It’s a good feeling to list your resolutions for the New Year, looking ahead so confidently toward reaching your objectives: losing weight, reconciling with an estranged family member, taking that long-postponed trip to the Greek Islands.
But come the end of the year, it can be a downer when the scale hasn’t moved very much, the conversation with your alienated relative went badly and you barely made it to the movies and dinner during your abbreviated ‘stay-cation.’
Perhaps a more helpful undertaking at year’s end would be defining a primary intention as an enduring guide to your ongoing behavior.
Both resolutions and intentions often have similar objectives – achieving an anticipated outcome as a result of an effort we put forth. But a resolution strongly implies an ending in sight for successful completion of the task; not a bad thing, but subject to circumstances that may be beyond your control. Also, behind the resolution there is a sense of correcting an existing fault or weakness; again, not a bad thing, but a response to a judgment that may be self imposed.
I see an intention as more in tune with internal fortitude and individual principle. It is underlying and fundamental to a person’s embodiment, a deeper measure of core values than the social persona we adopt and present. Intention has more to do with on-going, primary purpose and character, essential to who we are or aim to be.
For so many of our New Year’s resolutions there is a quid pro quo attached. We make an effort to do something and there is the assumption that we will be rewarded as a result. But when the result we anticipate in return does not materialize, it can be a distressing blow to our self-worth.
An intention relates more to a ‘higher’ inspiration and as such, is open-ended. It is not thwarted by initial failure but includes Plan B and Plan C and is on-going. It has to do with standards of conduct rather than prospects of success as measured by the dial on a bathroom scale or societal concepts that put the emphasis on the pocketbook.
Am I splitting hairs? Perhaps that is the case if we stay stuck on semantics rather than the motive of our New Year’s list. My way of thinking is, we affirm our intentions with every breath we take! Each and every inhalation of life-giving air comes with a choice of how we want to use the gift of life. Each and every exhalation is an expression of “I am…”
With each breath the choice of how we live our lives arises anew. That is what empowers us. Positive New Year’s resolutions are helpful and worthwhile and signal our progress toward fulfilled lives. But typically, one’s resolutions are achieved when one’s intentions are firmly imbedded.
Happy New Year. Happy New Day. Happy New Breath.
With Love and Light,
Arlene Englander, LCSW