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 typically 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’s 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’s 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’s resolutions don’t actually seem to properly harness the energy of determination, conviction or resolve at all. New year’s resolutions are so often fraught with should-itis. And there’s nothing helpful about that.
Without an understanding of what is keeping us stuck, it’s hard to move past it no matter our goal.
Changing our habits is hard, even when we recognise that our current habits are sabotaging our wellbeing. We may decide 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.
A Sankalpa is a seed we sow in our conscious mind. Once it is sown, we nurture it daily until it takes root in our subconscious. When our subconscious is onboard, our Sankalpa will start to manifest outside us in abundant ways.
We find ourselves more effortlessly choosing actions in support of what we want.
The energy of choice, rather than the energy of “should”, is what makes all the difference.
Finding our core Sankalpa will help us to live out our life’s purpose. But it takes time and patience to find it.
In the interim, we can experiment with Sankalpas around particular goals. It’s best to pick just one at a time, and work with it until you feel like you’re living it. Or change it, if it no longer feels like a true mission for you. When you find yourself repeatedly choosing the same sankalpa, eventhough you are consistently expressing it through your daily life, then you’ve probably landed on your core sankalpa.
Over the last few years I’ve use the Word for the Year process to help me craft my Sankalpa. For 2024 my word is Flourishing. My sankalpa is “I am flourishing.”
Here are some tips for creating your own Sankalpa:
1. The wording should be simple and present tense.
Although the future tense of “I will” can be infused with powerful conviction, I prefer to programme my subconscious with the belief “I am.”
“Be careful what you say after ‘I am’. Those two tiny words contain powerful magic.” ~ Jeff Foster
2. Tune into yourself and ask, “What do I really need to focus on?”
Here are some examples, but I suggest you ultimately let your Sankalpa come from you:
- I am open to change
- I nurture my wellbeing on every level
- I do work that makes my heart sing.
3. Plant your Sankalpa firmly by bringing it to mind frequently and silently repeating it as much as possible.
Especially helpful times to repeat your Sankalpa are just before going to sleep, upon waking, preceding meditation or yoga and anytime you feel relaxed. When the conscious mind relaxes, our subconscious becomes more open to whatever we want to impress on it.
4. Use a trigger.
I find it helpful to use a trigger to bring my Sankalpa to mind at random points throughout the day. Apart from meditation, waking and sleeping, whenever I see double-digits such as 11:11 I take a breath and repeat my Sankalpa three times. In addition to focussing my subconscious mind, this act is a moment when I’m fully present.
Fundamentally, what we are trying to do is replace some existing (limiting) belief that doesn’t serve us – such as, “I’m not worthy of ________” (fill in the blank) – with one that does. By focusing our attention on a key affirmation, we create a gradual inner shift in our psyche.
So if you’re also allergic to new year’s resolutions, I invite you to join me. There’s no rush to have it all figured out by January 1st. Take your time over the coming days and weeks to explore what Sankalpa feels right for you right now.
And when you find it, use it.
Here’s to mindful transformations in the coming New Year.
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A version of this blog post was first published on elephantjournal.com