Resolutions. Do you make them? Or, are you more the Goal-setting kind of woman?
Personally, while I do make goals but when it comes to New Year’s Eve what my preference is to set my Intentions for the coming year.
Resolutions Are Breakable
Whole industries have been created around the New Year’s resolution-making practice.
Have you ever wondered when we started doing this or where the idea originated? As there really is nothing new under the sun, I went searching and here is what I found about the history behind this tradition.
The first New Year’s resolutions date back over 4,000 years ago to ancient Babylon. The Babylonians are said to have started the tradition during Akitu, a 12-day New Year celebration.
During the Akitu festival, the ancient Babylonians would plant crops, crown a new king (or pledge their loyalty to the reigning king), and make promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any borrowed items. They believed that if they kept their word, the gods would look favourably on them for the year ahead. If the Babylonians broke their promises, they would fall on the bad side of their gods.
The history of New Year’s resolutions continued in ancient Rome. Emperor Julius Caesar introduced a new calendar in 46 B.C. which declared January 1st as the start of the new year. This new date honoured Janus, a two-faced god who symbolically looked back into the previous year and forwards into the new year. The Romans would offer sacrifices to Janus and make promises of good behaviour for the year ahead.
New Year’s resolutions were also made in the Middle Ages. Knights would renew their vow to chivalry by placing their hands on a live or roasted peacock. The annual “Peacock Vow” would take place at the end of the year, as a resolution to maintain their knighthood values.” Source: The Real Word
Goal Setting – A Management Tool
You can read the full article on the history of resolutions at the link above. Now, let us turn to goal setting. If ever there was a kingmaker of the journalling cottage industry, this is one!
Of course, there is a history here as well.
Locke’s Goal-Setting Theory gave us the blueprint for modern workplace motivation by making the direct relationship between goals, productivity and employee engagement both clear, and actionable.
In 1968, Edwin A. Locke published his groundbreaking Goal Setting Theory in Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentive. In it, he demonstrated that employees are motivated by clear, well-defined goals and feedback, and that a little workplace challenge is no bad thing.”
You can read more about the goal-setting theory of Locke here. On a personal level, I have used this theory and principle in my personal life but more so in my professional one. Even here at Daughters of Sheba Foundation, as young as we are as an organisation we have goal-setting as an activity in our planning. A couple of weeks ago, I believe, we met and determined what our goals are for 2021.
Basic Principles of Goal-Setting
Edwin A. Locke “is an American psychologist and a pioneer in goal-setting theory. He is a retired Dean’s Professor of Motivation and Leadership at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park.” You can read more about him here.
In summary, these are the five principles of any good process of goal-setting and working towards them.
- Clarity. A goal must be specific and clear.
- Challenge. An easy or tedious goal is demotivating. But keep a realistic balance: don’t expect anyone on your team [or yourself] to spin straw into gold.
- Commitment. You have to understand and buy into the goal from the outset.
- Feedback. Do regular review throughout the whole process. This helps to keep the goal on track.
- Task complexity. Think about realistic timescales, and break down the process into sub-goals with regular reviews.
And Intentions, What Are They?
Intention setting is a life-changing practice. Becoming intentional is to become ‘on purpose’. By setting intentions, you start to become more aware of thought and behaviour patterns each day.” The Holistic Psychologist
This is something that I have been doing for years now. Every New Year’s Eve night, since 2007, the evening into early January 1, is spent setting my intentions. Initially, to help the process along and make it visual, I would lay out tons of magazines in front of me, searching for images that represented my intentions.
With the passing of time, that would shift and I would create my Vision Board on my phone. However, I did not do that in the last two or so years. See, my vision board became internalized. My intentions have been simplified and universalised. They have included:
- Being at peace with myself and the decisions that I make
- Love wastefully, friends and strangers alike. This extended to former friends
- Live within my means and simply
As stated in the definition above, I am so attuned to my daily “thought and behaviour patterns” that creating a Vision Board is redundant for me.
What I do instead, on the same night – New Year’s Eve – is to reaffirm them through meditation and in silent prayer.
Is Setting Intentions Better Than Making Resolutions?
For me it is. Why?
Resolutions are easily broken, often unrealistic and set based on other people’s expectations of you. How many resolutions did you make at the end of 2019? Lots or a few?
Next question. How many did you actually achieve? Few if any, right? Not to mention that most of those resolutions went out the window with the COVID-19 pandemic.
When you set intentions, as I did, it matters not whether there is a pandemic or whether you lost your job. For example, scroll back up and look at the three that I made.
Now look at 2020 and what happened in my life so far:
- Got married in January
- Left work in March due to illness and COVID-19 and have been off work ever since
- Husband murdered in July
Those three events, although full of emotions and a sense of loss, they did not break my world or resolve to heal. Why not? Well, marriage, illness or death did not change my intention to live within my means, my desire to love wastefully or being at peace with myself.
Five Steps To Intention Setting
To get started and until they become the frame from which you operate, try these daily steps to set your intentions. They are taken from the website mentioned earlier. Check it out for full details.
- Promise yourself 5 minutes to set intentions every single morning. When you first get out of bed before you look at your phone or get involved in your morning grind, spend 5 minutes where you are most comfortable. This space in the morning is where you will set intentions.
- Get an intention journal. For those 5 minutes in the morning start thinking about what emotions you want to experience and what behaviours you want to shift.
- Stay aware of your intentions. Think about them throughout the day.
- Celebrate moments where you are being intentional. In moments where you are present and aware of the intention you’ve set, reward yourself.
- Start with small intentions and build a foundation. If you’ve never set intentions before, it will take the mind a period of time to adjust. It’s best to start with a small intention that you feel fully confident you can see through.
Imagine An Amazing 2021
See, any year can be amazing. Whether there is a pandemic raging or, heaven forbids a war. Have you read The Diary of Anne Frank? If not, you should. It is the recollections and diary of a young girl in the middle of the Nazis genocidal war against Jews in the 1940s. Nevertheless, Anne found moments if not extended periods of peace, even happiness.
That is what is being suggested to you. Set your intentions and set goals for specific things (a car, sales target, savings, etc) and watch your year be amazing – no matter what.
Peace and Love,