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Resolve Not to Resolve

A New Year is like a blank slate. Many of us start the year with high hopes and a long list of resolutions. We vow to lose those nagging five pounds, to quit eating sugar, and to go to the gym every morning. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those goals—except the way we’re framing them.

When we start our year with a list of the things we need to change about ourselves in order to be better, we set off on negative footing. Instead, what if we focused on what is right and invited more of the good stuff into our lives?

Here is a new and improved way to start the New Year:

Resolve not to make resolutions: Resolutions are typically focused on negative behaviors or things we don’t want to do. When we’re focusing on what we don’t want rather than what we do want, our attention is misplaced. Resolutions keep us focused on our flaws, which is no way to move forward.

Reflect and appreciate the past year: It’s natural to focus on the excitement of a new year—but remember, beginnings and endings go hand-in-hand. Use the impending New Year as an opportunity to reflect on the past year.

Make a list of everything that was wonderful about the year that is coming to a close. Get specific. List everything you accomplished or feel grateful for—the vacation to Mexico, running a race, finishing a project, volunteering in your community, recovering from an illness. Be thorough. Write it all down. Now, review your list. Stay focused on the blessings and achievements of your year. Seeing your year in review provides a wonderful perspective and sense of value.

Let go: In contrast, make a list of things from the past year that you are ready to let go of or that weren’t quite so fun. Are you harboring a grudge? Were you injured? Did you gain weight? Write it all down. Don’t pause to reflect or read; simply let it flow out of you.

When your list is complete, burn it or tear it into pieces and throw it away. By getting rid of it symbolically, you send the message to your subconscious that it is done. Let go. Those events are done and revisiting them will not serve you. Letting go is a powerful way to open up space for new and positive things to flow into your life.

Set intentions: An intention is different from a resolution because it reflects a positive state of being. An intention is usually the authentic desire underlying a goal or resolution. For example, when we resolve to lose five pounds, our intention is probably to feel fit, healthy, and strong.

Rather than focusing on goals or resolutions, spend some time in quiet meditation and contemplate how you want to feel in the upcoming year. Once you identify your intentions, then you can set realistic goals that move you toward them. For example, if you set an intention for weight loss, you might create a list of action steps that will help you choose a nutritious diet and an effective exercise plan.

Focus on what you want to invite into your life rather than what you want to eliminate.

Revisit Your Intentions Regularly: Write your intentions down and place them somewhere where you can review them often. By having our intentions and goals in front of us, we are more likely to stay on track.

Happy New Year!