It’s that time of year again, when we take a moment to assess our goals – where we were at a year ago, where we are at now, and where we want to head towards in the coming year. And we make New Year’s resolutions to give us clear steps to reach our goals.
Many of us have lived through enough years to recognize that making a New Year’s resolution is much easier than maintaining one. Of course, any amount of time spent trying to create a new “good” habit, or dissolve one that is harmful or unhelpful to us, is time well spent. And yet, wouldn’t it be great if we could stick to those resolutions just a wee bit longer into the year?
All New Year’s resolutions are (physical or mental) actions meant to improve ourselves and our lives. Frequently, we set our resolutions out of hope for change – either a different situation, or a different way of being.
The thing about hope, though, is that we implicitly know things we hope for may, or may not arise. I hope it is sunny and warm this weekend; I hope I get that promotion; I hope that cute person whom I like also likes me.
When we set our New Year’s resolutions out of hope, there is a strong likelihood we won’t be able to stick to the resolution if we don’t get enough positive feedback early, indicating that our hard work will in fact, pay off. In order to be more resolute about our resolutions, we need to originate our goals from somewhere other than hope. And I propose instead of hope, try trust and/or faith.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming trust/faith is only for the religious.
Or, that trust/faith means you won’t have to put in time or effort towards your goal. Instead, trust and faith is a mindset that assumes success. When we trust something will happen, there is no doubt in our minds. For example: I have faith the sun will rise tomorrow; I trust that promotion is coming; I trust my husband loves me as much as I love him.
With hope, the mind believes the desired outcome has a possibility of happening, and a possibility of not happening. With trust and faith, the mind believes the desired outcome is guaranteed to happen. Even if it takes time and effort to bring it about.
Hope leads us to experience Life’s roadblocks and stoppages as a frustrating lack of progress, frequently discouraging us to the point of giving up on our goal. By contrast, trust/faith leads us to experience Life’s roadblocks as obstacles we’ll simply need to go around or bypass in some way, to get to our goal.
How can we create this attitude of trust/faith, if it doesn’t come spontaneously?
It’s important to remember that all three – hope, trust and faith, all exist in the mind. And, the more pliable we can make our mind, shifting from hope to trust and/or faith (or any other attitude, for that matter) could be as easy as changing into a different pair of shoes.
Try practicing this simple meditation to develop more mental flexibility.
Find a place in your home where you can sit undisturbed for your meditation. You’ll want your spine to be straight, and the legs comfortable so that you won’t be distracted by physical discomfort. As a recommendation, try sitting on a zafu like this one from Gaiam, at an appropriate cushion height for your flexibility, one that will drop your knees slightly closer to the floor than your seat, once your ankles are crossed.
After you’ve found your comfortable seat, ignore the body and begin to observe your mind. Empty the mind of all thoughts. The moment you notice your mind has returned to thinking, simply (silently) tell yourself, “thinking” and empty the mind again. You may find the mind can only be devoid of thought for a split second at a time, but the length of time you can silence your mind is irrelevant to this meditation practice. What is important, is (a) a recognition that you have thoughts, and (b) that it is possible to drop those thoughts at will.
It is a fact that we get better at whatever we practice consistently and sincerely. With practice of this meditation, you will get better at making your mind’s thoughts less “sticky,” giving you more ability to modify and shift your attitude from hope for success to trust and faith you will succeed. And, your New Year’s resolution just might become a resolution you’ll be able to stick to throughout the year!