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Skip the New Year’s Resolutions, This Year Set Intentions

by Heather Rafanello
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As the start of the new year marks the beginning of another journey around the sun, there is much discussion about New Year’s resolutions and setting new goals. For some, setting a goal can be a motivating experience and inspire change, however this is not the case for all. Read on to learn more about a different take on the new year from Heather Rafanello, MSW, LCSW, a Hoboken-based therapist and founder of Growing Mindset Therapy LLC.

People like to tease: “diet starts on Monday” or “new year, new me” and this perspective encourages measuring the achievement of long-term progress rather than recognizing the many opportunities that arise each new day, which is exactly what intentions encourage.

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What is an intention? Wow, what a great question! Merriam-Webster defines an intention as “the thing that you plan to do or achieve; an aim or purpose” and here are a few reasons why this therapist recommends ditching the goals and setting intentions instead:

1. Goals are future-focused, while intentions focus on the present moment.

Setting a goal requires one to think about the future, which is sometimes quite a ways away. The reward, or accomplishment, is easily forgotten or diffused by the distance between now and then. It becomes much easier to get distracted and to even go off course when the reward is out of sight.

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An intention is a choice that is actively made and lived out. While goals, too, are active choices, they focus less on the present moment and focus on achieving something later on, often in the longer term. Intentions create space for choices in the present moment that allow someone to live out their will. These intentions are a guide to follow for how one wants to live out each moment in their life.

2. Goals are achieved, intentions are lived.

Creating a goal is similar to creating a to-do list: it allows for items and tasks to be checked off once finished. There is an end, or a destination when setting a goal. Intentions, allow for people to actively choose how to behave, think, and interact with the world. These are continuing decisions that are lived out moment to moment. This active choice can become a way of life, rather than creating an opportunity to check something off and move on.

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3. Goals are something external, while intentions inspire people internally.

Goals focus on changing the outside world, the situations, and the environment rather than allowing space for internal growth. Intentions allow for people to inspire their own change. Intentions are a will that someone actively chooses to guide their current situation. These choices create positive relationships not only with oneself but also with others.

At the end of the day, everyone sets goals and this is article is not intended to discourage that. Rather, this is merely a suggestion for consideration. While goals are created as a form of motivation, they often actually do the opposite, creating feelings of guilt and dissatisfaction. Creating both intentions and goals can allow for internal growth and appreciation of the present moment rather than simply focusing on achieving the end goal.


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