Lose 20 pounds. Join the gym. Make more money. (Insert your self-improvement goal here.) If these resolutions are stressing you out, Kathleen McIntire and Erin Cote say it may be time to take a deeper look at what you’re really longing for— an authentic life that really works for you.

It’s that time again. Time to examine ourselves with a critical eye and figure out what we “should” do in the upcoming year—and this year we really are going to do it, right?—to get thinner, fitter, richer, more organized. Better. The way we approach the new year speaks volumes about our relentless (and exhausting) need to achieve, improve and do more, says Kathleen McIntire. But what if this year, you realized that better and more are nothing but illusions?

What if you resolved to quit worrying about becoming more anything in 2012—except more yourself?

“So many of us live out our lives as slaves to the tyranny of should,” notes McIntire, creator of Guiding Signs 101 – a set of powerful, yet fun road sign-inspired “divination cards” that come with a guidebook that explains the meaning of each. “Year after year we strive to become what others—parents, partners, experts, society—tell us we should be. And then, one day, we wake up and realize we never got to let go and just be our real selves.”

Authenticity is the heart and soul of McIntire’s message. In collaboration with artist Erin Cote, she developed her cards and guidebook to serve as a “bridge” to help people get in touch with their own intuition and wisdom—to help us access our own, often buried understanding of what we truly want and need out of life.

“The irony is that many of the issues we try to ‘fix’ with our New Year’s resolutions—addictions, excess weight, financial problems—are often byproducts of inauthentic lives. We eat too much or drink too much or spend too much to try to cope with lives that aren’t really working for us.

“When we focus on being authentic, on really getting to know and accept ourselves for who we are, most of these problems solve themselves,” she continues. “And sometimes we realize what we thought we had to have is no longer important.”

What happens when you make “Live with more authenticity” your New Year’s resolution? McIntire and Cote insist there are many benefits:

Quite simply, you’ll be happier. When our actions line up with our beliefs and values, we feel more joy and peace. We love and accept ourselves. Life flows smoothly along instead of being one struggle after another. When we go against who we really are, we experience cognitive dissonance—a feeling of anxiety or internal conflict. Living a lie—whether you’re gay and in the closet, stuck in a bad marriage, or working at a job you hate—just feels bad.

“When we try to be something we’re not, we may find ourselves in situations we just don’t enjoy,” says Cote. “To give a simple example, a woman who pretends to love sports to impress her boyfriend will find herself at a lot of football games, freezing her butt off and bored out of her mind.”

You’ll be healthier, too. Our minds can trick us or even lie to us, but our bodies hold the truth, says McIntire. Headaches, backaches, stomach problems, weight gain—all are ways that our bodies let us know we are not honoring our true selves.

“For many years I was a corporate wife living in London,” she explains. “I frequently had to entertain clients and deeply disliked everything about it. I had horrible backaches and headaches, had cold hands and feet and always felt tired and depressed. One day I told my husband I couldn’t do it anymore. I was done. And when I moved to Nevada City, to the forest and to nature, my aches and pains magically disappeared.”

“My body was screaming at me that I had been in the wrong place,” adds McIntire. “When I finally listened, my body showed me I was in the right place. I now feel good all the time. Your body is always talking to you: the knot in your stomach, the tenseness when you see a certain person, the fear or apprehension. The places that make you skip and play and sing are those places that make your heart soar.”

Your relationships will become richer and more meaningful. If you’re hiding something or faking feelings, you won’t really connect with others: romantic partners, friends or family members. What you say won’t resonate. The relationship will stagnate. When you live authentically, on the other hand, you challenge and inspire the others in your life and they challenge and inspire you. You both learn and grow.

“Plus, you attract the right people into your life,” says McIntire. “When you are true to yourself, when you are doing what inspires you and what you are passionate about, you will attract other people who are doing that also. The only way they can love you is if the real you shows up.”

You’ll have a greater capacity for love. When we love ourselves as we are, we can love others as they are, too. Living with authenticity means we’re in touch with our emotions. We laugh and cry when we need to laugh and cry (rather than worry about how it looks or what we “should” be feeling).

“When we can feel and accept our own emotions, we can relate to the emotional needs of others,” says Cote. “From this state of being flow compassion, understanding and the willingness to forgive. These are the raw ingredients of love.”

You’ll be more intuitive (and willing to be guided by intuition). Authenticity and intuition go hand in hand. When we’re no longer lying to ourselves and others, or desperately trying not to feel what we feel, we can more clearly hear the still small voice of our inner wisdom. Once we can hear that voice and learn to let it guide us, says McIntire, we will realize it’s okay to stop listening to outside authorities.

“My Guiding Signs cards help hone intuition because they validate what we’re already feeling,” she explains. “You might draw the Wrong Way card realize that the job offer you’re considering isn’t right for you. What’s more, you realize that you’ve known it all along. That’s intuition. It’s always been there, it’ll always be there—but it can’t guide you unless you’re willing to let it.”

You’ll make decisions that are right for YOU. Knowing who we are is the heart and soul of authenticity. It allows us to ignore outside influences and buck convention. When you know yourself well enough to say, “I am happier living alone” you may have the courage and insight to turn down a marriage proposal from the perfect (on paper) partner. Or maybe you’ll say, “I need to work to be fulfilled and financially secure” rather than caving to pressure to quit your job to be a stay-at-home mom.

“Living an authentic life means we’re less likely to be manipulated or used by others,” Cote explains. “It means not worrying about what the neighbors think. And you know what? When you’re at peace with yourself you really don’t care what they think.”

You’ll become more powerful. Power is not about having power over anyone else. True power comes from being you. There is no one else exactly like you with your unique gifts and talents. You simply need to beam who you are out into the world. McIntire notes that the word beam is BE-AM…being your deepest I am self without all the roles and masks society has taught you.

“This power manifests in many ways,” she notes. “We become teachers, leaders and counselors to others. People are drawn to us. They trust us. Success and prosperity—as we define it, not necessarily as society defines it—flows into our life.”

People will trust you. When you’re a truthsayer, you’ll become a trusted advisor to others. They know you’ll tell it like it is rather than blowing smoke. They’ll also know your word is your bond—they won’t doubt that you’ll keep their secrets, keep your promises and repay the loan.

“Without trust, nothing would ever get done,” says Cote. “It allows us to marry, to have children, to build houses, to make business deals. Being a trustworthy person opens up all sorts of opportunities and, of course, allows us to build strong relationships.”

You’ll bring out the best in others (instead of trying to control them). When you’re living authentically, you trust the universe and your place in it. You don’t have the need to micromanage others, or bend them to your will, or put conditions on your love and approval. This allows the people inside your sphere of influence the space they need to breathe, to be themselves, to grow into what they’re meant to be. When you give someone this gift, it’s amazing what life can hold in store for them.

“About 27 years ago I was living in London for the first time and a friend shared a touching story with me from her childhood,” says McIntire. “She was young and in a Catholic grade school. She brought home her report card to her mother. It was a terrible report card and the only positive thing about it was that she had a note about good table manners written in the place for comments.”

“Her mother read the report card, set it down and called the Ritz Hotel restaurant and made reservations for two,” she continues. “She told her daughter, ‘I think I need to take you to one of the finest restaurants in London so you can use your fine table manners!’ They went to lunch and afterward they were window shopping and her mother asked her what she would most like. It was a tube of red art paint. Now that she is grown, she is an amazing artist with work displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in London as well as other places.”

You’ll attract “luck” into your life. Some might say that the little girl in the story above got lucky in her career. McIntire insists that her so-called luck was a natural result of being allowed to be who she authentically was. Rather than being browbeaten for who she wasn’t (a great scholar) she was rewarded for who she was (a well-mannered child with a budding artist longing to break free). And even if you didn’t have such an open-hearted mother, if you can learn to embrace your true passions—even now, at whatever age you are—life will reveal its riches to you.

“When we follow that unique spark inside us we find that walls turn into doors,” says McIntire. “Amazing opportunities open up in our lives. The right people appear at the right time. Everything flows easily and organically. On the other hand, when we’re (miserably) doing what we’re ‘supposed’ to do, luck won’t show up. Quite the opposite. It’s the universe whispering ever more insistently that you’re on the wrong path.”

You’ll become a conscious creator. Authenticity means living consciously. Rather than seeing ourselves as victims who passively let life happen to us, we pay attention to our beliefs, our thoughts and our actions. We weed out what does not belong there. We set clear intentions. We ask powerful questions such as What is our highest calling? What are our deepest passions? What do we want to bring forth on our planet not only for ourselves but for all life? All of this breeds success and happiness.

“In each present moment exist endless possibilities,” says McIntire. “Each of us is a spark of the Divine. We each have the ability to create. Creating is our birthright. Every moment we are creating. It is part of who we are and is not outside of ourselves. The choice is if we are creating unconsciously or consciously. When we create unconsciously, we see ourselves as victims. When create consciously and lovingly, we live in integrity.”

You’ll receive confirmation through signs and synchronicities. Astonishing things can happen when you stop listening to “the experts” and start letting intuition guide you, says Cote. You’ll start getting messages in all sorts of (seemingly) random ways: people, animals, events, objects, songs will show up to mirror what’s going on in your life. These synchronicities serve as signs that you’re on the right path. Often, in fact, they’re actual signs—McIntire’s and Cote’s Guiding Signs cards, for instance, or the road sign in the following story from a friend of theirs:

After a healing session, my client Randy was a little disorientated. He was visiting, Jackson Wyoming, and didn’t know his way around town. He ended up turning down the wrong street. When he noticed this he pulled over. He realized he was distracted by a question he was thinking about. He closed his eyes and asked, “Am I meant to do the Reconnective Healing training? Please give me a sign.”

When he opened his eyes the first thing he saw was the street sign, E Pearl. Dr. Eric Pearl is the name of the man that teaches the Reconnective Healing course! That street sign is the only E Pearl in Jackson. – K’Lea Andreas

There’s nothing mysterious or difficult about living authentically, says McIntire. It’s literally just a matter of allowing ourselves to be what we are created to be.

“We are the ones who feel that we have to improve, to achieve, to somehow earn the right be loved by ourselves and by others,” she explains. “Maybe we’re conditioned to believe that by abusive parents or by the society we grow up in. Whatever the reason, we picked up that burden and we can also lay it down.

“There is a law of physics that you can’t make more of or take away from energy,” add McIntire. “We are all we need to be. We are perfect. In the end, love is all there is—and in love there is no big or small, it can’t be measured. That’s a human concept. We don’t have to lose 20 pounds or make a million dollars. Our only job is to show up in love.”