New Year’s Resolutions: we’ve all done it at some time or another. “I’ll go to the gym five times a week!” Or, “I’m going to stop procrastinating!” And if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably noticed how quickly you “forget” about those resolutions and return to your normal routine. The only exercise we find ourselves doing is the figurative running to finish our X project right before the deadline. There are many reasons why we don’t keep our resolutions. Sometimes our resolutions are just not manageable. Like, with all of the other obligations you have, is going to the gym five times a week actually feasible? And sometimes, the issue is that the resolution isn’t getting at the root cause.
Let me explain. When we make resolutions, we tend to focus on the solution, rather than the problem. So for example, if your resolution is to go to the gym three times a week, the problem might be that you want to make your physical health a priority. Or, if your resolution is to not procrastinate on your work, maybe the problem is that rushing to finish causes you a great deal of anxiety? In other words, procrastinating (which might feel so good in the moment) makes you feel worn out, run down, and just plain miserable.
Let’s rephrase things, because I’m not sure that I’m in love with the world “problem.” When we make a resolution, it’s sort of like we’re coming up with a solution or an avenue for addressing an underlying cause, what’s really at the heart of the thing we want to change. By digging a little bit deeper, we can then figure out how we’d like to make said changes happen. Many years ago I started to focus on setting an intention for the new year. Past intentions have included “don’t forget to play” (2015) and “indulge your creative side” (2016).
My friend Kala (who shares her intentions below) offers her take on why she prefers intentions over resolutions:
When I asked Margeaux if she needed another voice for this blog post on New Year’s Intentions, I explained that I didn’t like the word “resolution” and much preferred “intention.” Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out why I feel this way. I turned to the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines resolution as “the act of resolving or determinacy,” and lists “confidence,” “certainty,” “a state of conviction,” “firmness,” “steadfastness of purpose,” and an “unyielding cast of mind” as variations of that first definition. On New Year’s Eve in the past, I have written lengthy journal entries to myself, made lists with big bolded verbs, and resolved to do this or that (usually something like “workout and write every single day!”); however, I do not think I ever went into the new year with that “unyielding cast of mind” about achieving my lofty goals (or at least not one that lasted beyond February). One definition of “resolution” that I do appreciate, however, is “the process of reducing a non-material thing into a simpler form or forms” because good goals need to be specific and time-bound; in other words, it is better to break a larger goal down into mini goals with time-constraints. For me, applying this model to my life as a PhD candidate is one way that I have been trying to change my relationship with my dissertation. Instead of having “complete a chapter” as a goal, I have set smaller goals, like “read three articles and take notes” and “rework pages 11-14.”
However, for a goal to be meaningful and attainable, you have to have the intention to follow through. For me, The OED’s definition of “intention” captures the key difference between resolutions and intentions – that intentions are, by definition, a mental undertaking. Intention involves “directing the mind or attention to something,” a “mental application or effort,” and can be described as “volition preceding the overt act”. Personally, I feel there is something more “real” about intentions than resolutions; I think, in large part, because resolutions imply a confidence and certainty, whereas intentions underscore that you can’t achieve goals through sheer bodily steadfastness – there has to be a mental component. I can’t simply hit the gym 3-4 times a week, check that box on my resolution list, and be done with it: I think I need to include a mental component that explains “why” I am doing these things (such as, to be reduce my stress, and thus be physically and emotionally healthier), and through that mental work, I can get at the heart of my goals – the intentions.
Thanks so much for sharing Kala!
Figuring out my intentions.
This year I had a harder time figuring out what my intention(s) were. I knew that I needed to make my body a priority. For half of 2016 I was some form of sick: my anxiety came back with a vengeance in July, making it difficult and sometimes impossible to get out of bed in August, which led to increasing my medication in September; I got a UTI while on vacation in August; that UTI turned into a kidney infection; my eczema broke out really badly on my hands (and I’m still dealing with it); I came down with a cold in October that just wouldn’t go away. Turns out it was a sinus infection, and between different medications, it took another month to finally stop; in December I found myself hit by a super mega cold/flu. So yeah…it’s clear that I need to figure out ways to privilege my body, which is always the first thing that I let go when I have a list of a million things I need to do.
But “take care of my body” didn’t really feel like the intention I was looking for. I knew that I wanted to be more intentional about my intentions, but that a piece was missing. The word I was missing is “commitment.” I can set an intention, but committing to it is challenging. Not because my interest wanes, but because sometimes I feel really overwhelmed when I sit down and figure out how I can actually integrate this intention into my daily life. I realized that I needed some tools. And then I also realized that I wanted to commit to my body AND I wanted to tap into my inner witchy spiritual side. “What is the relationship between my body and the world that I inhabit?” This led me to realize that my 2017 intention is: Nurture a Holistic You. I’ve spent YEARS in therapy working on my emotional life. Now it is time to bring my emotional life together with my body, mind, and spirit.
It was with the help of Feelings Witch Carly Boyce from Tiny Lantern Tarot that I came to that realization. I asked Carly if she would do a 2017 tarot reading for me. It was pretty magical. I told her about how I was having a hard time figuring out what to focus my energy on and how to go about actualizing my intentions. I won’t go through the whole reading with you, but when Carly pulled “Reception” (which is the Collective Tarot’s version of the Empress Card) and told me to “Be your own cosmic mama”, I knew that I had figured out my 2017 mantra. This card represents motherhood — both literally and/or figuratively. So while I have zero plans to have children in the next five years, the empress card can speak to creation and production, and body and earth connectedness — which are all the things I’m thinking about/want right now. Hilariously, as someone who hates change, the card in my future position is Chance. So basically “chill out Margeaux, because you can’t control anything!”
Before I had even realized that “be your own cosmic mama” was going to be my 2017 mantra, I picked up a copy of the Many Moons workbook by Modern Women from one of my fav local shops, Likely General. The workbook contains spell suggestions, self-development prompts, information about the different moon phases, blank pages to journal in, and a moon calendar. The first activity in the book is to jot down your dreams for self-love, health, career, community, talents and learning new skill sets, and my fav “dreams I have for myself and my abundance,” and of course, I’ve written in “embrace your inner cosmic mama.” I can’t wait to use this workbook to help me connect my body with the moon. As the workbook states, “Our body acts out our wishes. Our body holds so much information. Trauma and habitual emotions are stored in the body. Bodies must be cared for, loved, nourished, and treated kindly. Lots of healing can take place through caring for our bodies. Your body deserves love, care, and adoration no matter what.”
So now that I’ve shared my intentions for 2017, I thought it would be nice to hear from some other folks. I put a call out and four wonderful humans responded with their intentions for 2017 and how they plan to carry them out. Hope that their thoughts inspire you!
2017 Intentions, as shared by others.
Sarit’s Intention: Patience
My new year’s intention is to find new ways to cultivate patience. 2016 moved at a remarkable speed for me, zooming by and bringing with it a tremendous amount of upheaval – everything from family illness, changing jobs, having my cherished bicycle stolen, getting a divorce, moving and then moving again and that was just my personal life, never mind the tumultuous political climate. By the end of November, I was finding it very difficult to access patience with my colleagues, my friends, my family, or my self. Beginning in the new year, I am going to work on two things to bring patience into my life: hand-sewing and watching the moon rise.
I work with textiles a lot, making quilted patchwork pieces almost exclusively on my sewing machine. My goal this year is to shift away from machine sewing, which is swift and efficient, and focus on working directly with my hands. Threading the needle, holding the fabric in place, measuring out the distance between stitches, each stitch receiving attention. It is slow and hard. Painfully slow compared to working with a machine, and the amount of mistakes I make has increased immensely. But through this tactile connection to my creative process I’ve noticed that my tolerance for slowness, for process, and for making mistakes is changing into an appreciation for slowness and gratitude for process and an acceptance of making mistakes in a way that feels important to nurture.
My other goal is to spend one evening each month in my favourite “moon spot” and sit in silence as the day disappears and the moon rises. My hope is that this once a month practice will enable to notice the subtleties of sitting through a transition, and allow the stillness of this practice to inspire patience that I can carry with me throughout the month.
Elena’s Intention: Commitment
I like choosing one word to guide my decision-making for the year, and see if intentions come out of that. This year my word is Commitment. I’m choosing it because I spent 2016 in a state of expansive discovery especially around my career—my word was Curiosity— and I feel a strong pull to focus down to my essential values again. I’ve decided 2017 is time for committing to action. I struggle with taking risks sometimes, so Commitment as an idea is a way of pushing past the comfortable and easy part of thinking and pondering, into being more decisive with actions.
Some specific goals are making a quilt and solo camping—these are goals I’ve actually had for years and the time has come to make it happen. More generally, I’m deepening my commitment to things I’ve already decided are important.
Commitment means I want the feeling of choosing a path and pursuing it, and being joyful and accepting in that decision—not agonizing over the directions I choose not to follow. Being secure in the knowledge that my path is still my path, and it can wind all over the place.
Danielle’s Intention: Enough!
I’ve become aware of the gross disconnect between my social conscience, which is increasingly loud in its concern for others, for our environment, and for building a world that is sustainable for us now and for our kids in the future, and my consumption of…well, stuff. I live in a house of nice things. I have a closet full of beautiful things to put on every day. Why do I keep needing more? And what do these things really add up to, in terms of a life well lived? Will I be remembered, and do I want to be remembered, for having the cutest outfit, and the prettiest house, or for my actions, and the things I put out into the world? When will I have enough? In thinking about these things, my theme for 2017 has become clear. It’s the Year of Enough:
- I’ve had enough – I want to contribute to positive change in our world.
- I have enough – I need to learn to be mindful with how I spend my money and in my consumption of things.
- I am enough – I don’t need stuff, or accomplishments, more money, or less weight, to be a worthy, lovable, person. This is my ongoing battle against perfectionism, feelings of insecurity, of being different and incomplete somehow. Who I am and the good I do is enough.
Kala’s Intention: Focus
Number one on my list is to have a better relationship with my chronic disability and to try to better understand my limitations and needs. I get so caught up in all of my jobs and responsibilities (hello, five part-time jobs) that I often forget, or outright ignore, the things I know I need to do to sustain my physical health, such as swimming once a day (I too often tell myself I don’t have time to hit the pool and ignore the chain of events that follow), eating balanced meals, occasionally saying “no” to things and requests, and actively trying to reduce my stress. How do I intend to keep this promise? By breaking it down into smaller parts. Over this past year I’ve gotten into Bullet Journaling and have found it makes a huge difference in separating out and tracking all my responsibilities, while encouraging myself to exercise and eat well; furthermore, the “gratitude log” aspect of Bullet Journaling has helped me reduce the number of times I let myself spiral into despair because one of the many balls I’ve been juggling has fallen. Even if I have had a shit work day, my pain levels are ratcheted beyond my control, or I’ve received bad news about something, isolating and focusing on one good thing that I can take away from the day’s wreckage, and writing it out, has helped me stay focused on the good things in my life and to try to break patterns, or thoughts like, “well this week is shot, might as well just wallow.” Because I really want to be a more positive person and not turn into a media-driven stereotype of what chronic illness looks like, intentionally keeping tabs on the various parts of my life helps me feel more in control and like I have the power to improve and change. So instead of resolving to swim six days a week, I intend to create a more meaningful relationship with my physical health, which can certainly involve swimming as often as possibly, while carving out a space to take care of myself emotionally and mentally.
Before I sign off, I just wanted to thank all of those who have participated in the Floral Manifesto community over the past year. Whether you’ve been a part of a discussion, joined the team of guest bloggers, or been a loyal reader, I can’t tell you how much it has meant to see this community grow. Can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us all! If you’d like to get involved with Floral Manifesto, either as a guest blogger, or by offering an idea for a blog post, please get in touch! You can reach me at margeaux[at]floralmanifesto[dot]com
Tags: 2017, intentions, new year, resolutions, tarot
This post was written by Margeaux