The Kripalu Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, many of us make a celebratory toast to the year to come. And, waking up on January 1, we resolve to make changes in our lives that we believe will bring us greater health, wealth, happiness, and peace of mind. We want so deeply to make tangible shifts in our lives—and yet, according to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, just 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s goals. While we could chalk up that sobering statistic to the fact that most humans lack the self-discipline required to make significant long-term change, Izzy Lenihan, life, career, and wellness coach at Kripalu, would beg to differ.

The reason why so many resolutions fail, she says, is because “we don’t make an emotional connection to why the goal is important. A goal is a plan or an aim with a target in mind, but the intention is the energy behind it. That’s how you make things happen in your life—when it’s not just a thought, it’s actually an emotion, and you have that vision in front of you.”

Izzy says an intention, as opposed to a resolution, focuses on what we wish to experience, express, and receive. “The intention is the spiritual practice behind achieving your goal,” she explains. “One way to create intentions is to decide how you want to feel.”

For example, your goal might be to exercise more, but your intention would be to feel as healthy as possible. “That’s a far easier way of practicing achieving that goal,” Izzy says. “Be the healthiest person you can be every day.”

Baby Steps Forward

Like many coaches, Izzy says goals need timelines (for example, what exercise routine do you want to create within the next three months?) and are best achieved when they’re broken down into baby steps. She advocates two action steps and one internal process step, which she calls the “being” step.

Action steps towards the goal of exercising more might be joining a gym or working with a fitness trainer. “Along the way towards your goal,” she notes, “one of the things that will always happen is that you’ll get uncomfortable, so you have to attach an internal practice, a mindfulness practice of sorts, in order to help you achieve the goal.”

Izzy reminds her clients that berating themselves for setbacks or missteps doesn’t make goals more achievable. “We can’t punish our way to success. Instead, try to get curious and say, ‘Isn’t that interesting? I haven’t been getting to the gym this week. I wonder what’s going on.’ Notice how you’re feeling, but don’t beat yourself up about it.”

Kripalu Methodology for Riding the Resolution Wave

Mindfulness (“being”) practices are the steps we can turn to when we’re not progressing with our goal, or we’re frustrated by not achieving it as quickly as we’d like. Kripalu Yoga methodology supports this work. Just as when we hit a physical edge on the mat, when we hit physical, mental, or emotional obstacles in the pursuit of our goals, we might

So yes, taking action is a must to achieve goals, but having a conscious internal practice is the crucial step that’s often overlooked. “That’s how you make a goal happen,” Izzy says. And if you’re not getting there, create three more baby steps—“because a whole bunch of steps done successfully adds up to huge shifts in your life,” Izzy says.

Living Your Resolutions

Izzy adds that it’s helpful to employ the law of attraction when attempting to turn resolutions into reality. “You don’t attract what you want, you attract who you are,” she says. “If you want to experience more joy in your life, you need to begin thinking like a joyful person. You actually have to become what you want to attract in your life.”

If you want more prosperity, Izzy says, try thinking not from a place of fear and scarcity, but from a place of prosperity and abundance. If you want to make a living as an artist, start living like one, practicing your art every day. If you want a loving romantic relationship in your life, show up in the world like you love yourself. “It’s really all about aligning your intentions with your actions,” she says.

Finally, it’s important to celebrate successes. “If you’re trying to give up smoking, one way to do that is to give yourself a reward on a regular basis,” Izzy suggests. “You could put the money you’d spend on cigarettes in a jar and do something special with it.”

Ultimately, when we hold to our goals while focusing on our intentions, we build self-confidence and strengthen our integrity. As Izzy puts it: “We’re not just saying what we want, we’re living what we want.”

Portland Helmich has been investigating natural health and healing for more than 15 years, as a host, reporter, writer, and producer.

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