There are so many folks right now talking about goal-setting and intention-setting. Which I think is brilliant. After all, how can you get to a destination without aiming to get there? But what’s the difference between goal-setting and intention setting anyway?
You need to type your destination into your Satnav in order to know you’ve arrived, otherwise you’ll be circling around the roundabouts of life forever! Intention-setting has been pivotal in my life. When I started to get specific and get conscious about what it was that I wanted more of or less of in my life, I found that like magic, things were starting to happen very differently for me.
In my personal practice, this was practiced as a Sankalpa, which is slightly different to the idea of goal. The difference is that a Sankalpa is translated as ‘heartfelt desire’. On the face of it, it may seem that a heartfelt desire and a goal are the same things.
But actually, in my experience, the real difference in the setting of a resolution in the form of a Sankalpa and a usual New Year’s style resolution is that usually resolutions involve you reaching out, beyond yourself and saying, ‘I want more of this, or I want some of that’. It’s the ego chatting to itself. Goals are really wonderful, and incredibly useful. But so often they can be fear-based, or based on a comparison with others. Goals can also be very materially based, or based on an end goal, but the Sankalpa can be different.
I understand the Sankalpa as being more a process of discovering, than needing to find. The Sankalpa is acknowledging that there is no ‘journey’ to get to where you need to go. In fact, you have already arrived, you are perfect as you are. The only journey you need to go on is realising this, and manifesting outward signs of what you already are.
WE ALL HAVE OUR OWN UNIQUE DHARMA
It is our job to actively create the life we are meant to be living. We can’t sit back and passively say that the things happening were ‘just meant to be’. No, I believe that life is meant to be actively and consciously designed, so that our higher intentions, our highest truth is available to us each day and in each decision that we have made.
If you’re not familiar with the more esoteric concept of Sankalpa, you might like to think of intention-setting as another way to think about goals. An intention, instead of goal, acknowledges that it’s the pathway in life that counts, it’s each step, rather than the destination. Whatever is done, the way that you do it is key. Achieving goals depends on so much – depends on luck, who you meet, and what you come across along the way. Whereas intention-setting isn’t so much about the final destination, it’s about the way you do it.
Intention-setting is a nice way of acknowledging that the juice of life, the very best thing about life is the way that things are done, rather than the end goal itself.
I have friends who have said, even as they reached their goals in their lives, and at the pinnacle of their career, that they have felt like flotsam on the waves. They say they just carried through life with no impulsion, no meaningful direction from themselves in the direction that life has taken them, that life is a series of chance events. Of course, luck has a massive part to play in life (aren’t I the lucky one, I was born in this place, at this point in time, which has enabled me to live this particular dharma!). But I believe that there is so much more we can do to learn to understand our true self, so that each resolution is in line with our higher intentions, powers, hopes and dreams.
The Sankalpa is an honouring of our highest truth, a statement to remind ourselves of our true nature. The Sankalpa is not about the ego deciding that it wants more of x and less of y, because it’s an internal torch to the highest version we have of ourselves, and it’s a light that can be shone on ourselves to remind ourselves who we really are. And that means that, unlike other New Years resolutions, which you are likely to ditch a few weeks after the first of January, this is something that you will stick with, because it really is you already. It’s just the you who you really are!
FIND GOALS ALIGNED TO YOUR PURPOSE
The Sankalpa can be a very broad notion, one which is a positive message to your true nature. ‘I am peaceful’ or ‘I am healthy’ or ‘I feel connection and love’. Or it can be as specific an intention as a goal might be. So to do this, you need to sit quietly with yourself, or move with conscious energy, and ask yourself what do you need to be doing to move yourself along your path.
So you may say, well, how do I know what I really want, what I really am, and what my heartfelt desires are? And this is where the practices of Yoga come in. We practice yoga to peel away the layers of ego to discover who we really are in this world, and how we can commit to goals which are aligned to our true purpose. The Sankalpa won’t be discovered from scratching your head and pondering. It’s more about the process of listening to your internal guidance, to your own heart.
Then there’s some kind of magic involved in publicly invoking, in the act of stating out-loud, or on paper what your intentions, hopes and dreams are. The universe just seems to love the process of consciously thinking things through and writing things down. When we take the time and effort to actually set our intentions, which come from a place of realisation of our higher selves, things seem to slip into place.