Set Intentions Not Resolutions

Set Intentions Not Resolutions

Published on Thursday, December 22, 2022 by Deanna Salles-Freeman

The new year is upon us. 

This is when some of us take stock and decide, this year is the year! We resolve to get things done. We create a list of all we want to accomplish this year. 

Well, not all of us. 

The statistics on new year’s resolutions are fun. It has been found that only 41% of Americans made new year's resolutions but by the end of the year, only 9% of them kept their resolutions. An astounding 46% fail before the end of February and STRAVA, a sports network dubs the second Friday in January “Quitters Day”.

In 2023 that’s January 13th.  

I’ve been there. Have you?

Why Do Resolutions Fail

There are many reasons why resolutions fail. Not tracking your progress, no accountability, goals that are unrealistic, setting too many, or simply forgetting. Behind all of these “reasons” is a lack of intention: a plan, design, or particular purpose. Intentions bring your goals into focus. They allow you to remain present in the process, not just the outcome. It’s not just about the accomplishment but all the things you learn in the process. Intentions support your goals.

Let’s give an example of a resolution, a goal (done SMART), and an intention, with one of the most common new year’s resolutions around – losing weight.

THE RESOLUTION: This year I will lose weight. It’s pretty vague. It’s likely not written down anywhere, just a declaration in space.

A Modified S.M.A.R.T. Goal is a specific, measurable goal, has accountability built-in, is realistic, and is linked to time.

THE S.M.A.R.T. GOAL: Lose 10 lbs by March 31st with the neighborhood walking group. Let’s dissect this modified version of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. Specific. Measurable. Accountable. Realistic. Time-Linked. The modified part is the “A” -- Accountable. These elements create a goal that has some real consideration put into it.

THE INTENTION: I feel rested and energized so I can keep up with my grandkids.

The resolution is a flop. It just feels like something you should do. The goal and the intention work in tandem. The intention is the magic in the growth, the self-exploration, and the process. It keeps you going even when you haven’t achieved the result yet because you have a purpose as you move through the process. If life happens and some crisis derails your goal, the intention remains. 

Dive Deep

There’s a lot written about intentions versus goals, but I don’t think they should be pitted against each other. I believe that we have not been taught the right way to set a goal. You have to get raw and honest with yourself about where you are and where you want to go. 

Why is that important to you? Where will the determination come from? 

While a goal is a promise to yourself; the intention is the impetus and mindset behind what you really want. Here’s a story that applies to the above example: The intention to feel rested and energized so I can keep up with my grandkids is MY intention behind health and well-being. When I had a health crisis that brought all of my fitness routines to a halt, my intention remained the same. I shifted to other ways I could focus on wellness outside of workouts.  

The Key to Success

Lastly, there is a key that will unlock your success. Once you’ve got your goals and intentions fine-tuned, THINK SMALL! What? You heard that right. Think small. What can you do tomorrow that will inch you toward your goal?

Now you can kick it old school and use a notecard or you can grab a digital program that will help you track your steps and keep you accountable. Either way, write out three action steps each evening that you will take tomorrow to move the needle toward your goal with intention. This will create the changes you want to have in your life and transform resolution flops into wins!

I see you and YOU are beautiful!

  1. Oscarsson, M., Carlbring, P., Andersson, G., & Rozental, A. (2020). A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PLOS ONE, 15(12), e0234097.
  2. Thinking of changing your behavior in 2017? Try moving first. Thinking of Changing Your Behavior in 2017? Try Moving First | Society for Personality and Social Psychology. (2017, January 20). Retrieved December 7, 2022, from 
  3. New Year's resolution project. Richard Wiseman. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2022, from 

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