Why new year's intentions are 1 million times better than resolutions

I love the potential that each New Year brings. Anything can happen in the preceding 12 months. It’s all up for grabs.

Like most of the population I got sick of making new year’s resolutions, mainly because of the crushing sense of failure and disappointment I felt a few weeks into January, having let them all slip by the way side. It’s not good to feel such a sense of failure right at the start of the year. Mentally defeated before the year has even properly began.

I created a new ritual many years ago that has become a firm favourite. Just before New Year’s I go for a long, lazy lunch with my girlfriends. We talk about the year and all the things that have happened – the highs, the lows and the standout moments. Then we guess what the year ahead might bring, this is really fun because basically you will never guess right. As much as you think you can predict how things might pan out you can be sure it will not work out like that.

Then we set our intentions for the year ahead. An intention is something that you want to do. You are explicitly stating what you want to happen. By setting an intention to do something you are activating a part of your receptive brain. If you are clear about what you want, you are more likely to get it. This is rooted in my belief of what you focus on grows. Rather than let the year happened to you, you are actively defining and shaping how you want the year to unfold. You create a sense of agency and become a cause rather than an effect.

Whilst we may not be able to directly create something we want, we can still encourage the underlying process that will bring it into being.  “Rick Hansen

Each year with my girlfriends I list all the things I’d like to do, simple, small, realistic things e.g. visiting a particular place, taking a class, getting an early night, having fresh flowers in the house every so often, volunteer, join a book club, walk more, try a new recipe.

If I don’t write stuff down I can easily forget it and it doesn’t seem real or binding. So I’m the person that goes away and types up the intentions for each person in the group. The very act of doing this takes talking about intentions to the next level. Now that there is a written record of it there is an expectation to act. I print my intentions out and pin it up on the edge of my computer. Every so often my gaze will rest on one of my intentions.

I am an activist, a doer, there is nothing more satisfying for me than just getting on and doing something, however I know not all my girlfriends are like this. I call a mid year review, usually another long lunch, to check in on how things are going. This provides an opportunity to re-focus, remind and recommit. It enables us the time to take action, look at what we can do. It creates a sense of resolve towards our goals and gives us the power to change, delete.

I can honestly say that the years I’ve been setting my intentions have been more fulfilling and rewarding because I’m doing more of what I want. I’m vocalising my desires, this alone sets off a whole chain of subconscious connections. It’s very much like my work with clients in counselling or coaching sessions, by saying something out loud it makes it real

I’ve added another dimension to my ritual that enhances it even further. I’ve bought my girlfriends gratitude jars. The idea is that when something nice happens, you make a note of pop it in the jar. At the end of the year you have a collection of lovely moments. Last year we took it in turns to read out a slip from my jars. It was wonderful reliving beautiful moments and hearing what made others smile. We had so much fun doing this the table next door to ours was so intrigued and wanted to join in.

So as the cusp of a new year dawns why not create a ritual for yourself? Set your intentions for the year ahead. List out what you would like to do in the coming 12 months. Focus on the positive rather than start the year off denying yourself.