but after a short time, you fell off the wagon?
Instead of setting yourself a list of resolutions you need to follow in the new year, set yourself a purpose and intentions. Giving yourself purpose and intentions to live by are far more sustainable to achieve long-term.
In this article, I'll discuss the problem with setting new year resolutions; I'll show you how to live 2022 with purpose and Intention instead.
The Problem with Resolutions
When we go into a new year, it can feel like we're starting our lives afresh, and whatever we did the year before was the "old" us. This concept of new year resolutions first started with Babylonians 4000 years ago (1). Unlike today, the new year in Babylon would begin in March when crops were planted. They would hold a 12-day religious festival known as Akitu. Here they would pray to the gods and make promises for the new year.
In Ancient Rome, during January, they would also celebrate in similar ways, by offering sacrifices to the deity and making promises of good conduct for the year ahead. And early Christians were also known to reflect on past mistakes and resolve to do better in the new year (1). In modern times, we call these "new year's resolutions".
Our resolutions are made at a time when we're often exhausted. We see the new year as a clean slate where we can become a better version of ourselves.
Many of us go into a new year feeling motivated and inspired, but we often fall back into old habits after a few months. If there's one thing I've learned as an adult, new year's resolutions rarely work the way we intend them to.
The reason why they often don't work is that they are either:
- Too big of a commitment without proper planning.
- Too different from the status quo.
- They are not taken seriously enough.
When we take on something too big of a commitment without proper planning, we usually can't sustain it for the long term. Think about when you've started a fad diet, a rigorous exercise regime, or even tried to kick a bad habit, like smoking. You may have had the occasional success, but we fall back into old habits most of the time.
We take on too much too quickly, expecting instant results instead of making a gradual change. As dieticians say, a diet should be a long-term lifestyle change that you can do consistently for the long-term, not a short-term solution to lose weight quickly.
Here's an example:
You say you want to lose 10 pounds next year. You don't write down how you're going to lose weight. But your general plan is to go to the gym every day, and you'll cut out all junk food. Without a plan, such as an exercise program and a sensible eating plan, you're likely to fall back into old habits.
In addition to this, if we make new year's resolutions that are very different from our current lifestyle—our status quo—it also becomes difficult to maintain long-term. Just as a significant commitment without planning is unsustainable, so are commitments very different from what you're used to.
Suppose you've always consumed animal products your whole life but want to go vegan. In that case, it'll be more sustainable and a long-lasting change if you have a plan to gradually cut out animal products rather than cutting them all out on January 1st. Going too hard too quickly can cause you to regress.
When we're overwhelmed and exhausted at the end of the year, promises we make can feel very different in the new year once we've had time to rest and recharge. If we make resolutions that are too big or too different when we are emotionally drained, it can be challenging to take them seriously and commit to them in the new year. Just as they say, we shouldn't make decisions when we're emotional; we shouldn't make resolutions when we're exhausted.
Instead of the typical new year's resolutions, plan your 2022 with purpose and Intention.
How to Find Purpose
One of the biggest challenges we face as adults is to find our life's purpose. We all need to have a purpose, whether to become a parent, educate others, or save animals. If we don't have a purpose, we can often feel hopeless. This is why experts tell you, if you're depressed and feeling sorry for yourself, go volunteer. Helping others in need gives you purpose and often will deflect from the pain you're feeling.
Studies have shown that those with high levels of eudemonic wellbeing—a sense of purpose—are said to live longer. So how do you find your life's purpose? Here are a few ways that can help you figure it out (2):
Donate Time, Money, or Talent
Being a giver rather than a taker evokes a sense of purpose, as you feel as though you're making a difference. Whether you donate time to a shelter, money to a foundation or your skills to a person in need, your generosity will give you some clarity and purpose.
Listen to Others
You can't read the label from inside the jar. When our thoughts consume us, it can be difficult to determine our purpose, especially if we have many interests. Asking those who know you best what they think you excel at and things they know you're good at can give you some outsider insight.
They say we are most like the five people we spend most of our time with. So if you're spending time with people who harbor negative energy, this can influence you without even realizing it. Surrounding yourself with positive influences who are winning at life will inadvertently help you to see your potential.
Make New Connections
For introverts, this is easier said than done. But the great thing is that you can connect with new people remotely these days. Joining groups, like Facebook Groups, is one of the best ways to build a like-minded community, whether you're introverted or extroverted. This way, you can also control who you connect with and when.
Explore Your Life
You probably have hobbies and interests. It's essential to consider these when thinking about your purpose in life. If you're a die-hard animal lover, you may want to look into helping animals. Or, if you work with children and you just want the best for their futures, that could be your calling. Explore your life and take note of the things that are important to you.
Things You Dislike
We all have things that we dislike or things that go against our core values or beliefs. If there are things that you are passionate about, such as human rights, this can be an excellent insight for your purpose planning. Take note of the world's injustices that you feel a need to spread awareness about. These are things that drive you and can be your purpose in life.
When we explore our own lives and give back to others, we can create the space that we need to discover our purpose. You may not need to look too far to find it.
How to Set Intentions
Instead of setting new years resolutions, you can set intentions. In yoga, intentions are what's known in Sanskrit as Sankalpa. But what's the difference between the two?
According to Thrive Yoga and Wellness (3), resolutions highlight what you lack, whereas intentions highlight what you have. Resolutions are also strict, where intentions are adaptable. Intentions mean that you are enough the way you are. They can evoke excitement and promise, unlike resolutions where we often end up feeling guilty and lazy for not reaching our own, often unattainable expectations.
Intentions are about the journey rather than the outcome. So, instead of saying, "I want to lose 10 pounds in 2022", set your Intention as "I plan to be happy and healthy in 2022".
How do you set intentions? According to Thrive Yoga and Wellness (3) you:
- Clearly articulate what you want to cultivate or achieve.
- Create an affirmation around your Intention (an affirmation is an "I am" statement that you repeat to yourself in the present tense as if it is already true).
- Simplify your Intention into a one-word mantra.
- Return to your Intention regularly: write it down, save it on your phone and repeat it to yourself during meditation and yoga.
Here is an example:
The Intention: I intend to live with more compassion for myself and others.
The Affirmation: I am capable of giving and receiving unconditional love.
The Mantra: Love.
Now that you've learned how to find your purpose and set your intentions for the new year, it's time to put it into practice.
In the words of Albert Einstein, the definition of madness is doing something repeatedly and expecting a different result. So if 2021 wasn't your year, make next year your year by doing something new. Determine your life's purpose and set your intentions to live your best life in 2022.
Emma Jade has been a trained esthetician for over 15 years. She is a sustainable skincare writer, educating and building awareness around proper skin health that doesn't cost the Earth.
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