Has this ever happened to you?
At the beginning of the year you set a New Year’s resolution to improve your health and happiness.
Maybe you want to lose weight, eat healthier, practice yoga everyday or wake up earlier each morning.
For the first two or three weeks of the year, you are knocking out your goals out each day, until…
…you hit that snooze button on the alarm one morning, or you blow off your yoga class to binge on carbs after a stressful work day.
One slip becomes two.
Excuses start piling up.
Your will power breaks down and old bad habits creep back in.
Until your resolution is a long faded memory.
The New Year’s Resolution Trap
We all know that health, happiness and energy are the foundation to success in relationships and in our careers.
And the New Year is the traditional time to make personal commitments to improving these areas of our lives.
But for many, despite how much you want to improve your life, eventually, you compromise.
Often demands from work and family overwhelm us.
The combination of work, stress, time constraints and emotions can send your diet, fitness or yoga routine out of the transformation zone and back into the comfort zone.
If this is a familiar pattern for you – and believe me, it’s familiar to nearly all of us – it is vital for you to know that it’s not your fault!
It’s because we are all told the same myths about setting our resolutions and fall into the same traps.
The myth that we are somehow not good enough as we are. That we need to change ourselves in order to be happy.
And that willpower, grit and determination are enough to get us where we want to be.
A Better Method for Creating the Life We Want
Maybe it’s time for a new approach to New Year intention setting.
As yoga practitioners, here is an area where we can apply the lessons of yoga to our day-to-day life.
Yoga is not just for 90 minutes on the mat, but for our entire life and our entire being.
Here are some ways that we can use guidance from the practice of yoga to more fully commit to our New Year’s resolution and keep it in the coming year.
Shift the focus from accomplishments.
Have you ever gotten something you wanted, only to still feel…unfulfilled?
The fact is that successful people are typically chasing the next success instead of enjoying what they have earned.
People who are obsessed with working out and have built a physique that others envy, still criticize their bodies when the look in the mirror.
People who give up one addiction, often find a new one to replace it with.
Any goal that that is outwardly focused can never bring true satisfaction, as this can only be accomplished through an inner realization.
For some, from birth until death, the entire focus is on the outside world. Work, family, accomplishments. Introspection comes only when it is forced upon us in old age.
However, some people are lucky in that they find themselves on a spiritual journey. In this journey, we get to be reborn into the inner life of the mind and soul.
So, for practitioners of yoga, it’s appropriate to re-frame our intentions at the New Year in terms of what we would like to experience and feel, rather than simply what we would like to accomplish.
The Desire Approach
Danielle LaPorte of The Desire Map created the term “core desired feelings.” In this method you begin not with what you want to accomplish, but with what internal state you want to experience in your life.
Whether you want to feel more joy, more love, more connection or more passion – you identify and commit to creating more of that in your life.
And…here is the big secret, you create that by taking steps each day to generate that desired experience during each interaction with others in the world.
Sound easy right?
It actually requires a tremendous amount and focus and centering to live life this way – something your regular yoga practice can help you to accomplish.
It is well worth it though, because by aligning our actions with our core desires, we create more of what we want to experience in the world, creating a self-reinforcing, positive feedback loop.
Take a long view.
Instead of just thinking about your short-term health and weight loss goals when you make your New Year’s resolution, what if you took the long view?
What is your greatest heart’s desire?
Where do you want to be, and how would you like to feel, in 3-5 years time?
The advantage of this approach to intention setting is that it helps you to think bigger.
Sure, it would be great to lose 10 pounds, but perhaps it isn’t really that important of a goal, which is why you aren’t able to stick with it?
Rather than just going with the same old New Year’s resolution, set aside some time to do deep inquiry.
First, get your head space straight with a yoga practice and a deep meditation.
Then get out a pen and paper and give yourself 20 minutes write down what you really want.
If you could accomplish anything in the next 3-5 years, what would that one thing be?
Don’t be afraid to think really big and write down anything that comes to mind without censorship. Give yourself permission to dream.
Once you have your thoughts on paper, review them and choose the one thing that really calls to you above all the others.
Something to get excited about, something big enough to force you to overcome those daily struggles that get in the way.
And then ask the next question.
What habits would you need to develop in yourself to accomplish your dream?
Maybe you would get up a little earlier in the mornings…
Maybe you would eat healthier so you can have more energy in your days…
Maybe you would start your day with focus and centering with a morning yoga practice…
Whatever specific habits you come up with, the point is that you will be strongly motivated to stick with them if they are in service to a larger goal.
The fact is that we won’t keep our New Year’s resolution without a strong motivation.
And what is more motivating than going for your heart’s desire?
Now there is something to get up early for each day!
Make yourself accountable to someone else.
This is so important.
It is not enough to write down our New Year’s resolution on a piece of paper and to really, really promise this time to carry it through.
When we want to really accomplish something, it is invaluable to have another to hold us accountable.
Traditionally, in yoga, every student worked one on one with their teacher or guru.
That relationship included tremendous amounts of accountability, so that the student would be in a position to make a deep transformation.
Working closely with another who will ask: “did you meet your goals this week?”
“Did you show up for yourself?”
Having a trusted advisor to hold you accountable can be the difference between success and failure.
When we know we will have to admit to another, whether it is a teacher, a friend, or a spouse, that we didn’t live up to our self-commitments, then it will make us more motivated to commit to showing up for the work.
Make a plan for dealing with stress.
Stress and “busyness” is one of the key reasons we fail to keep our New Year’s resolution.
When we are in stress, we are in a completely different state of mind, typically, then when we were when we set our goals.
Everything that was clearly important during the time of resolution making seems less important when the Cortisol kicks in and we feel we are struggling to survive.
Stress is a mighty foe blocking our path to success with our New Year’s resolutions.
Knowing this, we can plan for it and defeat it.
Without fail, stress will come. Busyness will come.
How will you calm yourself while you are stressed by work and family demands that seem to be taking all of your time and energy?
As yoga practitioners it can be very helpful to create a short anti-stress routine that can help us to recover our calm and centered place of mind – a place from which it is far better to make decisions than the stressed and harried state.
Just setting aside ten to fifteen minutes for some pranayama, an asana or two, and some seated meditation can keep us from reaching for that cigarette, that beer or that bowl of ice cream.
That’s right, just ten to fifteen minutes.
You do not have to do a 60-90 minute practice every single day to see benefits like decreased stress and clearer mind, which are key to following through with your intentions and making mindful decisions.
Combat stress to stay on track, so you don’t fall off the wagon with your resolution.
You Got This!
Even if you have had trouble sticking with your New Year’s resolutions in the past, I invite you to take this changing of the year as an opportunity to increase your personal happiness, to commit to your own healing and balanced emotional state.
No matter what your intention, the practice of yoga can lead you to a state of increased mental focus, better health, more energy and less stress, so that you can feel strong, centered and fulfilled in the New Year.
You won’t be able to get there with grit alone, but by deeply listening to your inner voice and guidance and by having a plan to create calm in the face of stress, you can build a bright and beautiful 2017!
So what is your New Year’s resolution? Does it align with your core desired feelings and your greatest desire in life? I would love to hear from you! Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know, or leave a comment below.