An alternative to New Year’s resolutions: discover the solemn vow of Sankalpa

Sankalpa, the ancient art of setting intentions, could be the secret to making your New Year resolutions stick. Find out how to do it 


Do you want to enter the New Year mindfully? Dissolve those looming resolutions with the practice of Sankalpa, an intention formed by your heart and mind. Sankalpa, simply stated — is a solemn vow or deeply internal promise to oneself with a focus on the internal rather than the external. The combination of the words San "an inner knowing born from your heart", and Kalpa "an unfolding over infinite time" reflects the impactful practice in which Sankalpa can be felt throughout your life. This year, learn how to reframe the pressures associated with New Year’s resolutions through the mindful approach of Sankalpa and how best to apply this intention setting into your life whatever the time of year. 


Sankalpa: Beginning with enough

A common problem with the habit of creating New Year's Resolutions is the all-too-familiar “list” of external aspirations. Some of which we truly want, and some of which we “think” we want based on pressure from outside of us.


Many of our resolutions are grounded in feelings of not being good enough or beautiful enough or rich enough or healthy enough. We think of what we lack (and often feel emotions of remorse or guilt or even shame) and then we resolve to be different, to be better. But this can become a problem, according to Brené Brown—a research professor and author who has studied vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame for the last 12 years. In an interview she stated,


"When we’re fueled by the fear of what other people think or that gremlin that’s constantly whispering “You’re not good enough” in our ear, it’s tough to show up. We end up hustling for our worthiness rather than standing in it."


If we aren’t careful, our resolutions can reflect that “hustling for our worthiness” that she speaks of.


But with Sankalpa—forming intentions from within—we begin with a deep and heartfelt acknowledgment that we are good enough as we are now. Of course, we all have areas we want to improve or grow within, but we consciously (and gently) let go of toxic shame and unworthiness before we set our intentions. We stand in our worthiness. And from here, we begin to see and feel things differently. We even aspire differently.   


A focus on reflection 

It’s a hard thing to admit, but in our busy lives, we often lose touch with the part of us that reflects. I fear we live in a culture where too many of us have hearts stuffed with unopened folders, where we have stored memories and experiences to look at “sometime later,” and then move on…and later comes and goes. And more folders have been created. There is a pattern of inner accumulation.


When we are stuffed full of unprocessed, inner material, it’s hard to be clear about what our heart really wants. Our true voice is buried under our task lists and expectations. We find it hard to disentangle our own voice and desires from the voices and desires of those around us.


Sankalpa asks us to carve significant moments of inner reflection before we form an intention of where we want to go. Often where we have been (and how it has impacted us) can give us great insight into how we are called to move forward. What worked? What didn’t? What truly brought us alive? What made us feel small? All important questions to reflect upon before we can truly know where it is, we desire to go next or what we really want.


Press Pause to embrace the present

During such a busy season, pressures can often build and our minds can become more active mulling over all the things we should have done before the New Year. It can be hard to relax and reflect.  


This year, we are embracing our Press Pause movement during the hectic festivities and the move into 2023. As I mentioned, to truly delve into the practice of Sankalpa, we must first find moments of quiet. Unlike New Year’s “goals”, which are often time-sensitive, Sankalpa's intention setting is felt from within our hearts and is a slow, life-long practice to be embraced subconsciously and felt in moments of tranquility and peace.  


By pressing pause and incorporating Sankalpa, you can embrace your intentions slowly throughout your life rather than by a set looming date. To truly practice Sankalpa, we must first slow down and settle our nervous system through mindful moments, restful sleep and becoming more aware. You might be wondering how you can find moments to press pause during such a busy time in your life? Our practical and impactful masterclasses are guided by expert ambassadors, who can help you unwind and switch off during the festive period and beyond – whether you’re looking to sleep better, be more mindful or find happiness in the smallest of moments. Finding these moments of pause can help you to cultivate a more contented life and, from there, you can really experience the true joy of Sankalpa. 


Ending with a simple and confident clarity

According to yogic teachings, with Sankalpa, the body and mind become charged with special waves that make a person self-confident, resolute and motivated. I feel this is because Sankalpa arises from the wise, deep voice within—our own inner conviction.


When we find this voice, it is resonant and clear. We become confident, magnetic, and immensely inspired.


In his book, Sacred Journey: Living Purposefully and Dying Gracefully, renowned yogi and teacher, Swami Rama wrote of Sankalpa,


“It is considered to be creative in character and superior to ordinary thought because it activates the body; it makes one perform a predetermined act in order to achieve a pre-set goal. It means – I will be decisive. I will be whole hearted. My growth is certain. I know I will make mistakes, but I will pick up and continue.”


Don’t you hear in this language the clarity and conviction from deep within? For some reason, I especially love the line, “My growth is certain.” Only Sankalpa can bring us this. It is simple, clear and incredibly confident.


Often, in order to distill the simplicity and clarity, you may need to work with images instead of words.


Try Sankalpa

To try Sankalpa at home, I recommend beginning with a meditation. 


Next, try a ceremony of sacrifice—writing down your “inner clutter” on a piece of paper (whatever it is you feel blocks your inner voice) and throw it into a fire.  


End with creating a soul-board. Taking images and words that speak directly to your heart and pasting them together. From those images, try to distill one sentence that somehow captures the deep call or longing of your heart (for this time period, now). The statements can vary. Yours could be crystal clear or perhaps poetic, whatever resonates with you. Write this sentence on a Post-it and place it somewhere you can see it every day. 


There is something so real to the Sankalpa custom. And when something is real it is packed full of energy and potential. I have made this my new habit each year, and I hope you feel inspired to join me? Perhaps, it is worth a try. 

            Loosen your grip.


            Give yourself permission to be imperfect.


            Don't seek what others are seeking,

            (unless it echoes in your bones).


            Spit out whatever you have ingested

            about not being enough.


            Your realness is delicious.


            And you don't need to obsess any longer

            about finding your path.


            Start simple.


            Tie a string

            from your heart to your feet

            And only walk in the direction

            that makes you tick.


            - Deborah Anne Quibell

Emma Becque

Emma Becque

Emma Becque is a writer from the UK who made the move to Amsterdam after working for Condé Nast, The Telegraph and many art publications in London. Her passion is for writing about all things wellbeing and interiors.