People tend to have mixed views on New Years’ resolutions. Personally, I’ve always been pretty big on them. Of course, I am also skeptical as to how useful they are. In recent years, I’ve transitioned to a more compassionate approach; setting “intentions” rather than “resolving” to do certain things and then beating myself up if I don’t achieve what I set out to do.
Each January 1, I spend time reflecting back on the intentions I set out for myself in the year just past. And though the resolutions I made in the past (lose 10 pounds; go to bed earlier; stop using “fuck” as a verb, noun and adjective) often didn’t stick past January 2 (or noon on January 1, if I’m honest), I have been quite surprised at the impact of switching to intention setting. It’s born fruit in a number of meaningful ways.
For example, one of my intentions in 2014 was to begin teaching yoga. I wrote that down on January 1 of last year, at the top of a fairly lengthy list of other intentions, and did not look back at it again until last Thursday. But once I wrote it down, and, in so doing, expressed my intent to the Universe, I never lost sight of it. It’s as if putting it down on paper – committing to myself that I would pursue something I felt called to do – was the impetus I needed to make it happen. And unlike some of the very ego-driven resolutions I’ve made in the past, this stuck.
In Sanskrit, the word that most closely aligns with resolution is sankalpa. The difference between the two, in my understanding, is that resolutions often stem from a sense of lack, of not being good enough. In contrast, a sankalpa begins with the idea that you already have everything you need to achieve your life’s purpose, that you are already complete.
With that in mind, I spent time on January 1 setting down my intentions for 2015 – my sankalpas. It’s become an important ritual for me. I am not an avid journal-er (should I have resolved to become one?!), but I have made it a habit to spend time on the first day of the year putting my thoughts on paper. The intentions had already been surfaced in my conscious mind, but the first day of the New Year is a nice, clean slate upon which to commit them to paper.
So here is a look at the things on which I intend to focus in the next 12 months:
1. First and foremost, I want to simplify. I am a conspicuous consumer and have never been particularly good about saving money as it always burns a hole in my pocket. But in recent years, having so much “stuff” has left me feeling weighed down by a heavier than necessary material burden. I intend to be more mindful about reducing how much I spend, acquire and consume in the coming year.
2. The simplification extends to more than just material goods. I spent the second half of 2014 feeling like I was pulled in too many directions. Truthfully, I was the one spreading myself too thin. There are so many wonderful things I was fortunate enough to be able to do but I felt a drive to do everything all at once. In 2015, I am going to streamline my schedule and pace myself better.
3. A big part of clearing space in my schedule is curtailing my use of social media. I am appalled at my own inability to sit at a stop light any more without feeling the urge to check my phone. I can’t tell you the number of times I planned to go to bed at a reasonable time only to get sucked into a Facebook vortex for the better part of an hour. That said, I don’t think it’s really reasonable in this day and age to completely forego social media. After all, how else would you know I have a new blog post? But I am going to work on making it a small fraction of my day rather than the all-purpose time filler it has become.
4. One of the most important things on which I want to focus in the New Year is being true to exactly who I am. I have this nasty habit of comparing myself to, well, everyone and feeling as though I come up short. This is very evident with respect to teaching yoga. I am constantly comparing myself to all the teachers I admire and wondering how I can possibly measure up. But we all bring something unique to the table. And I truly believe that I do have something to offer as a teacher. If I believed otherwise, I wouldn’t be pursuing it so relentlessly. My intention this year is to cultivate greater confidence in my abilities and the value I can offer, not just with respect to teaching but in all areas of my life.
5. Finally, on my list every year is the intention to be a better person. I don’t necessarily know how to pursue this intention, nor can I pinpoint exactly how I have managed to pursue it in years past. But I do know that I am a better person now, at the beginning of 2015, than I was 12 months ago. And I was a better person than then the year before. At least I hope this is true. I know that yoga has played an enormous role in this evolution. It has unearthed my desire to contribute in some way; to do whatever I am able to – even if it’s something very small – to make the world a better place. Sadly, it’s kind of a shit show out there. But every little bit counts. I want to be a better teacher, student, friend and human to help even in the tiniest of ways to ameliorate that shittiness.
Those are my intentions. What are yours? Let’s all check back in 12 months and see how much we will have collectively achieved.
In the meantime, on to 2015. May it be filled with love and growth and spirit.