3 Major Differences Between New Year’s Resolutions and Intentions

We have finally come to the end of another year, a year that disrupted our way of life right at the nuclear level. It’s been a roller coaster of a year, both humbling and eye-opening for everybody. The biggest eye-opener was no doubt the fickle nature of life – how things can drastically change literally overnight.

I’m guessing at the start of the last new year, you made New Year’s resolutions, with all the plans to drink more water and wake up earlier, etc. Then life got interrupted, the pandemic hit, and suddenly those resolutions didn’t matter all. It was all about survival. However, you made it through and now it’s that time of the year again where you whip out your notebook or planner and write out a long list of resolutions for the coming year.

Here’s an idea. If you didn’t, Don’t.

Ever wondered why you keep writing out those resolutions even though you know that you will have tossed them out by February? The honest truth is, resolutions don’t work.

But you know what does? Intentions.

Let’s look at the three major differences between resolutions and intentions, showing you why one is a recipe for a successful year, and the other is a setup for failure.

Let’s begin.

1.    They have different connotations

The word resolution comes from the word resolve, which means to find a solution to a problem or “settle a contentious matter” according to Oxford Languages. Already, you can see how this would have a negative impact on how you view your life. The act of setting a resolution immediately implies that you are dissatisfied with some aspect of your life and you want to change it. Don’t get me wrong, self-improvement is a vital part of becoming the best version of yourself, and creating success. However, we also spend way too much time focusing on the problems in our lives and how to fix them that we forget to look at the positive side of things and be grateful for it.

Where resolutions are corrective, intentions are creative. Intention comes from the word intent, which means to plan or aim at something. Unlike resolutions, setting intentions implies that you are in control of what happens. Intentions are positive in that they don’t make you think there is something inherently wrong with your life as it currently is. Rather, they allow you to identify opportunities for growth, which is a much more positive outlook than trying to plug a hole in your life.

Summary: Resolutions give negative connotations of correction, while intentions give positive connotations of creation.

2.    Tradition vs Purpose

New Year’s resolutions have become more of a tradition in people’s lives rather than something that holds true meaning. For most people, setting New Year’s resolutions is just as much a part of the New Year’s celebrations. Though it might be fun during the moment, neither the resolutions nor the celebration lasts for a long time. Because of this, resolutions can actually become impersonal, with people writing goals that are connected to their core values, or things or changes that are important.  This is one of the reasons why gym memberships go up in January – everyone thinks they are expected to lose weight and be healthier, but only a handful of people are able to stick with it.

Those that do stick with the habit have one thing in common: they align their intention for losing weight and being healthier to their overall life purpose. This is exactly what intentions are supposed to do. An intention points you towards what is important to you, and your purpose which makes it easier for you to live out that intention each day. They align with your core beliefs about yourself, your surroundings and your experiences and they work within this unique context to help you achieve your biggest goals. That’s why intentions stick for much longer than resolutions do.

Summary: Resolutions are a mere tradition hence why they are short-lived, while intentions align with your core beliefs and your life’s purpose hence why they last longer.

3.    Rigid vs flexible

Ever wondered why you feel deflated when you realize you can’t stick to your resolutions for the year? For a lot of people, this feeling is overwhelming and sets a negative precedent for the remainder of the year. The reason for this is that resolutions are inherently rigid in nature. When you set a resolution, it’s almost as if it has been written in stone and changing it halfway through the year – let alone right at the beginning of the year as in most cases – means you have failed. In this way, setting new year’s resolutions becomes a trap that you lay for yourself, one that will spoil the rest of your year.

Intentions, on the other hand, are flexible and can change depending on your situation. As 2020 has taught us all, life is not rigid. Things can change in the blink of an eye and you need to make the necessary adjustments quickly in order to come out on top. When you set your intentions, you understand that they are malleable and can be fine-tuned to suit whatever situation you find yourself in. Because they are aligned with your purpose, intentions also help to keep you centered on the right path without restricting you to any particular way of life.

Summary: Resolutions are rigid and a setup for failure, while intentions are malleable and can be adapted to suit whatever situation you find yourself in.

As you continue to with developing your life, career, and business plans for the coming year, think deeply about what you would like to achieve, where you see yourself in the short-term and long-term, and how you would like to get there. This new year, why don’t you try something different? Chuck your resolutions list aside and work on setting intentions that resonate with your core values.

What are your thoughts on intentions and resolutions? Drop a comment below and let’s have a conversation. If you found this article helpful be sure to share it with your friends and family and let’s all succeed in this new year!

Here’s to a healthy and successful new year!