We Asked a Psychologist Why Intentions Are Better Than New Year's Resolutions

As someone who is energized by change, the promise of a new year has always felt incredibly seductive to me—even as I've racked up a lifetime of evidence that our culturally imposed "fresh start" rarely instigates genuine transformation. Though my resolution success rate probably hovers around (a very generous) 5%, the collective mentality to do better is always infectious enough for me to convince myself that this year will be different. Finally, 2017 actually was different, if only because I finally threw out the resolution rule book.

I could pretend that I very thoughtfully decided to set intentions instead, but the truth was I was emotionally drained from an illness (and then passing) in my family and couldn't wrap my head around any kind of goal-setting apart from trying to be a little nicer to myself. So I signed up for a yoga membership. I found solace in journaling. I found that when I reached my favorite vista of my favorite hike, I was able to find an unrivaled kind of catharsis. Basically, I learned what self-care was on an emotionally intimate level. And this finally laid the groundwork for the lasting growth, health, and peace that I had always chased through years of failed resolutions.

To be clear, rejecting resolutions doesn't necessarily mean rejecting the New Year's sentiment altogether. In fact, it can be helpful to utilize this cultural moment to check in with yourself and reassess your own goals. The key is to reject the rigid mindset around resolutions—which not only tends to induce failure but anxiety as well—and try another, more compassionate path instead. We asked a couple of experts exactly how to make that happen.