new year's resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions Fail 80% of the time. Here’s what to do instead.

These days most of my conversations start out with “I can’t believe the year is almost over!” But, it’s happening. Four more days and, poof! 2017 is gone.

I hope you’ve had an amazing year. And if you didn’t, I have great news—2018 is a whole new year! A brand spankin’ new chance at ALL OF THE THINGS!

Have you settled on a 2018 resolution yet? Still mulling a few over? Here’s a fun fact: Every year, millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but only around 20% actually keep them.

I’m not telling you that to discourage you! Just the opposite. We’re going to take a look at why so many resolutions are abandoned, and what you can do to be one of the badasses that creates true change in your life and makes 2018 your best year ever! Or at least pretty close.

The sad case of the failing resolution

February tends to be my busiest month as a life coach. By then, a lot of  people have started struggling to keep their resolutions. Slowly, over the first weeks of the new year, their resolve to get in better shape, find a new job, start the meditation practice or just be a better person in general starts to weaken. Finally, they reach a point where they need some help, so they come to me.

They tell me they are lazy. They say they lack motivation. That they the need a better way to stay accountable to their goals.

And I tell them they’re wrong. That’s not the reason they’re having trouble keeping their resolution.

They’re struggling because the very way in which we go about setting our New Year’s resolutions is inherently faulty.

A lot of times, our resolutions stem from our overly self-critical brains ... from something we don’t like about ourselves. Something we’ve been beating ourselves up over and are ashamed of. They tend to be based on the idea that we need to be tougher on ourselves. Be more disciplined. Get our shit together. Analyze the heck out of our “fails” from the previous year and make sure we never make them again.  

But I can tell you this ... in all my years of training, teaching, and coaching, I’ve never seen a successful case of transformation when it’s fueled by shame and lack of self-acceptance. Not once.

Any resolutions based on a self-critical foundation are bound to fail. Don’t set yourself up for failure this year. Let’s make this year a success!

Set a Sankalpa, not a Resolution

At the beginning of yoga practice, we’re asked to set a Sankalpa—or an intention.

According to Chameli Ardagh, the word Sankalpa comes from sanskrit:

San = “an idea formed in the heart”

Kalpa = “the rule to be observed above all other rules”

So, translated it means a “rule” that comes from your heart. Whereas resolutions come from your overly-critical brain.

By tuning into the empowering message of your compassionate heart, rather than the self-destructive voice in your critical brain, you get out of your own way and let the great wisdom of love work through you.

Rather than becoming impossibly hard on yourself to make changes, setting a sankalpa is a way to step onto the river of relaxation and self-acceptance, so you can let go of your outdated identity, your endless ambitions and your internalized shoulds.

As Leonard Cohen so beautifully said, “You lose your grip, and then you slip into the masterpiece.”

How to Set a Sankalpa

Setting a Sankalpa is more than a setting a resolution or a goal. It’s an intention to create alignment with your true self, in service of all.

Here’s how you can set a Sankalpa for the wondrous year ahead.

  1. Find a quiet place and close your eyes
  2. Take a few deep relaxing breaths and soften all of your muscles. Allow your body to come into  a state of ease.
  3. Bring your attention to your heart and visualize a warm glow of loving energy that slowly expands to fill your whole chest.
  4. After a few minutes of tuning into your heart’s energy, ask yourself these questions and listen to whatever answers come up without judgment.

• What brought me here to this moment of reflection at this point in time?

What does my heart pull me towards?

What is my role here? What am I here to give?

What is ready to die? What can I let go of?

• What makes my soul come alive?

• What is important now?

Stay focused on the questions. Stay open and receptive to the answers. Listen. Let the answers open gently within you like a flower.

Remember, the exercise isn’t to “figure out” what you want to “get” or “do” this year, but rather to listen to what Love calls you to be.

When you are ready, write down a few words that resonate and make you feel energized at that moment.

That’s your Sankalpa for this year.

Double down and build an altar

Once you have written your Sankalpa down, I recommend making a small altar in your home to keep it on and come back to each day to help reinforce your intention.

Your altar can be a designated prayer corner in your room or a section on your refrigerator door. It can live on your desk, your wall or, if all else fails, on your phone or computer.

Gather any objects and images that symbolize being rooted in the intentions you settled on, and put them on your altar with your written Sankalpa.

Much like a vision board, an altar is a powerful representation of the goals you’re going towards, helping you stay focused and accelerating your success.

How do I know it works? Science! Many studies have shown that visualizing an outcome helps to improve your chance of bringing it to fruition. Whether you're imagining and activity or actually doing it, the same parts of the brain light up.

So whether you're eating healthy or just looking at a picture of you eating healthy, your brain starts to register that you're a healthy eater, and will be easier and easier for you to make that healthy choice next time you sit down at the kitchen table.

So, visit your altar each morning, and reconnect to your heart’s intentions. It will do so much more to inform your choices and successes in 2018 than any accountability tool or motivational system ever could.

I wish you many blessings for the new year.

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