By Dena Landon
I’m going to lose ten pounds by March! I want to finish my degree. Take that pottery class. Ah, yes, it’s New Year’s Resolutions time. Love them, or hate them, no matter where you turn in January you’ll be bombarded with the urge to change your life.
I’ve always broken mine. Always. I’ve tried writing them down. I’ve tried making them specific, and measurable, and every corporate buzzword. And by week three of January I’m facedown in a bag of OREO’s. But, in my post-divorce journey, I’ve discovered the power of intentions. This year I’m not making resolutions, I’m setting intentions.
Intentions are different than resolutions in several key ways. They’re not restrictive. I.e., they don’t force you to commit to going to the gym three times a week, or take a class. Instead, they’re guidelines for how you want to approach your life and what you want to realize out of it. As such, they’re far more flexible than resolutions (which even sound icky, like gritting your teeth and bearing it). If it’s one thing life has taught a divorced woman it’s how to be flexible so I think they’re more suited to the lives we lead now.
They’re not meant to address one part of your life but guide all of it. For example, I set the intention to have more joy in 2018. This simple intention can manifest in many ways. It was the choice to hop on the T and go ice skating with my son last week. It gave me a guideline with which to evaluate a friend’s invitation – will this bring me joy? – and decide to go to gaming night. An intention isn’t only flexible, it’s wide-ranging. It acknowledges the inter-connected and holistic nature of our lives, whereas a resolution typically chops our lives into sections – job, work, love.
“Love myself more,” can lead me to go to yoga. To not eating that bag of OREO’s because I know I’ll feel gross afterward. To go to bed on time because my body is saying that it needs sleep. The unintended side effect may be weight loss, the top New Year’s resolution, but it wouldn’t come from forcing myself to do things I hate and resent – and therefore am unlikely to stick with. It would come from a much healthier place, not a place of hating my body or buying into society’s ideas of what I should look like but a place of loving and respecting myself.
A resolution often is based upon what we don’t have and can carry with it a sense of failure. And why start a new year already feeling like a failure?
A resolution often is based upon what we don’t have – a new job, more money – and can carry with it a sense of failure – didn’t get that promotion last year. And why start a new year already feeling like a failure? An intention starts from a positive place, and is in the moment. What can I do now to have more joy? How can I live this principle now?
Intentions do have some things in common with resolutions, however. Writing them down is important. Whether or not you put the piece of paper on the fridge or burn it in a ritual, there’s something magical about committing them to paper. It puts it out there into the Universe – this is what I want, this is what I intend for this coming year, these are the words that will guide my choices. Like a resolution, they are meant to shape and change how you’re living. If you succeed in living them your life won’t be the same in a year’s time.
My intentions for the New Year are simple. Joy – with my son, my friends and my boyfriend. Abundance – I want to manifest a new career path, a way to make a living with my writing, and an income stream that brings me joy. Love – of myself, my son, my boyfriend. I have a few more specifics, but they’re private.
These intentions have already guided several decisions I’ve made these first few days of 2018. Will this bring me joy? Will this manifest more, or less, love in my life? Will I be showing up in a loving way in someone else’s life? It shifts my perspective to a healthy one because I’m already coming from a positive place. I’m not punishing myself for the failures of the past year, I’m stepping into the New Year with a new focus and intentions to guide that focus. Won’t you join me?
About the Author
Dena Landon is a single mom who eats raw cookie dough, passionately debates intersectional feminism and frequently tangles herself in yarn. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Narrative.ly, Salon, bust.com, and in Dance Teacher and Dance Spirit magazines. Her first novel was published by Dutton Children’s Publishing in 2005. She blogs at femmefeminism.com, and can be found on Instagram and Facebook.