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Why resolutions don’t work

In case you haven’t noticed, the world is obsessed with you changing your life.

All over the internet there are screaming titles like “Start the New Year Right!  Lose Weight Now!” and “Is THIS the Year for You to Try Kick-Boxing?” and “Get started on your New Years’ Resolutions!”

It makes my skin crawl.  And it makes me sorta sad.  Because this type of change, if you undertake it, is the kind that lasts a month or two.  Not the type of change that sticks, and for which you’re grateful later on.  If you’re like me, asking yourself to do something and failing is a great opportunity to beat yourself up, and this is a set-up to do just that.

Don’t do it.  No resolutions for you this year!

It’s not that resolutions are bad, it’s that they are taken out of context.  To latch onto a new exercise regime or commit to taking a class simply because it’s January is not a well thought out plan.  There’s no basis for it; it’s like building a house without a foundation.  And if the resolutions you set aren’t aligned with your values, you can be sure that come February or March you will have left them behind for good.

Intentions and Goals

It all boils down to the difference between an intention and a goal.  (At this time of year we can substitute the word “resolution” for “goal”).  Intentions come from a deep place within us, and aren’t necessarily tied to an outcome.  Intentions are your soul asking to be heard.  They are how you’d live your life if you had no baggage, no limiting beliefs, no fear.  If all your actions were inspired by love.  Living intentionally is living from the inside out.

Goals are endpoints.  In terms of your personal journey, they can be helpful in charting the course, but on their own they will not help you find fulfillment.  Goals are often externally generated, and have “should” or “have to” associated with them.  It’s easy to grab onto a goal that sounds good – and achieve it – only to find that a deeper dissatisfaction remains.  Even SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely), those beloved offspring of management consultants, are limited in their impact unless they are tied to something deeper than a desire to maximize output.

In my coaching practice, I help clients uncover and identify their intentions and allow them to influence action, including goals and the plans needed to realize those goals.  They reflect on what’s important to them and what makes them feel happiest, and they set intentions that support their values.  For instance, Susan places a high value on connection with others.  One of her intentions is to have meaningful relationships in her life.  A goal she might set for herself is to renew important friendships, and her plan might be to call two old friends and arrange dates with them by the end of the month.  Filling in the blanks with the how is secondary to identifying the container.

Bring on the scream-free intentions

Let’s make a list of intentions for 2011.  Let’s fill the list with simple loving requests for peace, fulfillment and joy.  Let’s give ourselves permission to blossom.

I’ll start.

  • To simply Be.
  • To connect deeply with others and build strong, healthy relationships.
  • To choose the mindset of abundance rather than scarcity.
  • To prioritize joy and spontaneity.
  • To experience satisfaction by showing up in the present moment and meeting what is.

Now it’s your turn.  Please add your intentions in the comments below!!!!

Happy New Year,


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