Last week, I discussed what a sankalpa is, and that our brains use such metacognition tools in order to focus and accomplish goals. But what makes a sankalpa stick?
My first sankalpa was comfy. It made me feel all cozy and warm when I recalled it. This was all rainbows and butterflies in the nurturing environment of the Breath and Bliss Immersion, but life had a way of showing me I needed more precision for the path I was headed on. Much like a report card, my internal assessment revealed I had not received an A for effort, but in fact it was an area in need of improvement. I had been expecting my sankalpa to do the work for me. It’s a tool, not magic or even a miracle. As soon as I committed to a sankalpa that represented my new life values, the resistance came.
Relentless resistance, in all forms—the sankalpa struggle was forcing me to face the choices before me and either use this tool or fall victim to my distraction and fear. I think Jill knew the resistance would be lurking just outside of her sphere because one of the last questions she asked us when forming our sankalpa was “Are you open to believing [inevitable] obstacles can be removed or overcome?”
Like a parent instills a sense of moral into their young ones, knowing it will be tested later in the “real world” this question was priming the mind. Ironically when I look back in my notebook, I didn’t actually answer the question, not until recently. I learned the hard way that of all the questions this is one to not overlook and probably the most crucial in my sankalpa’s success. The endurance of your sankalpa depends on its depth and the emotion it provokes. Feeling as though my mental-training wheels had been removed, picking up momentum I graduated through to the how.
How do you break through the struggle?
Learning from the example of Kelly McGonigal’s research in the book the Upside of Stress, I began to see my mindset as she puts it, a “catalyst.” McGonigal says “Changing your mindset puts into motion processes that perpetuate positive change over time.” So this time around I was ready for the resistance. My mindset was to be excited about the challenge. Each set back was actually an opportunity. Each distraction a boundary building exercise. Each day offered a chance to strengthen my mental muscle and actually use my sankalpa. You can’t just buy new paint for your mental picture, you have to actually change the medium. So I removed all limiting beliefs, learned helplessness and ego based thoughts like they were toxic to my health, because they were. I replaced them with my sankalpa. I set a new standard of thinking and thus living. Your mindset matters; start to see your sankalpa as something that is meant to be tested and then actually test it.
I’m not going to say that my life changed overnight, or even that I have accomplished all of my goals. I will tell you instead that my sankalpa has allowed me create value in situations that previously didn’t have any. Although this is one of the most uncertain, trying times of my life thus far, I feel more connected to my goals and values than ever before. You see, the sankalpa struggle was part of the process, weeding out distractions and refining my intention. Expect that it will arise, but now that you know the why, the what and the how’s of overcoming this struggle you’ll be able to actually experience the process. At the end of life it won’t necessarily be the accomplishments that bring you peace, but rather the enrichment of the experiences you have that brings about a life of content.