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Ditch the New Year’s resolution for a New Year’s sankalpa

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There’s no better time for a fresh start and renewal than a new year. It’s the perfect time to pause, reflect and set goals. I always write a review of the passing year at the back of my diary, closing a chapter and saying thank you and goodbye to the highs and lows. I love the feeling of a clean slate for the year ahead and the opportunity to dream big and set goals.

Traditionally, this is also the time to set a new year’s resolution.

I’m sure that you, like me, start the year full of enthusiasm but by the end of January (at the latest!) your resolution is long forgotten.

Ditch the New Year’s Resolution 

At the start of 2019 I took a different approach. I didn’t set a resolution, I set a sankalpa. This one small action brought more satisfaction, clarity and actual results to my life than the sum total of all my previous new year’s resolutions.

Looking back at 2020, the world’s annus horribilis, I can confidently say that my sankalpa provided me with focus and clarity. I doubt I could’ve said that if I had made resolutions.

I want to share with you why you too should ditch the new year’s resolution in favour of a new year’s sankalpa. You’ll start the year with relief that you don’t have to fix anything about yourself.

Resolutions are doomed to fail 

Resolutions tend to start with the premise of inadequacy, unworthiness and self-limiting beliefs. How depressing.

They’re usually about doing more of something you think you should be doing, less of something you think you shouldn’t be doing or being someone or something you’re actually not. It’s a pretty miserable way to make a fresh start. 

What is a sankalpa? 

  • Sankalpa is the yogic form of resolution. It’s an intention, a vow, a determination, formed by the heart and mind.
  • It starts with the premise that you are whole. Yoga teaches you that all you need is within you (I wrote about this as one of the benefits of yoga beyond the mat here).
  • It’s a positive statement of what is already true, using the present tense.  
  • It leads to inspired action.  

How is a sankalpa different to a resolution? 

Yes, you can still set goals and dreams and have aspirations and ambitions for the year ahead. It’s the belief system behind the actions that makes a sankalpa different to a resolution. Let’s look at a resolution and spin it to see how it differs from a sankalpa:

Resolution: “I’m going to exercise more” (Meaning, “I’m not fit enough and I’m too lazy).

Sankalpa: “I am a fit and active person” (Meaning, I find ways to exercise that I enjoy and can do on a regular basis).

You can see the shift to a way of being, not a way of fixing. 

How to set a sankalpa 

Choose a quiet time and a location that inspires you. Gather your favourite journal and a nice cup of tea or glass of wine (just one, for inspiration of course!) and settle in to brainstorm your sankalpa. 

You might identify a goal, a course of action or a way of living. Confirm that you already have the qualities you need to achieve your goal by making a positive statement of who you are right now, starting with “I am”. Some examples of a sankalpa are:

I am compassionate and help others where I can 

I am successful in all I do 

I am a healthy person and I treat my body with respect 

I am loved and loving 

You might like to use the following prompts to help you dig deep to uncover your sankalpa:

  • Write down as many (positive!) words as you can think of that describes you  
  • Visualise what the year ahead looks like for you. What are you looking forward to and what would you like to do?  
  • What would bring you happiness this year?  
  • How would this make you feel?  
  • What would this mean to you? To others in your life? 

There’s no right or wrong sankalpa, it might be three words or twenty words but it should start with “I am” and it should feel great when you say it. Keep refining it for as long as it takes.

How to incorporate Sankalpa in your life 

You might like to create a space to meditate on your sankalpa. You could choose a behaviour or habit to practice your sankalpa. Journalling might be your thing. I wrote my sankalpa on a small piece of paper and tucked it away. Throughout the year I seemed to find it just when I needed it!

At any time of the year when you’re struggling with limiting self-beliefs, call upon your sankalpa for a positive affirmation of who you are and of what you already possess and can access right now.

If you lose your way it’s okay. Reflect on what it would’ve been like to experience the day or the event from the place of your sankalpa. 

Your sankalpa is a tool you can use at any time to bring you back to your authentic self and your desired way of being. No more beating yourself up for the rest of the year!

I really hope you’re inspired to create your own sankalpa. It’s a great way to start the new year – knowing that you are enough, exactly as you are. I’d love to hear how you go.

Sally xx

PS My 2020 sankalpa was, “I am creative and confident“. It really helped during those times of staring at a blank screen wondering where to start!

This post was updated 29 December 2020

6 thoughts on “Ditch the New Year’s resolution for a New Year’s sankalpa”

  1. Hi Sally, It’s 5 Feb and it feels like the year is already flying! I was looking at my 10 goals for the year and remembered seeing your blog about sankalpas (which I was too busy to read at the time). I just read it and love the shift of thinking from fixing to being. You’ve inspired me to rewrite my goals to I am statements in present tense. Very powerful excersise. They’re now stronger and more compelling. 2020 – I got this! Thank you!

    1. Hi Belle, thanks so much for your lovely feedback on setting a sankalpa. It’s never too late to set one! Knowing that we are enough, as we are, is so empowering. I’m so glad this has helped guide your 2020 goals 🎉❤️😇

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