I held a turquoise pen in my hand and took a deep breath as I looked down at the blank page. At the top, I wrote, “I’m proud of…” and took another deep breath. A few obvious items came to mind immediately.
Moving across country with my husband.
Helping my husband through a tough work transition.
Packing up half of our belongings and staging our condo right before taking a trip overseas.
Birthing a yoga teaching practice in a new city.
I wrote about half a dozen items on the page before a long pause. The directions for the exercise, which I found through money and manifesting expert Denise Duffield Thomas, were to have a partner ask “what else?” every time you got stuck until you had 30 to 50 items on your list. I wondered how I was going to list 10 accomplishments let alone 30 to 50.
At the end of the year, it’s easy to focus on the negative experiences of the past year or expectations and pressures to “do better” in the new year and completely overlook all that you achieved.
You might think back with shame and ridicule about your last New Year’s resolutions that didn’t last. Maybe you just can’t wait for the year to be over. You might be putting a ton of pressure on yourself to set resolutions and hit the ground running in the new year.
There’s nothing wrong with setting goals and wanting to develop yourself. In fact, I am a self-development junkie.
New Year’s resolutions are just not the way for me personally. To me New Year’s resolutions often create a vicious circle of “I’m not good enough so let me try really hard in an unsustainable way until I can’t do it anymore, which then reinforces my feelings of not good enough.” I find so often that resolutions are motivated by a sense of needing to fix something that’s broken, to do more so that you can have more and finally feel like you’re enough, or to do what others say you should do instead of what you feel is best for you.
You are perfect. You are enough. Deep within, you know the way.
So instead of going down the rabbit hole of expectations and pressure, here’s what I do instead.
Set an intention for who you want to be in the new year that is linked to your purpose in life, use that intention as a guidepost for your actions, and surrender the need to control the outcome.
(See my previous post about how I use purpose, who I want to be, and exploration of my competing commitments to support my progress in powerful, yet forgiving ways.)
I don’t usually do much of an end-of-year review, and as I began to fill my white page with turquoise, I kept wondering, “what have I really done this year?” Yet within just 45 minutes, I had a list of almost 50 accomplishments. Some of them were as practical as “buying and shipping all of our Christmas gifts before Christmas” to deeper ones like “having the strength to let go of living close to loved ones.”
When I read my list aloud to our little New Year’s Eve group I realized that I had done so much more than I thought prior to making the list! Seriously, I had been beating myself up because I failed to meet a revenue goal I had set, and yet I did so many things this year that you can’t even put a price on.
When I look back at my intention for the last year, which was to be someone who is more respectful, I saw that almost all of the actions on my list supported that intention, whether the respect was towards others or myself. Often respect looked different than I would have imagined at the beginning of the year too. I would never have realized how much I fulfilled my intention had I not gotten specific about my accomplishments.
Through this self-study exercise, I saw the magic of how practice and detachment—two basic tenants of yoga philosophy—shape our experience. Though I wasn’t always consciously thinking about being respectful when I took actions, setting that intention and then releasing my attachment to it allowed for it to take shape in the way it was supposed to. Knowing this, I can now set intentions, act in support of them, and surrender the rest.
Could I act more intentionally? Sure. Surrendering doesn’t mean you just sit there and don’t do anything to develop yourself. If you’re on the yogic path, you can use any time to examine and recharge or even change your intention—each new day, each time you step on your mat, even each breath.
At the same time, you are not your accomplishments. In yoga, self-development is not really about achievement or becoming someone else.
Yoga practice in all its forms is about reuniting with the pure, radiant, joyful being that you already are and letting go of all the things that get in the way of that.
Don’t over think it. Your heart knows your purpose. Your heart knows what intentions and actions support that purpose. Your heart knows who you truly are. Just let your heart speak.
Speak Your Truth
What are you proud of from the last year? Who do you want to be in the new year? What is your intention for the new year? What do you need to let go of to fulfill your intention and live your purpose? Please share in an e-mail or the comments!