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The beginning of a new year is a natural time to reflect on and re-envision our lives. The tradition of New Year’s resolutions can be life-changing or it can be a temporary way of fooling ourselves with lofty ideas that fade when reality hits. Clarifying our intentions for this life is useful, but really makes an impact when we translate the vision into committed actions.

For example, I may be clear that I want to be more rested and energized as I embark on each day. I may want to make time for spiritual practices or participate in workshops that support my personal growth. But for those ideas to bear fruit, I need to break them down into specific goals. I have to commit to a specific bedtime to feel more rested each morning, and determine how many meditation sessions per week are optimal for me to adequately develop my practice.

In addition to translating our vision into specific steps, it behooves us to reflect honestly on our other responsibilities, our physical and mental capacity and our willpower. It’s easy to set an admirable goal in a moment of inspiration that proves unreachable when we are stressed or struggling—a recipe for frustration and/or failure. A good goal challenges us in small ways, building confidence with each success.

Success also requires enthusiasm and thoughtfulness. It’s unrealistic to assume that we can muscle our way into new habits without planning ways to support them. We can consider what other adjustments or changes are needed to make a goal doable. For example, we may not be able to make time for some new activity in our lives without letting go of something else. Finding a practice partner or sharing our vision with friends are other great ways to support our intention.

Whenever we are trying to create positive changes in our lives, we can expect difficulty. Unwanted thoughts and behaviors are usually a product of impressions embedded in the subconscious mind, and it takes time and repetition of a new pattern to replace them.

With a combination of determination and willingness to persevere, we can override unhealthy inclinations. Perhaps even more powerful is a prayer for strength and guidance, opening our hearts to the grace of a Higher Power in whatever way we understand it.

Carrying a meaningful intention in our hearts breathes spiritual life into our days. Remembering again and again a higher purpose frees us from being captive to the consumer-oriented messages of our culture. I pray that by practicing this way, we all grow more aware of the source of deep peace and love that is ever-present within.

About the Author:

Swami Ramananda is the Executive Director of Integral Yoga Institute in San Francisco, a certified Yoga therapist, and a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance. He leads beginner, intermediate and advanced-level Yoga teacher training programs in San Francisco and teaches throughout the world. Having dedicated his life to teaching Yoga for nearly 50 years, Swami Ramananda is highly-respected senior teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition in Yoga communities worldwide. Swami Ramananda co-developed the Stress Management Teacher Training program with Swami Vidyananda, has trained many teachers to bring Yoga into corporate, hospital and medical settings, and has taught mind/body wellness programs throughout the US and abroad. He is also a co-founder of The Spiritual Action Initiative (SAI) which brings together individuals committed to working for social justice for all beings and for the care and healing of our natural world.