By Bindu Adai Mathew
This year I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. Now don’t mistake me. There’s plenty I want to improve about myself and my life, but this year I decided on a different approach. I created New Year Intentions.
A New Year Intention is a conscious, dedicated, yet kinder, gentler approach to achieving specific goals. Now I know the experts say without a detailed plan, measureable goals, a specific deadline, accountability, yadda yadda yadda, a goal is less likely to be achieved. And for some things like tasks and projects, I would agree that is probably the case. But for other things, such as the yearly goal most people have to get into shape or start living healthier, I realized telling myself to cut out sugar, caffeine, carbs and working out 4-5 times a week might work for the month of January, but by February or March, I either get bored or “too busy” or too tired to continue. I love my morning toast and chai. And my afternoon Spicy Cheetos.
Make realistic goals would be some experts’ response. Yeah. I guess. But somehow the yearly New Year’s resolution eventually becomes something I abhor. I intentionally shirk from it after a few months. Because whether it is a lofty, unrealistic goal or just something minor I want to change about myself, I find that anytime I don’t follow my goal for that day or that week, I start reaching for the eject button and am ready to abandon my goals.
A New Year’s Intention, on the other hand, is a shift in mindset. My New Year intention isn’t just a goal that I attain… it’s a lifestyle change. Rather than focusing on a specific amount of pounds to lose or a specific size of clothing, I, instead focus on making healthier choices, whether it’s what I decide to eat or how much of it to eat. It’s recognizing I want to be healthier, that I need to eat better, work out more. And that is my intention every day. That is my intention even when I don’t work out for a few days during the week and that is my intention as I bite into a sweet, soft donut that someone brought to work on Friday. Yeah, you heard me. So as I eat that donut, I’m not plagued with guilt. I’m not plagued with worries about my skinny jeans no longer fitting. That I don’t have a right to eat this donut because I didn’t work out earlier in the week. And neither am I plagued with thoughts of getting to the gym that night or the next day to “burn off” that donut. Instead, I’m enjoying that donut for all its sweet, warm gooey goodness. BUT. I know that donut is not healthy for me. So after a few bites, I realize that my initial desire for the donut has been curbed and because I’m not plagued with a “heck, I already screwed up, I might as well finish it and then grab another donut” thought, I can actually set the donut down and not feel I have to eat all of it. I’m no longer “feeding” my guilt or shame. I can listen to my body and create that space between want and truly need and make a better decision. And because my mindset has shifted, I don’t feel “forced” to make a healthier choice for food at lunch, but realize I want to. Because I truly want to give my body what it really needs. Because that is my underlying intention. Every day.
The same goes for working out. Become more organized. Procrastinating less. Spending more time with God.
This past week, it was hard to find some focused quiet time in the morning to read my Bible. So instead, I turned on some praise and worship music and worshipped God as I made my daughter’s breakfast and packed her lunch and then had a conversation with God on my way to work and during my afternoon break. I think of “time with God” less as a formal, set time but rather than a continual, all-day awareness that He is with me, that He is in control, and I often now speak to him throughout the day like I would with a close friend. And eventually I’m back to reading my Bible on a more consistent time frame.
A New Year’s Intention isn’t casual or half-hearted. In fact, as its name implies, it’s very intentional. It has to be well thought out and some specifics do need to be identified and followed through. But most of all, it has to be something you are ready to do. It requires a commitment. And perseverance. But it’s guilt-free. It allows you to be human. To “mess up. “ But you never have to get back in the saddle, for you never got off.
So whatever changes you want to make in your life, remember, above all else, be kind to yourself. And persevere. For as Ecclesiastes 9:11 says, the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong.