When it comes to the end of the year, many people start considering what they would like to change in the year to come. These largely consist of a list of enjoyable things that you will no longer do, such as eat chocolate, and starting to do things you are less keen on, like going to the gym every day.
Invariably, by February, these resolutions have faded away as January’s fresh motivation wanes and life settles back into a familiar rhythm. This is not your fault. Setting yourself the task of stopping doing something you enjoy, such as eating chocolate, is unlikely to work as you are removing something you like – in Psychology this is referred to as negative punishment. You have set yourself up with something that is designed to stop you achieving your resolution!
There is another way. In yoga there is a Sanskrit word, ‘sankalpa’, which translates as intention. We can use this instead. Intentions should be softer, positive, simple, flexible and plant a seed of ‘wanting’ and not ‘having’ to do. A few well considered, simple intentions can have a great impact of our lives.
If you feel inclined, make a cuppa, sit down and have a think about the things that you really enjoy, things make you feel alive. A good starting place is to pick a few enjoyable things and set an intention to do more of them in the coming year. This is referred to as positive reinforcement, it will make you want to do even more of it. This could be going to see more live music, talking more walks outside, meditating when you can, writing more, or even doing a bit more yoga!
How do we work towards these intentions? In the past, achieving a goal was how we knew when we had reached the pinnacle of what it was we wanted. While there is nothing wrong with having a goal, they are often set so far in the distance that they seem impossible!
One way to deal with this issue is to think about our standards instead. This means that it will have an immediate impact on our thoughts and behaviours. For example, if you are wanting to eat more vegetables, instead of setting yourself a goal of being vegan, you could change your standards of what a meal should contain. If you make your new standard each dinner has three different vegetables, it will help you on your journey to eating more vegetables, but doesn’t feel as onerous.
One last thing, it is important to remember that there is no need expect perfection in your intentions and standards. If we miss a day of meditation or don’t get to a gig for a few months, it doesn’t matter, not all is lost and we can carry on with our intentions anyway.
Happy intention setting!