A new year is a fresh start. An opportunity to clearly state our higher ambitions for ourselves and for our lives. It is a chance to honour a greater vision of how we can be and to recognise that we feel we ought to be feeling differently somehow. Happier. Brighter. Lighter. More content.
This impulse is reflective of the rhythm of nature. The transition towards longer days after the winter solstice marks a gradual shift in our collective mood towards productivity and planting new seeds to come to fruition later in the year.
Strange then, that the statistics around new year's resolutions are so bad. Two thirds don't even make it through to the end of January. Only around fifteen percent of our NY goals are actually met. The implications of this are darker than it first appears.
Many of us are not just failing at keeping up the resolutions themselves, but we are cultivating negative neural pathways, or samskaras in yogic philosophy, which deepen the grooves of our behaviour towards failure. Sensing this with each instance, we lose greater and greater trust in ourselves, often triggering compensatory strategies to make us feel better in the short term, which then take us even further from our initial goal. Over time we erode our self-confidence and relegate our goals to distant, half-forgotten wishes. This happens at the individual and at the social level. These kinds of statistics signal to us that as a nation we are unable to uphold our own values or implement simple, meaningful change even directly in our own lives.
Of course we all vary when it comes to setting resolutions. Some of us may well fling ourselves head-first into another year with a wildly optimistic set of aspirations. Others have written off the exercise all together and shut themselves away from all the hype as much as possible. Yet there are many that carefully craft a list of meaningful intentions and do commendably manage to implement them successfully throughout the year.
Without a doubt, strategies for how to stick to our resolutions are evolving. Much research has been carried out into how to make resolutions more effective. Framing our intentions so that they are clear, realistic, and aligned with our values is essential. Building in extra levels of commitment to the goal to act as a safety net such as incurring extra financial cost for cheating, publicly stating your commitment or teaming up with a buddy are helpful tactics too. Considered planning is also critical, breaking down the overall wish into specific actions you can do regularly – such as listening to a language course on your commute or scheduling in gym time in your lunch breaks.
However for stubborn goals we may need to dig a little deeper. If we examine our own attitudes to setting intentions at this time of year there is a lot that can be gained. We set resolutions because we think we can somehow do better. We have a feeling perhaps that we are letting ourselves down or short-changing ourselves with our current set of behaviours. This often represents a complex blend of self-judgement, conditioning and idealistic notions of ourselves and our lives, and suggests there are several layers or parts of ourselves and our views about the world that have not yet been reconciled. Otherwise we would already be running on the treadmill three times a week or whatever it is without much of a second thought.
The yogic view would be that our drive comes from sensing the innate presence of universal consciousness within us, as us, which is infinitely vast and wise and looking to realise itself. In order to do so we need to align all the physical, energetic and heart/mind aspects of ourselves so that this expansive Self might radiate out from within us with less obstruction.
We have to be honest with ourselves about what our motivations are and what's holding us back, including honouring those parts of ourselves that will seek to resist change. I've created this ten minute guided meditation as a tool to be listened to on a daily basis throughout January or for as long as needed to ensure your resolutions this year are a success.