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Sankalpa: a Powerful Alternative to New Year Resolutions


I relish the energy of renewal that lingers in the air this time of year and the sense of opportunity between one year ending and another beginning.

I embrace the New Year with optimism and usually have in mind some things I would like to improve in my life.

But I don’t do New Year resolutions. They’re just not my thing and never have been. After qualifying as a life coach, I tried to rally myself around the idea and set “audacious goals”. But I struggled to stick with them.

For me, New Year resolutions rapidly morph from desires into “shoulds”, which I subconsciously resist and sabotage.

Once “I’d like to get up early tomorrow and get a good run at the day” turns into “I should get up early tomorrow…” I’m hitting the snooze button when my alarm goes off.

Avoiding that subtle transition has always been tricky for me. So when I started teaching meditation from the Vedic tradition, I was delighted to discover a concept I could get behind: Sankalpa.

The word itself means determination, conviction and resolve. So the essence of Sankalpa is similar to what underlies the concept of New Year’s resolutions.

But a key difference is that most New Year resolutions don’t actually seem to harness the energy of determination, conviction or resolve at all. New Year resolutions are fraught with should-itis, which stems from wanting to make changes in our lives without properly assessing why we are where we are in the first place. Without an understanding of what is keeping us stuck, it’s hard to move past it no matter our goal.

For example, if I have a bit of a belly—I wish that were a hypothetical ‘if’!—I might set a resolution to lose weight, get fit and tone up. But if I don’t examine why I’m eating badly and why I’m not exercising, then the energy around my goal quickly turns into a should—and subsequently a won’t, don’t or can’t— instead of remaining in the realm of desire.

Changing our habits is hard, even when we recognise that our current habits are sabotaging our wellbeing. We may resolve to develop new habits that will serve us better, but if there isn’t a strong inner commitment that comes from understanding how we’re sabotaging ourselves and why we need to stop, the probability of follow-through is low.

And this is where Sankalpa works its magic.

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Posted in Attitude, elephant journal, Intentions

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