Intention vs. Resolution

By Kathleen Horne


A beginning is an opening for surprises. Beginnings are new horizons that want to be seen. What is the new horizon in you that wants to be seen?

John O’Donohue

The New Year is an opportunity to set a new course for ourselves. Emerging from the darkness of the Solstice, the change of the calendar invites change in ourselves.

RESOLUTION Have you made New Year’s resolutions? I think most of us have. Did you succeed in meeting them? The dictionary tells us that “resolution” is a determination to do something or not do something”.

My own track record with these beginning-of the-year resolutions to ‘do better’ in some way has usually been to abandon them early on. At some point I would do something that I had resolved not to, or not do something that I had resolved to do, and that would likely mean the end of my resolution. I might give it another try or two, but I can’t think of any time where I experienced more success than failure.

For me the energy of the word “resolution” is one of gritting my teeth, exerting my will power, and holding, or contraction. A resolution seems to come from a place of needing to fix something. This kind of energy, I find, rarely serves me well.

INTENTION What about the word “Intention”? A quick dictionary search brings up: “An aim that guides action”. “Intention”, for me, carries a different kind of energy than “resolution”. It feels like an expansion, rather than a contraction. Intention isn’t about not-doing, and in some ways, not even about doing. It is about getting clear, discerning, paying attention to what is trying to emerge deep within, and planting that in the world. It is positive. It is more about actualization, and less about limitation. I discover my deepest intention by allowing myself to enter the mystery of darkness, to mine my imagination, to allow my imagery to arise, revealing to me the gifts of my creative wisdom.

Resolution is about forcing. Intention is about discovering, clarifying, honing, and allowing, and guiding. Resolution comes from the outside. Intention comes from the inside.

There is an instinct for newness, for renewal, for a liberation of creative power. We seek to awaken in ourselves a force which really changes lives from within.

Thomas Merton

I extend a gentle and spacious compassion, to myself and others, equally.

Intention implies trust. In the flow of our lives, there is a deeper knowing than we are aware of consciously. Even when external circumstances seem to be pointing us in one direction, or when we are mired in confusion or uncertainty, there is always a deep river of knowing moving beneath the surface. How do we access that river? I get there through dreams, through the body, and through the arts. The most reliable way for me to discover and connect with what is going on at a deeper level is to spend a few minutes in meditation, and then to make a visual image, explore that image in my body, and write from the voice of the image. Sometimes, I also use sound or rhythm exploration as part of this. What is revealed is what I have come to call my creative wisdom. If you haven’t tried this, I invite you to.

To support you in creating an intention and allowing it to carry you forward, we have 3 options for you:

1. Setting Your Intention with Expressive Arts  online workshop, which includes

  • the recording of our recent live intention-setting workshop, our
  • Guide to Intention Setting pdf
  • a guided meditation (both audio and written) for setting an intention at any time
  • journal prompts and ideas for keeping your intention alive.

2. Our live-in-the-studio Intention Setting event. Coming up this year on January 30.

3. This simple practice to get you started.

What newness is arising for you this year?
  • Sit quietly, focus on your breath, and contemplate the terrain of your life as you move into the New Year. 
  • Consider these questions:
  • What newness is coming into form, and how can I help it along?
  • What is my intention?
  • Create a visual image and a writing in response. Revisit it throughout the year.
For witnessing and support, post in our FB group.
Let’s  cultivate our creative intentions together!
Much love,
Kathleen Horne, MA, LMHC, REACE, REAT



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