Set Intentions, Not Resolutions

Set Intentions, Not Resolutions

It’s the New Year and everywhere we turn, we’re being told to set resolutions about how we want the year to go. There are stories in all the news and media outlets focused on how we should be changing as we move into the new year, as if a date is what we need to create new habits and identify ways to make improvements in our lives.

In many ways, this invalidates how well we may be doing. In fact, as we begin 2021, focusing on change invalidates how hard we all worked to survive the challenges of 2020. It is important not to diminish the work that took for all of us.

2021 IntentionsIt’s because of this that I feel even more strongly than usual that we need to set intentions for ourselves this year rather than resolutions. The word “resolution” comes from the base word “resolve” or “resolute.” Both of these words imply that there is a sense of “solving” to be done.

While there may be a need for change, falling into resolutions also opens up the door for failure. We often feel that once we fail, we cannot try again. We live in a one and done mentality here. This is why many resolutions do not make it past January.

I believe that resolutions can cause more problems than they solve. It’s why I promote the idea of setting intentions. Although it’s a small shift, it’s an important one. Intentions allow us to build toward something. We can create goals that are achievable and then, once accomplished, set another. If we notice that something isn’t working, we can tweak it and adjust as needed. Intentions promote growth; resolutions promote shut-down.

Below are some steps to get started:


Journal JanuaryReview what helped you get through the previous year. 2020 was a tough one for everyone. We all had losses to endure, changes to manage and the need to pivot in new directions. Take stock of how you did that and what you did to help yourself through it. Write these things down so you can see the hard work you did (it is Journal January, after all). Noting your successes is an important part of continuing them.


Choose your top three areas that you would like to address. It’s possible to improve upon things you did before. It’s possible that you want to start something fresh. Keep it simple and your list short. If you make an overly long list, you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and unable to do nothing. Start small and build.


Once you identify what your goals are, list what you need to start. Take that first step. Fear is going to be an obstacle to starting anything. The best way to manage fear is to move toward it and recognize that you can get through it.


Change is never easy. There is a good chance that you will fail as you try. Failure is a wonderful thing that provides opportunity for learning. Rather than look at it as an awful experience, embrace it and learn from it.

Although we look at the New Year as an opportunity to make different decisions and changes in our lives, it’s important to consider what is working and what actually needs some variation.

I encourage you to examine what you’d like to do differently and set goals about that, while simultaneously embracing the wonderful things that are working for you. Both the change and the acceptance can occur at the same time. Let’s honor them both.

Happy New Year all!

Authored by:  Dr. Jennifer Hartstein