What’s the big difference, at this time of year, between a resolution and an intention? The big difference, with a little motivation and planning, is that you might actually turn your intentions into action
"Intentions don’t always have to be about improving yourself. They can be about learning to rest too. That’s what I did, at the end of last year. I set an intention to rest."
That whole ’new year, new me!’ adage is really tired. The annals of time, and my ever-sprouting grey hairs, have made me cynical about the passing of another year. Rather than setting resolutions, I prefer to set intentions.
New Year’s resolutions are weird markers anchored to a date that’s set by an arbitrary calendar not everyone on the planet adheres to. But intentions can change as you do; shift as you need them to; grow – just as you are able to; or shrink when you need to prioritise other things.
A New Year’s resolution to hit the gym four times a week often falls by the wayside when other life-tasks demand your attention. An intention to be more mindful about when and how you exercise? That can count more, and is less guilt-inducing.
The thing about intentions is that you have to support them. You have to plan towards them, turn them into actions, and let life guide you as you work towards them.
Intentions don’t always have to be about improving yourself. They can be about learning to rest too. That’s what I did, at the end of last year. I set an intention to rest.
It had been a busy year, filled with deadlines, life changes, and a significant bout of falling in love again, while having almost anyone and everyone throw flames at me. Yeah, one day we’ll talk about that.
For the first part of 2019, I was still in survival mode – with gritted teeth and my head down – just to get through things. And I set intentions for doing that. I ran, I walked, I worked, I lived, I fought the right fights, and I did not stop.
As the pressure of it all started to peter out, I realised I was well into achieving all the physical goals I wanted for myself, that I’d matched the career objectives I wanted to, and had done the thing I needed to do: survive. In fact, I had thrived.
And yet, I felt worn out at every level. Some people call it burnout. I call it the cumulative fatigue of getting things done, and it’s not the kind of thing that a good night’s sleep can fix. That intention was no longer useful. That’s when I set my next intention: to relax.
And that’s what I did. For almost three months. I shifted my routine to cater for shifting routines at home. I ditched walking for a bit to read recipe books instead, and I let myself enjoy just living my life as it was, not what I was shaping it towards.
Several revelations later, the holidays arrived and I followed through on giving myself the grace to thrive, and not focus on surviving. I did the one thing I had not done properly in eight years: I took leave. With the support of my family, I set that Out of Office message, told my clients, finished my work for the year, and switched off.
At first, it felt strange. I am so unaccustomed to Actually Relaxing, that I half-convinced myself I was dying and should see a doctor. Instead, I napped. I’ve never been a daytime napper, but I have learnt how to do it. I have cooked feasts, gone for dips in the pool, and slept in until 10am many a morning.
Now, however, as the buzz of welcoming friends into our home, visiting in friends’ homes, parties, celebrations, spontaneous dinners, and meetups, and managing the teen’s social calendar winds down – it’s time.
Time for a new set of intentions, that focus on feeling good and fit again. I’ve entered a six-week challenge, to motivate me to get back into my routine of moving and walking.
Armed with new gear for my home workouts, and a schedule for getting started, I’m ready to focus on my intention to get back to feeling as good physically again as I do mentally. (A shout-out to my ever-inspiring friend, Jane, for setting this up!)
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to The Road to Happiness is Paved with Good Intentionsrelearn my walking route and figure out these exercise bands, one step at a time.