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Intentions, Rather Than Resolutions, for the New Year

By: Danielle Bertini, LPC

In all honesty, I’ve never been a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions or goals. I usually find that they end up becoming too complicated and I try to encompass too many areas of my life. So rather than things that are attainable, I end up with a long list of resolutions that I never seem to keep. Because of this, I have switched to the mindset of setting intentions for the New Year, rather than resolutions. 

The main difference between intentions and resolutions is in their range and specificity (Lanehurst, 2022). Resolutions tend to be singular things you can check off on your to-do list or track, such as “I’m going to drink more water” or “I’m going to spend more quality time with my kids on the weekends.” Intentions, on the other hand, are more broad, such as “I’m focusing on my health,” or “I’m prioritizing my family.” 

The reality is that very few people actually keep the resolutions they set for themselves. Although there are plenty of resources out there with tips, what if the issue is in the idea of the resolution itself? What if more specificity, discipline, and accountability aren’t the answer? Your goals shouldn’t feel like punishments. 

Setting intentions rather than resolutions allows for ease and play. For example, if your intention is to focus on your health, you might try hiking, buying yourself a new water bottle, or checking out a new cookbook from the library. When you are enjoying something, you’re much more likely to stick with it and create healthy habits for life (Lanehurst, 2022).

So how do you set intentions? It’s important to keep in mind what makes intentions different from resolutions because if you try to set an intention the way you would set a goal, you’re setting yourself up for the same struggles. With this in mind, instead of brainstorming your goals for the year, or things you want to improve about yourself, try making two lists: (1) your top five values and (2) five things you enjoy (Lanehurst, 2022).

Man in hiking gear standing at overlook during sunset

This might look something like this:


  1. Family
  2. Health 
  3. Honesty 
  4. Nature 
  5. Friendship 

Things I enjoy:

  1. Long bike rides
  2. Lunch with friends
  3. Mani/pedis
  4. Lazy Saturday mornings
  5. Watching YouTube tutorials 

Next, think of ways that these lists might overlap, especially thinking about the ways you haven’t made space for these things in the way that you would like to. Try writing out a few sentences. Use the present tense if you are already doing these things (Lanehurst, 2022). 

For example:

  • I’m spending time sharing nature with my family.
  • I’m enjoying good food with good people.
  • I’m resting.

Write your intentions down somewhere you will see them often, like a sticky note on your bathroom mirror or computer screen. Share them with others on your social media. It’s also important that you take time to regularly check in with yourself. Maybe try keeping a note on your phone to keep track of different things you do that connect with your intentions. You can even write in a weekly journal or talk to your therapist about them. 

You can also use your intentions to help prioritize your time in ways that make you happy and reflect your values. For example, if your intention is to spend more time in nature, you might decide to bring your coffee out on your back porch instead of sitting in your kitchen. Your intentions should help to guide actions from a gentle, compassionate place, not a place of enforcement. 

If you find yourself struggling with setting intentions, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our therapists at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our licensed counselors. 


Lanehurst, R. (2022, January 4). Setting Intentions for the New Year. Psychology Today. 

Retrieved January 13, 2022, from 

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