Annual resolutions rarely work. The process is a setup for failure. No matter how sincere our goals are, after just a few weeks, our resolve usually falters, and by spring, abandoned resolutions litter our lives.

The reason resolutions don’t work is simple. The approach is flawed – not our desire to break a habit, work less, spend more time with family, learn a second language, build our businesses, or be more patient. Deciding that from this day forward, we will eat healthily, exercise more, swear less, attract new clients, and be a better person, sounds meaningful and achievable. They also add pressure to perform a certain way within a set time frame. They might also sound familiar. One sure way to confirm whether setting traditional resolutions works is to look over past annual lists. If you see the same goals repeated year after year, this change system is not working for you.

It’s time for a circuit breaker – something to stop the cycle and kick start your new intentions. Instead of making a list, try this alternate approach.

Set an intention for the coming year

An intention, in this context, is a statement or meaningful phrase that resonates with you which you repeat to yourself regularly. It is meant to motivate and encourage you without the pressure of resolutions which can eventually leave you with a sense of guilt and failure when they don’t happen. Unlike mantras, intention statements are action-oriented and usually include verbs. The idea is to start your day with reflection and state your intention. Repeat throughout the day until your intention becomes a habit and brings lifelong change.

Use these examples to develop your own 

After some soul searching, one business owner we know realized her family was suffering because of her habit of volunteering for everything – charity events, business associations, food drives, coaching her son’s sports, and more. You name it, and she was the first to put her hand up. While she received a sense of satisfaction and community from her much appreciated volunteerism, she knew her family often felt her absence. She resolved to spend more time with her partner and children and was about to declare it as her number one resolution on New Year’s Day. Instead, after her son reminded her that she says the same thing every New Year’s Day, she announced her intention for the upcoming year: Back away from the sign-up sheet. The thought behind her statement addressed the reason behind the need for change – she never said no. She soon discovered she was not indispensable, and others filled the gap created by her following this meaningful phrase. The only volunteering she did that year was for events and purposes that could be done as a family and provided there was family consensus. The community still benefited; she enjoyed a better life balance and developed some great memories of family fun while helping others.

If your goal is to improve your health through exercise and better eating, consider Move more, eat well. This approach includes much more flexibility than pledging to follow a specific way of eating or go to the gym a certain number of times each week. It raises your consciousness without feeling restrictive. 

As a life-changing intention, listen more and speak less works in many situations, from building client relationships to developing patience. 

Intention leads to behaviours which lead to habits which lead to personality development which leads to destiny.

Jack Kornfield