How to Turn Resolutions into Meaningful Intentions

Relationships & More
Do not make resolutions, create habits - advice on a vintage slate blackboard with a dumbbell


Are you the type of person who makes New Year’s resolutions every December? And if so, have you ever followed through on any of your resolutions to full completion? Bravo if you have. If not, know that you are not alone.

It is probably safe to say that the majority of people who set New Year’s resolutions don’t follow through to the end. If you are one of them, and you are dissatisfied by your inability to follow through, there is an emerging trend in psychotherapy that might help: turning resolutions into meaningful intentions.

Two Different Things

Resolutions and meaningful intentions are two different things, according to Relationships & More out of Westchester County, NY. Here’s how the Rye-based therapy clinic defines them:

  • Resolutions – Resolutions are essentially goals. You commit to doing something and then you measure the results. More often than not, resolutions are unrealistic because they don’t account for process.
  • Meaningful Intentions – Meaningful intentions are goals that focus mainly on process and accountability. Concentrate on those two things and the desired results should follow.

To the untrained, the difference between a resolution and a meaningful intention may seem too subtle to worry about. Yet to a trained therapist who understands how the human mind works, the difference is huge.

Failure from a Lack of ‘How’

There is nothing wrong with making a resolution. In and of itself, it may be a goal well worth achieving. Where many of us run into trouble is figuring out how to achieve the goal in a reasonable fashion.

It is one thing to resolve to lose weight in the coming year. It is another thing entirely to come up with a plan for doing so. A haphazard approach is the only option in the absence of a plan. Unfortunately, that’s how so many New Year’s resolutions go.

We fail because of a lack of ‘how’. We don’t take the time to think through a reasonable process for achieving the goal at hand. We do not account for changing circumstances, unexpected consequences, and the gradual loss of motivation we all experience.

The Road to Success

Turning resolutions into meaningful intentions more or less paves the road to success. How so? By turning one’s attention away from results and to process and accountability. Let’s go back to the example of losing weight.

Your chosen process might involve a combination of counting calories and getting regular exercise. But even those two things are just smaller goals. How are you going to count calories? How are you going to get more exercise? A calorie counting app on your phone gives you a concrete tool for doing what you want to do – and measuring the results. Setting aside a block of time for daily exercise gives you a process for achieving that goal.

Now, throw in accountability by enlisting someone else’s help. Do that and you have just turned a resolution into a meaningful intention. You are putting action to your goal rather than just speaking it and hoping for the best.

Meaningful Is the Key

A good way to wrap all of this up is to spend a little time talking about the word ‘meaningful’. A meaningful intention is one that means something to you. It’s important. It is worth implementing process and accountability to achieve. Another way to say it is this: it’s something you’re serious about.

It could be that many of us fail to achieve our resolutions because we were never really serious. A good way to prove to yourself that you are serious is to turn that resolution into a meaningful intention with process and accountability built in.

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