Resolutions vs. Intentions: Sustaining New Year’s Aspirations (And Welcome 2014, Year of the Horse!)

Home » Resolutions vs. Intentions: Sustaining New Year’s Aspirations (And Welcome 2014, Year of the Horse!)

by Joanna Present Wolfe, LAc


The classical Chinese New Year begins on the first new moon of the calendar year, which is coming up on January 30, 2014. The lunar cycle of 12 animal years corresponds to the cycle of the seasons, the hours of the day, and the organs and acupuncture channels in the body. We are moving out of the year of the Snake, associated with the Earth element, with the transformation of the digestive system, and with fertility. Many of us would agree that last year was a year of transformative growth and change. Shedding skins takes some deep grounding and hard work, but it is a path to greater power. Moving into Horse from Snake is like the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis. The Horse is a Fire sign associated with the heart, high noon, and the summer solstice. In Horse, we experience a sense of freedom and movement, like blood flowing freely through the heart’s open chambers. In Chinese medical theory, the Heart is a spiritual empty vessel meant to receive instructions from heaven. This ethos is mirrored in the sensitive, receptive horse who responds to subtle messages from its human rider, or from the wild wind. Use the deep, grounded power you earned in 2013 to move towards higher sensitivity and freer movement in 2014! 


We all know how New Year’s resolutions tend to fall away by February, when we lose our impetus for change and settle back into familiar habits. My experience is that language is a big part of the problem. When we make statements like, “I will lose weight,” we cast energy away from the present moment, where all our power resides. These statements seem to exist in an unattainable future, far away from where we are right now. We feel that “getting there” will take a lot of energy, and we lose our motivation. 

I want to offer New Year’s intention-setting as a more joyful and effective alternative to New Year’s resolutions. When we create an intention, we embody the energy of what we desire, as if it is already happening right now. Enjoying the reward is the beginning point! At first, it may feel like method acting, but try it. Instead of “I will lose weight,” say something like, “I enjoy my healthy body,” and notice what actions naturally begin to flow from you. Single words or phrases can be powerful as well, such as “Vitality,” “Support,” or “Discernment.” Using intentions like these, putting them up on the wall where you see them every day or repeating them in your mind, can help you move towards your desired goals in a space of play and creativity. 


In honor of the new year, I want to celebrate my patients (yes, that’s you!). In 2013, I was honored to be present for many inspiring and profound transformations. As your facilitator in the treatment room, in 2013 I witnessed you as you overcame PTSD, chronic insomnia, and paralyzing anxiety. You came through chemotherapy and are enjoying remission afterward. I saw you overcome debilitating arthritis, painful menstruation, and irritable bowels. I got to know your babies as they grew in your bellies and as you bloomed into motherhood. I got to hold space for you to grieve the passing of loved ones and the endings of relationships.

I love my work, and I appreciate each of you for your effort, your authenticity, and for showing up to work with me! You are all "superior persons," as the I Ching would say. I did an I Ching reading as part of my intention-setting process for 2014, and the hexagram I received was “Nourishment.” One particular quotation from the text really resonated: “If you consistently nourish superior persons, who in turn provide nourishment for others, you can achieve great effects.” Here's to "great effects" for all of us in 2014!

I celebrate your health and independence, and it meets my aspirations as a practitioner to see you get there! As you feel better, please remember to refer friends and family. Referrals are the highest compliment a practitioner can receive. 🙂


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