I'm not a big fan of the word "resolution" because there's something very rigid about it, and I think that goal-setting in the usual sense sets one up for failure and frustration.
Having an intention however is like planting some seeds with the aspiration that they eventually blossom. If we have an intention rather than a resolution, we allow for more openness to a variety of possible outcomes. And since conditions are always changing, we need to be flexible enough so that when things around us change, we can adapt appropriately rather than resist and be at odds with life.
Here are some New Year's Intentions that most of us could benefit from that I first came up with about three years ago:
1. Set aside at least a few minutes a day to be still and silent so you can learn how to work with your mind. Let the mud settle so you can have some clarity and peace of mind. It’s more important to do a minimum amount of practice regularly than a maximum amount of practice sporadically. Translation: five minutes a day, five to seven days a week is better than forty five minutes once or twice a week.
2. Practice generosity even when you're not in the most generous of moods, even when you might feel like you'd much rather be the recipient than the giver. Giving in some way is one of the best antidotes for stinginess or sadness. Generosity can come in many forms: offering help, a compliment, a gift, support.
3. Don’t indulge the inner voices that criticize yourself and others, and keep you mired in the past and worrying about the future. This isn't about repressing them or pretending they aren't there mind you, but just about not giving any weight to them anymore. Notice them but don’t be ruled by them.
4. Recognize the power of speech and use words wisely. True freedom of speech doesn’t mean just saying anything that comes to mind simply because you can, but instead realizing that the words we choose and use have a very real impact on ourselves and others.
5. Look people in the eye and smile at them even if you think there's absolutely no chance you'll ever see them or need them ever again. This applies to the bank teller, the grocery store checkout clerk, a homeless person, your next door neighbor, your annoying mother, just about anyone you might encounter on any given day. And notice if you feel slighted if they don’t smile back or respond, because having it be reciprocal isn’t the point. When you choose to look at someone and smile, do so as freely and indiscriminately as the rain falls or as unconditionally as the sun shines.
6. Pay attention. Notice when you are getting lost or zoning out throughout the day, or when you are rushing through the things you consider an unpleasant chore or a nuisance. It’s possible to wash the dishes with care and mindfulness. Shoveling the shit off of a sidewalk can involved the same close attention and appreciation you’d give to flower arranging. Keep an open and curious attitude toward the unique experience of each moment. Don’t miss out on your life by constantly picking and choosing, liking and disliking.
7. Remember that everyone shares two things: the desire to be happy, and the desire to not suffer. Keeping this in mind can make it easier not to see others as somehow separate from you. Not seeing others as separate from you enables you to see and function clearly in the world.