We often start off the year filled with enthusiasm and hope, good intentions and desire for self-fulfillment. By the end of January the body can feel tired, the motivation dwindling and old habits and patterns threatening to take hold again. Arrrrr!
Welcome to being HUMAN!!
So how do we stay true to a desire to improve our lives and really bring about the transformations we want? How do we navigate uncontrollable and changing circumstances and our frustratingly deviant minds?
Personally I am in constant search for the answers to these questions! I believe it is an ongoing process of exploration, including setbacks and progress. It is above all a learning journey called conscious living.
This topic is of course massive! The tips below are a few reminders that I am working with; each huge areas to explore in life and in a daily mindful practice, such as yoga, meditation, tai chi or the like.
1. Know your heart’s desire
What is it that YOU really desire? What is it that your heart yearns for? Why is this important?
There’s no point having a whole list of unrealistic things you want to change, improve or have, many of them perhaps changing depending on your mood and what you see or hear, if you don’t understand what these desires are responding to within you.
Knowing the ‘why’ is critical before defining the ‘what’ in your resolution(s).
To know what we really desire we must do the work within! We must be still and listen and dig deep beneath the superficial layer of ego, attachment, fear and longing. Ways of doing this may include yoga, meditation, various psychosomatic therapies, self-development books or courses, sharing reflections with friends or family, and mindful creative expression.
It takes courage to go within and there is no one right path to do it but the reward is substantial!
2-minute exercise – Self Check-In
As a very simple exercise to know what you need right now, take 2 minutes to check-in with yourself. We are made up of four selves: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. Allow yourself to be still and quiet. Close your eyes and breathe slowly and evenly into your belly for 10-20 breaths. Then bring to your mind each of the four selves, and observe the first thought or sensation that comes to you:
a) The physical self (the body)
b) The emotional self
c) The intellectual self (the mind)
d) The spiritual self
You may have thoughts or sensations that arise instantly, perhaps surprising you, about how you feel or what you need. Do you have the courage now to consider the best way to act on those for your own well-being?
2. Increase your willpower
Ouf, this is a tough one! Have we all got the same amount of willpower? Don’t write yourself off too quickly based on previous experiences. You have the choice and you can make anything happen! Willpower I believe depends a lot on knowing WHY you want something (point 1 above). But it’s not enough just to wish it to happen. You need to really want it and know that you will have it.
The more detailed you can be about your intention the better. Develop a very clear sensory image of the result. Can you see yourself? Can you feel what it will be like when you achieve it? Can you imagine how you will act in certain situations? Get it clear either through visualization or by creating a physical picture with cut-out images, drawings and colour. Remind yourself of this each day, and especially when you feel the willpower fading. Make sure you stay charged up on energy too (see point 5 below).
3. Be aware of resistance
Resistance comes in different forms; sometimes conscious (procrastination), sometimes unconscious (illness, fear of letting go) and sometimes from uncontrollable external factors (weather, family members, job). The key is to become aware. When you are struggling to fulfill a resolution see if you can catch yourself making excuses and strategies of avoidance. Can you stop and ask yourself, ‘what are these feelings and thoughts?’, ‘what am I really afraid of?’, and ‘what is actually going on here?’. Simply acknowledging them can be the beginning of letting them dissolve.
Yoga practitioners might enjoy a great article by Sally Kempton on Freedom from Resistance.
4. Offer yourself self-compassion and forgiveness
We are all human. We all slip up at times and have setbacks. Sometimes those setbacks are way out of our control. Sometimes they are simply a loss of willpower. Rather than going ‘what the hell’ and indulging in negative thoughts, self-destructive habits or victimhood, try giving yourself the equivalent of a big hug like you would a child or a close friend who has had a setback.
Go back to the 2 minute self check-in exercise and consider what you really need at this moment (other than chocolate for instance!). Maybe it’s a massage, a fun day out with your best friend or a ritual to consciously let go of that which is holding you back (e.g. writing the word on a stone and throwing it into a stream).
5. Relax and Recharge
When we are rushed, stressed or tired it’s impossible to focus on what we really want and it’s all too easy to give up. The only cure is to take some time out, relax, connect with your body and recharge. Take a walk in nature, lie down on the floor for 20 minutes, go for a run or soak in a warm bath. After very little time at all, it is amazing how we remember what is important to us and refocus. So don’t wait for weekends and holidays! Find a way to relax every day to stay in touch with what is important to you, keep on track with your good intentions and recharge your willpower.
You are awesome. Make it happen!!