Rethinking Resolutions

So, January has come to an end…how many of us have kept our New Year’s resolutions so far?

It’s so easy to let our good intentions slip once we get back into normal routines and as the festive period fades into a distant memory. According to a survey on http://www.statisticbrain.com: 9.2% of people felt they were successful in achieving their resolutions, 48.4% have infrequent success and 42.4% never succeed and fail on their resolution each year.

So why do so many New Year’s resolutions that seem such a good idea at the time they’re made, then fail? There are probably numerous reasons but the one I’d like to focus on is that sometimes people make resolutions that are not aligned with their values in life. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) a major focus is on helping clients to identify their core values, what really matters to them, and then take actions that reflect these and enrich their lives. Principles of mindfulness are also used to assist clients in following through with these actions; they are done consciously, with full awareness, total engagement and an openness to experience. If, instead of the usual typical resolutions, we were to set intentions based on our values, we’d be likely to have more chance of achieving them.

It also feels helpful to me to think in terms of intentions rather than resolutions. When I hear the word resolution it has a flavour of “I will…”, however when I hear the word intention I have a sense of “I plan to…” or “I will try to…”. The latter seems more self-compassionate as there’s less of a feeling of failure if we don’t manage to always do what we set out to do.

ACT offers several ways of getting in touch with what we value most in life. If we can identify what we really want to focus on at the start of the year by using these strategies, then we are likely to create intentions which we will be motivated and inspired to keep. For anyone local, if you are finding it hard to keep your New Year’s resolutions and would like to explore setting intentions in an ACT-based way, this will form part of the day retreat I will be facilitating in a couple of weeks to coincide with Chinese New Year (we can make the most of this second chance for intention setting!).

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