Every New Year starts with a blank page. What will you write on yours?

During times of transition and new beginnings, people commonly make resolutions or set intentions. Suffice it to say that these aren’t always very practical or even useful; in fact, we often feel worse about ourselves when we fail to follow through with our plan. How many New Year’s promises are broken within a few weeks (or even a few days)? Resolutions, sadly, fail more often than not. It’s no surprise, really: they are ego-driven and stem from the idea that who we are or how we are is not right or not enough. (Spoiler alert: You ARE enough, just as you are! Seriously.) Intentions, on the other hand, can be truly beneficial if they are addressed with resolve.

In yoga, we embrace the practice of sankalpa, or “resolve of the mind.” A combination of the Sanskrit kalpa (“vow”) and san (“connection with the highest truth”), sankalpa refers to making a commitment to connect with our highest truth. In doing so, we are more aware of our deepest Self (atman) and better able to recognize our purpose. A sankalpa helps us focus our attention on our true intent and to make choices that guide us down the path toward achieving our goals.

Sankalpa has two forms:

  • A simple statement about who you already are. Under the layers and masks that you may be wearing — we’re all human, after all — this is a reminder of your true Self, the person you are at the core. It can be as simple as “I am a nurturer,” or “I am a calm force amidst chaos.”

  • A specific goal you would like to achieve in order to move forward toward your true intention. This might sound like “I eat healthy foods to keep my body strong.” (Doesn’t that feel more powerful than, “I am going to lose 16 pounds”?) In the same way, “I address challenges with determination” and “I approach difficult situations with a sense of compassion” are much more earnest than “I want to get into grad school” or “I won’t argue so much with my boss.” Remembering your own resolve and determination or compassion can help you make good choices when faced with obstacles, whenever and wherever they may arise.

Finding your sankalpa shouldn’t require a lot of creativity or searching. The intention is already within you and can be discovered by listening attentively, perhaps through meditation or the practice of yoga nidra. Sometimes what initially comes up is ego-driven (e.g., “I want to spend less time in front of a screen”). If we dig deeper, we can discover the true resolve that lies beneath the initial thought (e.g., “I am present with the people I love”).

A heartfelt sankalpa is a reminder that we already have all we need to achieve our goals. Success isn’t dependent on anything outside of ourselves; the nature of who we are will lead us in the right direction. Having the courage to listen and be honest with ourselves allows us to discover our own resolve, and to follow the path of intention.

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