Year-end lists, spontaneous resolutions, and 30-day yoga or meditation challenges are all common ways to test your willpower on—or even weeks after—the New Year. But what now? How can you sustain this mindful resolve the rest of the year?
Cut yourself some slack and really listen to yourself. That’s the first step to cultivating what the yoga tradition calls a sankalpa, or resolve. More than just a desire made public, “a sankalpa practice starts from the radical premise that you already are who you need to be to fulfill your life’s dharma,” says Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct.
If this is your first experience with a sankalpa, try this. Close your eyes and settle in for a few moments. And then ask yourself, “what do you I really want?” The answer to that could be anything: to become a yoga teacher, to stop feeling so angry all the time, to quit smoking, or even just to wake up earlier.
You can also build willpower over time by practicing yoga, according to senior Iyengar yoga teacher Patricia Walden, who says willpower exists in our bodies as well as our minds. She recommends choosing a challenging yoga pose and holding it for 30 seconds; do that every day for at least a week. A practice like this can build your reserves and help you follow through on difficult decisions in the future.
Or make it habit to regularly explore a short, restorative practice like yoga nidra.
No matter what you choose to do, by all means be compassionate. Back off from a challenge if necessary. That might sound like a sign of weakness or even counterintuitive, but according to McGonigal, “If you think that the key to greater willpower is being harder on yourself, you are not alone.” You’re just wrong, she says. According to a growing wealth of research, self-criticism is “consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control.”
Building your willpower muscle and remaining true-blue to challenging goals—according to the (scientific) writing on the wall—isn’t about taking the high road. It’s actually a lot more about compassion and even, it seems, self-confidence.
Check out the full scoop on the science behind willpower, and explore 5 poses that cultivate resolve from Senior Iyengar teacher Patricia Walden, here.
SHARE YOUR WILLPOWER SECRETS AND WIN!
Tell us in the comments how you keep your resolve and we’ll register you to win a HOME PRACTICE yoga kit from Manduka. Now if that isn’t motivating!