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Friday Food for Thought: What about those New Year’s Resolutions?

Posted on January 10, 2015 | No Comments

by Linda Herman–Posted Saturday, 1/10/15

What about those New Year’s Resolutions?

We are well into our second week of 2015. You may have given a great deal of thought to your  “resolutions” for the coming months. Some years ago, I stopped making resolutions. I began considering my “intentions” for the coming year. To live with “intention” is to consider thoughtfully how you want to be.

The word “intention” suggests that you are choosing particular paths or values and intend to live by those choices.  It is not a black and white resolution that you may break after several days, e.g. “I won’t eat fast food;” or “I will exercise 3 times a week.” Synonyms for “intention” include:  meaning, purpose, aim, objective, target, goal, plan. Rather than resolving to exercise 3 times a week, someone may have the intention of making healthier choices, or increasing activity level. A resolution, once broken, is broken. An intention has longer staying power.

Intentions are guidelines; resolutions are more like directives.

Yet, intentions give us direction. They are more subtle and have more depth than resolutions.

A challenge I experience is finding the balance between living with intention and living in the here and now. In the 1970s, therapist Barry Stevens wrote  a book entitled  Don’t Push the River; It Flows by Itself. I know when I am pushing against the river. It is when I am mentally leaning into something or a situation and it feels like a battle. There is no sense of “flow”. I never make my best decisions when I am in the mode of mentally pushing hard toward something. That is a signal for me to step back and re-examine my intentions and how I am going about expressing them in my life. I advise my clients to do the same, to pause at those moments, and reconsider their approach to their particular challenges.

It can be very helpful to “be” in the moment, or be mindful of the moment as a way of staying  present-focused.  Doing so is a great antidote to anxiety and depression, as we are consumed with neither the future nor the past.  But also essential to meaningful living is to have that sense of direction or purpose. That gives us the framework and the security to go about our business, whether that means focusing on achieving specific goals or allowing answers to reveal themselves.

Just as young children need structure within which to be “free”, we adults do as well. Knowing our purpose, values− our intentions−is an important starting point not just in the new year, but every day of our lives.

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