Mindfully Cultivating Intentions vs. Making New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions are future oriented, and we often find them difficult to achieve. By cultivating intentions mindfully, we are working with habitual habits of behavior in the present moment, both in meditation and in every day life. Explore cultivating intentions mindfully as a more effective way to achieve your goals.

Mindfulness Meditation – Attention, Concentration, Awareness, with Compassion

Mindfulness is awareness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally (that is, recognize judgments and setting them aside). Mindfulness involves training in attention, awareness, concentration, and compassion.

Key aspects of mindfulness: Concentration – the ability to stay focused on one object, one-pointedness (developing a unified and tranquil mind). Awareness – another way of knowing that is experiential, largely non-cognitive. In the present moment, now (as in “Be Here Now”); not being caught-up in thoughts of the future or the past. Attention is where the mind is focused, with curiosity, kindness, and gentleness. We focus attention on whatever arises in mind and body. Just directly observing the sensations themselves, moment-to-moment, with nothing added. This practice is done with Compassion – coming to know and understand yourself in a deeper, experiential way and extending understanding and compassion to others. Being present in this way you are able to change your relationship with stress and other forms of suffering (i.e., anxiety, fear, depression, worry, etc.).

Mindfulness practice allows you to respond rather than react to stressful situations. Reactions are often automatic, unconscious, and habitual. Responses are conscious choices arising from mindfulness – perception, appraisal, awareness of what’s actually happening in the moment. This process results in not identifying as closely with our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, which in-turn loosens our attachment to them. This allows “space” for creative, conscious choices to arise. Keep in mind, as with developing any art or skill, mindfulness requires practice and patience.

Cultivation Intentions Rather than Making Resolutions


Resolutions often fail – 80 – 90% of the time. What has been your experience with resolutions? There is a more effective way – cultivating intentions with mindfulness.


  • Resolutions are often based on a specific goal that is firm and fixed

  • Resolutions limit our focus and are largely governed by the mind

  • Resolutions are future oriented, not of the present moment; and are often related to fear from our conditioned past and worry about what the future may bring.

  • Resolutions are often made because of a feeling something is lacking or there is a problem to be fixed. And when not achieved you may feel this as a failure, which may lead to feelings of inadequacy, guilt and shame.

Difference between Intentions and Resolutions

  • Resolutions are future oriented, an imagined future.

  • Intentions are guided by the present moment.

  • Resolutions depend on will power and are of the mind.

  • Intentions are based on your inner wisdom, mindfulness, and wise reflection.

  • Resolutions have a limited view of what is success.

  • Intentions provide a sense of meaning and align you with your deepest values.

  • Resolutions involve thinking about something you do not have, possibly a negative approach.

  • Intentions incline us toward investing energy toward something you want, a positive approach.

The differences are subtle but significate. Aligning your life’s path with your deepest values brings happiness.

Intentions and How To Cultivate Intentions

  • Intentions – “Sankalpa” in Sanskrit; an intention formed by the heart and mind.

  • Intentions can be thought of a path or practice based on how you are here and now (being in the present moment).

  • Intentions are cultivated through mindfulness (both by formal meditation and in daily life) and wise reflection.

  • Intentions are a commitment to align your actions and speech with your deepest values.

  • Intentions become an attitude or state of mind, a way of being in the world.

Intentions are how you live every day. This allows for remembering your intentions, connecting with your inner wisdom every day and when especially needed or challenged. Intentions are like muscles, using them makes them stronger.

Supporting Your Intention(s)

  • Meditate on or with your intentions daily, ideally first thing in the morning. Check your posture, relax, follow the breath, allowing calm, stillness, and tranquility to arise. After some time, quietly with your inner voice repeat your intention(s), pausing between them, allowing associations, feelings, whatever may arise to come and go.

  • Be open, allowing, and flexible – your original intention(s) my change; embrace the present rather than “chase” after the future. Remember, change is the only constant.

  • Be open to possible outcomes, but not attached to them.

  • Day by day, find quiet moments to reflect on how your intention(s) may be manifesting and challenged.

  • At bedtime, mindfully reflect on how the day went from the standpoint of your intention(s).

  • Keep a journal, focusing on your intention(s) and mindfulness practice both on and off the meditation cushion. Periodically review your journal and reflect on your path, making adjustments if/as needed.

Remember, change happens one decision at a time, over time, by making many small skillful and wholesome choices throughout each day. Moffitt reminds us, “Your happiness comes from the strength of your internal experience of intention” (Moffitt, P. August 2007. Yoga Journal – yogajournal.com/wisdom/926). You are aligning your life with your deepest values.


Setting Intention(s)

1. Following the steps on Setting Intention(s) above, start setting your intention(s). Any questions?

2. Next, reflect and write about and/or draw (mind mapping) how you plan to support your intention(s). Identify areas of your life on which to focus your attention. Any questions?

Supporting Your Intention(s)

Take a few minutes to reflect on the “Supporting Your Intention(s) section above and visualize how you would go about this. Do you have any questions?

Please Note: The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop provides guidelines and practices for bringing mindfulness more fully into your life. Learn how to change your relationship to stress, anxiety, sadness, and other difficult emotions. The Next Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop starts February 11, 2019. For more information and to Register, please go to MindfuLiving.org or email mfhealy@bellsouth.net or call Mike at 706-248-8918.

Mindfulness and Compassion Research

Visit http://www.goamra.org – the American Mindfulness Research Association

Additional Free Mindfulness Offerings by the Loran Smith Center

Mindfulness Practice Evening is a Free Offering for the Community – that meets the second Friday of each month from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. These mindfulness meditation instruction sessions are free. Any level of experience is welcome. Free parking. The Dedicated Mindfulness Practitioners Group meets Saturdays, at 8:30 – 9:30a.m. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshops and these mindfulness practice opportunities are held at the Healing Lodge, next door to the Loran Smith Center, Piedmont Athens Regional, 240 Talmadge Dr., Athens, GA 30606.

Gentle Hatha Yoga class, taught with mindfulness – Tuesday evenings, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. ($10/class) Athens eastside. Details at: MindfuLiving.Org

The Mindfulness Practice Evening is facilitated by Mike Healy, Ed.D., certified to teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and is a certified Integral Hatha Yoga instructor, RYT 200. For more information on mindfulness and yoga classes, please contact: www.MindfuLiving.org, mfhealy@bellsouth.net or call 706-543-0162