Happy New Year!

Okay, that was actually last week, but despite the fact that we are now one full week into this new chapter of life, I finally feel like I’m officially sliding into the new year. After a long, fun-filled school vacation spent with my kiddos (there were even a couple of extra snow days tacked on at the end for our enjoyment), today is the first day that I actually have to sit down, get all introspective and gushy inside, and write out those resolutions.

You know the ones—that  long list of goals and aspirations you haven’t seemed to get around to accomplishing yet combined with a strict set of do’s and don’ts for the coming year that is absolutely going to make your life worlds better than last year. Right.

Don’t get me wrong—there is nothing I like better than really going for the gusto where self-improvement is concerned. We should all be doing that all the time. The problem with resolutions is that they rarely seem to stick. In fact, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology at the University of Scranton and Statisticbrain.com, only 8 percent of Americans who set resolutions are successful at achieving them.

But before that deflating figure has you turning that pretty little list you just made into a paper airplane and sailing in right into the trash bin, I think it’s important to stop and consider why the statistics are so grim. For this discussion, I turn to one of my new favorite bloggers, and intention guru, Jess Lively (and I highly recommend checking out her blog for yourself here–it contains a fun mix of inspiring self-actualization and improvement tips for living your best life right along with lots of hip design).

The first mistake, says Lively, is that when it comes to resolutions, most people set goals when they should be setting intentions. What’s the difference? Goals are things that can be finished or completed. While setting goals does have a place in daily life, using them as resolutions can be tricky because they are inflexible and don’t account for shifting circumstances—hence their high rate of failure. Some examples of goals might include:

  1. I want to make X number of dollars this year.
  2. I will go to the gym 4 times per week.
  3. I will go out and socialize with a friend at least once per week.
  4. I will spend more quality time with my children

Intentions are a bit different. The desire for improvement is still there, but the changes sought are a little deeper and more profound.  What is it that the above goals are meant to provide you? What emotion will they add to your life? What is their purpose for being there? The way you phrase these, according to Lively, should be, “enduring, flexible, and communicate(s) personal values—independent of outcomes.” Examples of intentional resolutions (as variants of those above) may look something like this:

  1. I intend to make an ample living doing work that I love.
  2. I intend to live in a body that is functioning at the healthiest level possible for me.
  3. I intend to increase the bonds I have with my friends and bring more fun into my life.
  4. I intend to focus on being more emotionally present when I’m with my children.

Once you identify the underlying value an intention is meant to bring in, you can then use the original goals above as a loose sort of road map to get you there. But, it’s important to note that the intentions you create can be accomplished in any number of ways rather than through one rigid structure. For instance, if you are super busy (because you’re tied up making that ample income or bonding with your BFF) this week and just don’t have time to make it to the gym four times, there are other ways you can keep yourself healthy until things ease up—try healthy food choices, a daily walk around the block, or a half-hour dance-a-thon with your kids. I will point out here that this choice accomplishes intentions 2 and 4 at the same time. My, my we’re efficient.