There’s a certain kind of irony to the timing of New Year’s resolutions. Coming on the heels of a busy holiday season that pushes burnout even further for many of us, feeling the pressure to then “change” something about our lives or habits is, well, not particularly an act of kindness. Yes, this time of year may shine a light on some habits we could shift for the better—like making more space for self-care, revamping a morning routine or prioritizing something that you’re passionate about.

But, the problem with a New Year’s resolution is that it can feel binary: Either you stick to it and it’s a success. Or you don’t, and it’s a failure. Really, neither is true. And, more importantly, that is not the kind of energy we need in our lives right now.

If you want to enter the New Year with a fresh mindset, skip the resolution this year. Instead, create New Year’s intentions to guide you during 2023.

What’s the difference between resolutions and New Year’s intentions?

One of the biggest challenges with a resolution is it is a goal without a plan that makes it possible. Think of common resolutions we hear year after year: to feel stronger, eat healthier, sleep better, spend less time on our phones. On their own, these are all fine goals—but without a roadmap, many of us get lost after the first turn. (AKA about mid-January.) Then what? We feel worse than when we started. Happy New Year!

New Year’s intentions, on the other hand, are positive-yet-gentle directions you want to move. These are the steps in the process rather than the end destination. For example, instead of saying “I want to eat healthier,” an intention looks like “I intend to learn what nutritious foods I enjoy cooking and eating.” It may seem like a small change to the phrasing, but the effect can be a powerful act of acceptance and positivity.

How to create New Year’s intentions

In contrast to resolutions, intentions are much more about feelings—and especially those we want to embrace in our lives, such as peace, contentment, fulfillment, self-acceptance and so on. To help determine where to start, mindfulness expert Josephine Atluri recommends these steps…

  1. Reflect by thinking about recent challenges you faced and what traits could help
  2. Brainstorm while writing out words or phrases that resonate with you
  3. Put your intention into affect by creating a daily ritual related to it

An intention can feel like a fresh start and an exciting journey—just in a way that grants you the love and appreciation you deserve.

A version of this post was published December 20, 2021. It has been updated.