It’s a whole new year. The holiday season is officially behind us and we’re one week into our “new year, new me” selves. Many of us have made New Year’s resolutions to help ourselves try to be better people or somehow improve our lives going forward into 2019, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s natural to want to build, and to want to make things better.
I made resolutions – or rather, Resolutions, capital letter and all – every year from the time I was a little kid. It was a tradition. Everyone wanted to find some way in which they could do better. The thing with resolutions is they’re kind of an all-or-nothing thing, aren’t they? It’s right there in the word – resolute.
This year, I decided I wasn’t going to make any Resolutions. Instead, I set intentions.
It sounds like pretty much the same thing, doesn’t it? I’ve resolved to work out every day, I intend to work out every day. Words matter, though, and the difference between the two is powerful.
Let’s take a look at the example above. A lot of people from all walks of life want to get more fit, and the new year seems like a great opportunity to make that happen. I’m not much different. While weight loss isn’t a realistic goal for me, I know exercise helps me to manage my ADD and anxiety, and so helps me to improve my productivity and overall health. So I set the intention that I wanted to work out every day.
I started out right. On New Year’s Day, I opened up a workout app. While I waited for my coffee to cool, I did a beginner-level HIIT workout. Awesome, right? Great way to start the day.
Wrong. I pulled a muscle doing push-ups. (Go ahead and laugh. I laughed at myself. I’m still laughing at myself. Who does that?) Seriously, I pulled a muscle in my chest that made it hard to do anything, even breathe, for days on end. So working out, even on the exercise bike, was not a realistic possibility.
If I’d made a formal resolution, I’d have shot myself in the foot on the first day. Whether I wanted it to or not, I’d have been put into a failure mindset, playing catch-up the whole rest of the year.
Since I’d set an intention, my mindset was different. I was frustrated, and kind of annoyed, but I’ll get over it. Things happen. I took the week off, and now that I can do things like breathe I can start over again. I’m not beating myself up. I don’t feel like I need to play catch up.
An intention is more flexible than a resolution. Intentions acknowledge that things happen, plans can change, and we need to be able to adapt to them. Some people say I should have pushed through the pain and gone to work out anyway. And done what, injured myself further? That’s stupid.
What does any of this have to do with queer romance, LGBTQ+ issues, or any of that?
Setting intentions versus making resolutions isn’t specifically a queer issue. Being good to ourselves, and forgiving ourselves, is. We’re living in frankly regressive times, especially in the US, and many of us remember all too well the way some people want the world to be again. Some of us are fortunate to have a good support system, some are less blessed.
The point is, we don’t need to make things harder for ourselves. There are plenty of people who want to do that already. We don’t have to add our voices to theirs.
Sure, most of us want to improve some aspect of our lives. Goal setting is part of that. Personally, deadlines help me to focus, but I also need to learn to prioritize and to know what can be moved. (Pro tip for me: if no one’s expecting me to turn it in and the deadline is self imposed, guess what? I can move it and accommodate illness, vet appointments, and that kitchen fire I just accidentally started. Oops. Who knew lemon juice was flammable?)
We don’t need to set ourselves up to feel bad about something if we don’t have to. Our news apps give us enough of that. One of my intentions this year – and the only one that might be elevated to the status of a resolution – is to take better care of myself. Part of that is teaching myself what’s worth stressing about and what isn’t – not adding to stressors that are outside of my control.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m resolved to go and add to my coffee cup.