Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Intention setting, yoga, and making empowered, soul-nourishing choices.
Living life on purpose, with intention, is hard work. It requires the acknowledgment that you have choices, and that these choices wield power. Today we are lucky - there are many readily-available tools to help us live with intention. Thought leaders, therapists, and spiritual teachers all across the globe produce an abundance of content to aid us in our human journeys when we begin to ask the questions: “is this all there is to life?”; “Do I have a purpose?”; “What is my purpose?”. Additionally, we can look to yoga practices and texts to provide us with wisdom and guidance on our path of intentional living as we strive to make empowered, soul-nourishing choices.
Intention in yoga is called a Sankalpa.
Intentional living, from a yogic perspective, can be facilitated through various means. One practice I love is setting an intention. An intention in yoga is called a Sankalpa. There are two types of Sankalpa. The first is a heartfelt desire and the second is a specific goal. The second type of Sankalpa, a specific goal, is the one most people tend to be familiar with. Goal-setting is striving towards something measurable and action-oriented - for example: aiming to read twenty books in 2020. Your goal tells you where you should focus your energy, so that old habits and patterns that don’t support your goal fall away (for instance, in the example of reading 20 books, cutting down on social media to create time and energy for reading). Measurable goals are one step in the process of understanding your more all-encompassing heartfelt desire; which opens you up to your life’s authentic purpose that flowers from the inside out.
How do you discover a worthy goal for yourself?
For me, the best way to formulate my goals has been to notice and observe where I feel pain in my life. Pain can come in many forms - jealousy, a rift in a friendship, believing I am not enough, financial struggles, loneliness, and fear of the future are just a few. Examining the pain I feel can sometimes be done on my own or among nurturing friends and family, or is sometimes best met with support from a helping professional like a therapist. But the process of working through and sorting out the pain I feel has been a useful tool towards discovering my goals; goals that are compassionate, attainable, and don’t add more stress, shame or blame to my life.
Brainstorm TINY Action Steps.
I’ve enjoyed journaling and writing since I was in elementary school. Organizing ideas on paper has proven time and time again to be a clarifying experience for me. When trying to find a worthy goal to commit my energy to, I like to open my journal up to a fresh page and brainstorm a list of possible action steps that are small, feel attainable, encourage positive growth, and counter my point of pain.
Seven years ago, this process was invaluable to me when I had trouble waking up in the morning. I would wait until the last minute to get out of bed, grab a breakfast bar, and rush out of the front door. This routine left me feeling ungrounded and frazzled. I also frequently felt frustrated because my quick pace in the morning meant I often left the house without essential items like my phone, my bus pass, and/or my lunch. Brainstorming how I would improve my mornings, I made a list of ideas like going to bed earlier, getting an accountability buddy, and packing my bag the night before. But it wasn’t until I wrote down “I will not press snooze” did any of the ideas resonate. Not pressing snooze was a clear concise action. I could easily account for whether I followed through or not, and it didn’t trigger stress, shame, or blame in my nervous system.
If you journal or write, this brainstorming process may feel familiar, easy, and comforting. If writing isn’t your forte or has been spoiled by negative school experiences, know that the brainstorming process can be facilitated in a variety of ways. Brainstorming can be done on the “notes” app on your phone, can be done verbally with a caring person in your life, or be done with drawings or through making a collage. When tossing around ideas for goals and how to focus your energy, work with the medium that feels supportive and facilitates creativity.
Use the power of the present.
Once you’ve chosen your goal from the list you’ve generated during your time brainstorming, transform the goal into a present tense statement or a statement where the goal is written like it’s already happened. For example, “I will not press snooze” is changed to “I wake up with my first alarm everyday”. This places the goal in the here and now instead of into a future that will never be. The here and now is a powerful place. Unlike the past or the future, it is where you can embody your intention. It is the place where constructive action that supports and reinforces your intention is taken.
Time is a goal's best friend.
Transformation and the impact of a new choice or goal takes time. In the beginning, when I chose to wake up with my first alarm everyday, the only thing I could focus on was that singular action which was way more challenging than I would like to admit. But over the course of a year, other elements of my life were influenced by this one intention and began to transform my life organically. I naturally went to bed earlier and got more sleep, my backpack almost always got loaded up with all my essential items for the day - thwarting previous frustration - and each morning started off more calmly as the extra time allowed me to walk leisurely to catch the bus for work instead of sprinting due to tardiness. This organic transformation showed me how much power one choice can wield, and that the longer I focus on a goal the more dramatic the effects.
A heartfelt desire.
Exploring Sankalpa practice through forming a present tense goal that is acted upon over a long period of time is one means to move toward living life on purpose. Working with a heartfelt desire, the first type of intention in Sankalpa practice, is also a means to move toward living life on purpose. For me, when I examine and reflect upon my measurable goals the all-encompassing heartfelt desire becomes more obvious, visible, and easier to articulate. Next week, I will post Living Life On Purpose, Part Two where the process of unearthing our heartfelt desire will be explored through examining our measurable goals and the practice of inner listening. So, stay tuned!
Have further thoughts on how to live life with purpose by creating a specific goal? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment and continue the conversation below.