New Year, Fresh Start: The Difference Between New Year’s Resolutions and Intentions
I’m sure over the years you’ve heard the term New Year’s resolution being thrown around at this time of year. It’s either met with excited chatter about what we’re going to change in the new year, or merely met with eyerolls. In the last couple of years, the phrase New Year’s intentions has been floating around with kind of a wave of mystery – how does that differ from resolutions? What does that even mean? Let’s dive into what the difference between New Year’s resolutions and intentions, and which one you should ultimately choose!
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS AND INTENTIONS
What is a Resolution
By definition, resolution means “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” (thanks Google). If we check out Merriam Webster’s definition, it goes in a little deeper: “the act or process of resolving, such as: the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones, the act of answering (solving), or the act of determining” (there were a few other examples but they started to head into science and chemical compounds, which we’re not chatting about today).
So basically what does this mean? A resolution is a decision, an answer or finding a solution to a problem we’re having. Now, if we know anything about problem solving and answering questions (ie. think math), we need answer that’s more on the concrete side. So if it helps you to remember, resolutions are measurable, distinct and straight forward.
A resolution is a simple answer to a problem or a goal. Some examples of resolutions are to save X amount of dollars by January 31st, or to lose 20lbs by March, or to be able to run 5km by April. Resolutions are often phrased as tangible goals – they have specific measurements to quantify achievement, and often have specific end dates.
What is An Intention?
By definition, an intention is “a thing intended; an aim or plan” (again, thanks Google). Intentions already sound like the opposite of resolutions in the sense that they are more of a qualitative action. With intentions, you mean to do things, you want to do things or you plan to do things.
Intentions embody a different approach to achieving our goals – they are less specific, have a harder time being measured, and lack a quantitative measurement that makes them specific. Intentions play more on the feeling aspect – how do we feel and how do we make plans and actions that honour our thoughts and feelings?
Some examples of intentions you set for yourself might look like deciding to spend more time on yourself, or making a point of moving your body every day, or saying no more often. It’s harder (not entirely impossible) to quantify these actions and plans we’ve set for ourselves, however it doesn’t dismiss their validity nor our need for them in our lives. (You can read my 4 intentions for 2021 here!)
Okay, So Is one Better than the Other?
The simple answer is no, one is not better than the other. Life is not a simple ‘this or that’, all or nothing approach though either. Whether you decide to make New Year’s resolutions or intentions, the difference will be in what you expect to achieve.
A Simple Guide for When to CHoose Between the Two
When to Choose a Resolution
You should choose to make a resolution if you have a specific goal in mind, with a specific outcome you want to achieve. These are your quantifiable goals – ex. money you save, weight you lose, number of words written, amount of money you make, etc. Choose to make a resolution when you have a clearly defined goal that you want to achieve in a specific amount of time.
Note: there are hundreds of examples that can be used, those are just ones that popped into mind that are easy to quantify. You can make a goal for x number of stamps you want to collect, how many vegetables you want to eat in a week, or literally anything else that comes to mind. The world is your oyster!
When to Choose an Intention
You should choose to make an intention when you want to invite a goal or habit into your life that is difficult to quantify, but is something that can be implemented regardless. For example – an intention to make more time for yourself each day, to choose to read over watching TV, to make better food choices and honor your body, to spend more time in nature, etc. Choose to make an intention when you want to make plans and actions towards something that involves improving your life in a qualitative way (thoughts, actions, feelings).
Recap & Reminders
A resolution is your more concrete, defined, specific, measurable goal or action plan, while an intention is more of a plan, feeling or meaning to complete something – less measurable and specific (but not impossible). You should choose to make a resolution when you have a goal that will have a specific, measurable outcome, and choose to make an intention when you want to embody a qualitative feeling as opposed to a measurable outcome.
Remember, you don’t have to make either resolutions or intentions at the start of the New Year. For many people, a New Year acts as a fresh start and a chance to make some changes in their lives. Regardless of what people think, if you need the idea of a fresh start to feel motivated – go for it! Another reminder is that you don’t need to choose between the two. There is space for both resolutions and intentions in our lives, we just need to recognize when one is more beneficial than the other!