New Year’s resolutions abound this time of year.
Then, about two to three weeks in, those resolutions go down the drain. We get busy with life, our new habits don’t fit in well with our lifestyle, and things go back to how they used to be.
The problem is the resolution. From Dictionary.com, a resolution is: a resolve; a decision or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something.
The act of making a resolution means we are pretty firm with what we want to do. Some people can work with that, but most people can’t. It’s like going cold turkey—literally or figuratively.
The first few days or weeks are easy, but it gets harder if we don’t set ourselves up to succeed. It’s easier to make small changes rather than larger changes in our lives. It’s easier if we do something to make the habit easier. One example that is often cited is to get our workout clothes ready the night before, so it’s one less barrier to working out in the morning. But that still doesn’t always change how we feel in the morning when we wake up.
Additionally, I believe the time of year makes resolutions more difficult. It’s darker and colder now than nearly any other time of the year. That makes it harder to get out of bed, get going, and doubly hard if we are trying to do something outside the house.
In witchcraft and Wicca, we often use the wheel of the year as a guiding principle in life. The wheel of the year is based on the idea of the different harvesting cycles our ancestors likely dealt with many, many years ago. During this dark time of year, we see it as a time to reflect, maybe work with our shadow, and plan what we want to harvest this coming year. The harvest might be much more figurative than literal, as many people don’t actually do any farming or gardening anymore.
Another problem with making resolutions is we often create them out of guilt. We have now spent a good couple of weeks to a month or more eating foods we don’t normally eat the rest of the year—all the cookies and candy and stuffing and bread. We can easily feel bad about eating them, either because of what society thinks we should look like or because we now feel really gross because our bodies aren’t used to this type of food all the time.
We’ve also possibly spent more time in the last month doing holiday type things, such as family get-togethers. I know I heard several stories about people quarantining for two weeks so they could get together more safely. And during any normal year, there would have been many parties and family gatherings. After all that, what makes us think we would want to try something new after all that work and stress? I don’t know about you, but I want to sit on the couch and not do anything for a week or two to reset.
Another example is spending all the money we spent on Christmas gifts, or other gifts for the holidays you might celebrate (I’m less well-versed on a lot of other holidays during this time of year), or all those specials the businesses have between Thanksgiving and Christmas that entice us to buy things for ourselves. Now it’s time to stop spending to make up for it.
So why does setting an intention make more sense?
If you are used to meditation and yoga classes, you know that there is usually an intention to come back to. Quite often, it is the breath, something we can focus on. The more we work on coming back to that intention, the easier it gets over time. Do we spend the whole class focusing on your breath while doing yoga poses? Probably not. If we are meditating, those intrusive thoughts flit around like annoying gnats at times, but we work on coming back to the breath.
We can do this in our lives too. Instead of saying we want to lose 10 pounds, maybe we can set the intention to do a workout in the mornings more often. There will be more benefit to focusing on working out than on our weight, anyway. And these workouts can be super simple. We can do 20 jumping jacks (or step-outs for those of us with bad knees), then do 20 push-ups of some kind. Maybe we move onto some forward folds to wake up the back of the legs and some high knees.
We can build on that as we go and learn some fun exercises. Making something fun is also a lot easier to stick to. It requires less motivation or activation to get going if we like it. Dancing around our living rooms might be more fun than a set sequence like I outlined above.
This whole idea of setting an intention came from my friend Susannah Conway’s “Find Your Word” course that she offers every year, for free. The idea is to figure out one word or maybe a couple of supporting words that can support our “special word.” All year long, we work with that word. Probably not every day, but we work on coming back to it throughout the year. We use it to support us in what we do with your life.
From there, I usually create an intention revolving around my word. One year, I chose courage as my word. So I did some things that took courage, like taking classes I wouldn’t normally have taken. I also started putting myself out there more with my yoga business and offering my yoga services.
I haven’t chosen my word or intention yet. I’ll be doing that this weekend. What do you think your word or intention will be for 2021?