If you’ve ever managed to actually keep a New Year’s resolution, you’re firmly in the minority. While all the gyms and salad lunch spots will have lines around the block in January, most of those health-hunters will have fallen off the wagon a few weeks later. Since resolutions don’t seem to be very successful and often leave us feeling worse for wear, we’re making a change this year (ha ha) and setting intentions instead.
So what is the difference between a resolution and an intention? For one, intentions come from the world of yoga and mindfulness, while resolutions at the beginning of a new year go back to all sorts of religious traditions. But the most practical difference between the two is in their perceived method of impact: positive versus negative.
Resolutions are typically something we feel that we should be doing already, so we try to force the habit by declaring that we are going to do so. We’re going to lose weight! And eat less! And go to the gym three times a week! Because the motivation for these resolutions is usually guilt or shame, the process starts with negative incentives and if it fails, ends in negativity, too.
Intentions, on the other hand, are rooted in positivity. By setting an intention, you are creating a call to action and manifesting what it is you want to achieve through that desire. By turning your mind and focus to that one desire, your thoughts, words, and actions move to that end. Intentions can be similar to resolutions, like “work out regularly, relax more often, increase self-awareness,” but the difference is in the framing, and the execution.
To set an intention, there are a few simple steps to follow. After you’ve decided on it, write it down. Create a mantra surrounding that intention, and repeat it to yourself throughout the day. Light a candle to represent your intention, bringing a physical light to your desires. Do something that shows you have committed to the intention – if you have decided you want to relax more often, make some plans to spend some quality downtime with yourself this Sunday, and then actually do it. Meditation and journaling are helpful tools in intention setting and keeping. Most importantly, think positive thoughts about your intention and send it out into the universe.
Even if you aren’t exactly a full-blown yogi, the mental practices surrounding intentions can have significant impact in the realization of those dreams. The Vedic text, religious works written in India several centuries ago and commonly used in yoga practices, makes a statement about the relationship between our desires and our actions. “You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny. “