Find Your Inspiration in the New Year
In the first days of the New Year, many people have made resolutions, created vision boards, or set their intentions for what they want to manifest in 2013. You may be feeling energized and filled with a fresh resolve to change your diet, start exercising, declutter your office, create more loving relationships, or find a new job. While well-intended, this approach is rarely successful. The majority of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions within weeks not because they lack willpower but because they try to make too many sweeping changes all at once and because they are not in touch with their deepest desires.
As researchers have discovered, the brain area that governs our willpower (the prefrontal cortex) is like a muscle that quickly becomes exhausted when asked to perform high-intensity tasks in rapid succession. For example, attempting to quit smoking, lose fifteen pounds, clean out the garage, and organize our financial life all in one month is likely to overwhelm our brain’s ability to adapt new behaviors and exercise control. The scientific research suggests that focusing our efforts on one or two goals at a time is much more likely to lead to success. To continue the muscle analogy, consistently focusing on small changes strengthens and expands our brain’s willpower capacity, enabling us to take on increasingly greater challenges.
At a deeper level, the key to making our resolutions stick is to go beyond willpower and find true inspiration. Rather than trying to create change from the level of the mind, ego, or intellect, we need to connect to our deepest self and desires and allow transformation to flow from the inside out. This is why I place so much importance on spending time in silence.
Even if you took only five or ten minutes of quiet time every day or every other day and asked yourself Who am I? What do I want? What is my life’s purpose? Is there a contribution I can make to my community or to society? What kind of relationships do I want to have? What is my idea of wellbeing, and how can I achieve it? – you would experience profound shifts in your life.
You don’t have to know the answers to these questions, but if you start to do this kind of reflection, it has a very interesting way of not only moving you to the answers but of changing your behavior. In contrast with relying solely on willpower and trying hard to stay motivated, which creates a great deal of mental fatigue, reflective self-inquiry spontaneously leads to change.
From my own experience, and also through observation of many people, I have discovered that lasting change can be achieved through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness has been interpreted in many ways. I view it as remembering to bring your awareness to the present moment without getting emotionally or mentally engaged in the situations and circumstances surrounding that moment.
For some people, bringing their awareness to the present moment seems like an abstract or confusing instruction. In fact, it is quite simple. You can come to the present moment by shifting your awareness to your breath, or you can bring your awareness to the sensations in your body. Others may find it easier to let their attention rest in the space between objects. This can be the space between breaths, or the space between movements. Once you find the method of mindfulness that suits you best, it becomes easy to access your silent presence.
As a result of this mindfulness practice, there is a spontaneous awakening of intuition and conscious choice making. It’s like taking a spiritual bath and renewing yourself. Old habits and behaviors die hard, but silence and witnessing awareness are definitely a means of stepping out of the river of memory and conditioning and seeing the world again as if for the first time.