The start of a new year is a traditional time to reflect on one’s life and contemplate changes for the upcoming year. But as a dedicated yogi, every single day I step on my yoga mat is a new opportunity to reflect, adjust goals, and make changes to my practice and my life. We all know the challenge of fulfilling goals and resolutions and to creating and maintaining healthy habits. Part of this challenge is that the practice of self-improvement is not a one size fits all technique. To make positive changes successfully and effectively, we need to learn the difference between goals, intentions, resolutions, and affirmations. When we can skillfully align the type of system with the type of change desired, we will have a much higher success rate.
Let us examine the difference between intentions, goals, resolutions, and affirmations in detail. Understanding and knowing the differences between these will help you choose which tools will be best to achieve your desired change.
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What is a Resolution?
A resolution is a decision to either do or not do something to create a positive shift in your life. You can resolve to change an unhealthy behavior or undesired trait, or you can decide to establish new healthy habits. A resolution is usually general, not very specific, and tends to be set for a long period of time. Examples of a resolution would be wanting to lose weight or to eat more healthy food in the new year.
What is a Goal?
A goal is something you want to accomplish that includes taking actionable steps to achieve it. Sometimes creating too large of a goal makes completing it difficult or impossible. Thus, it is best to start small with simple and manageable goals. Once you become proficient at creating and completing goals, then you can move on towards bigger and more complex ones. Ideally, a goal should be created using the following framework of five key components to formulate and refine your goal. You can remember these parts by using the acronym SMART.
Specific. Your goal should be clearly defined and identified. So if your goal involves engaging in a particular activity like yoga sessions or meditation, it should include the specific styles, techniques, and where you will be practicing at.
Measurable. Your goal should have a clear and easy way to measure its progress and completion. For example, if your goal is to get better at arm balancing yoga poses, you could measure this through the number of breaths that you can hold crow pose or side plank.
Actionable. Your goal should have a clear action and have distinct steps you need to take to progress towards your goal.
Relevant. The steps and actions of attaining your goal should be relevant to what you need to achieve your goal. For example, if your goal is to practice hot yoga, one of your steps might be to purchase some yoga workout outfits. Going clothes shopping would be much less relevant.
Time-bound. Your goal should have clear and defined time limits. This involves setting days when you need to work on your goals. For instance, you can say that you will go for yoga classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Another example is practicing some yoga stretches for five minutes, every ninety minutes throughout your workday.
What is an intention?
An intention is a short and positive statement set at the start of a day or short activity. An intention serves as a gentle reminder of the specific qualities that you wish to focus on as you move through the next phase of your day. It requires contemplation and thought, an assessment of the current state of your life, and what you desire to experience in the current situation. For instance, it is common at the beginning of a yoga class, to set an intention for the practice. The intention then acts as a reminder throughout your yoga session of where to focus your thoughts, focus, and energy. Whenever your mind becomes distracted, you can return your focus to the intention. Setting an intention means that you have chosen something you want to cultivate or amplify, either during your yoga classes or in your life. An intention can exist on its own, or you can set intentions to guide you back towards working on your goals and resolutions.
What is an Affirmation?
An affirmation is a short and positive statement that unites motivation, inspiration, and conscious action. Its purpose is to affirm a belief in the mind of the individual repeating the affirmation. Repeating an affirmation repeatedly throughout your day can affect your subconscious mind positively. Affirmations can provide you with encouragement and support to work on your larger goals and resolutions. They can help to reframe your thinking and help you through challenging life situations. An affirmation can also adjust your thinking to help you change the way you live. You can avoid negative self-thoughts and conquer the low expectations you might hold. Since other people in your life might have expressed doubt about your abilities, it is essential to replace the externally imposed pessimism with positive affirmations.
An affirmation may sound like a wish or hope, but it should not be phrased as so. For example, “I wish I were more kind towards other people” is not an affirmation, but “May I be kind and compassionate towards all living things” is. Do this in an organized or structured way if you regularly find yourself discouraged. Make a list of the negative things you repeat, then choose positive words or verses to replace them within your mind. Reciting the verses can replace the negative sentences with positive ones.
Which one is best for you to use?
Resolutions are not typically productive by themselves. Most people who make resolutions do not achieve them since they are not actionable or precise. A resolution is more effective as the inspiration or precursor to setting a clearly defined goal.
Everyone should consider using affirmations to cultivate a positive outlook on life and to help reframe negative thought patterns. Affirmations also encourage you to know what your positive attributes are and to help you reinforce these throughout your day.
Goals are clear, straightforward, and reasonable, and everyone who desires change should set them. Goals need to be backed up with a clear plan with smaller actionable steps. Intentions and affirmations can provide motivation, inspiration, and encouragement to move forward to completing goals.