Over the last three years, on New Year’s Day, I have chosen a theme or a ‘sankalpa’ (an intention formed by the heart and mind) for the coming year. In 2017, my theme was ‘clarity’.
I have come to love this tradition and find it so much more valuable than making resolutions. For anyone who is new to this, the idea is to pick a word or theme that you would like to shape your year – something you feel drawn to, or something you want to be more conscious of. It feels very different from making resolutions which, so often, are restrictions or unrealistic demands we place on ourselves, driven by the sense of not being good enough as we are.
People often say that in order to achieve a goal you need to make it SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound). Choosing a theme flips this idea on its head, because it’s not about achieving something, but about how to be and what to pay attention to. For this reason it can seem vague. But that’s the beauty of it – you never quite know how it will unfold or how it will influence your year.
I chose the word clarity because I had come to a crossroads and felt conflicted about what to focus on next.
- I had become a qualified yoga teacher but hadn’t yet found my niche, and was being drawn to further training like a magpie to shiny things, rather than being clear about what I wanted to build on.
- After a year of all-consuming training I wanted to balance my time a bit better between yoga teaching, further training, and my family and friends.
- I had dropped my “day job” down to four days a week but hadn’t quite decided how to use that additional day of time.
- And, most significantly, after going back and forth for several years, my husband and I wanted to make a decision in 2017 about whether to have children.
How did clarity shape my year?
As it turns out, this has been a challenging year for me, and those challenges have been unexpected and personal in nature. But the theme of clarity has been an important one, helping me to be accepting of the present and pragmatic and hopeful about the future.
So how has this theme of clarity shaped my year?
- It helped me trust my instincts and use my own yoga practice as inspiration for my teaching.
- I found the words to describe what I offer as a yoga teacher, so that the students who need me can find me.
- It led me to focus on refining my skills in one-to-one tuition and teaching yoga for stress, burnout, anxiety, fatigue and low mood.
- I clarified my availability for teaching rather than saying yes to anything that comes up, so that I have the energy to be there for my students.
- In my personal yoga practice, I identified new things to both challenge and nourish myself in response to my changing needs.
- I gave myself more time – time to rest, to heal, to connect with and appreciate supportive friends and family, and to restore myself when I felt depleted.
- I took breaks from social media and banished my phone from the bedroom, helping me sleep better and switch off from the constant stimulation from the digital world.
And as for deciding to have children…here I am at the end of 2017, six months pregnant with a little babe, so tangible now as a tiny being who is a part of me and yet also someone in their own right. This particular journey has ultimately shaped my whole year, with other things revolving around the different phases and experiences along the way. I now enter 2018 full of hope and anticipation to meet this little soul and become a mother.
More than anything, the theme of clarity encouraged me to turn inwards, to tune in to my intuition and inner wisdom, to be present with physical and emotional discomfort, and enjoy moments of wonder and appreciation. This hasn’t always been easy, or even possible, but it’s helped to move me in the right direction.
As with each year, I’ll wait until New Years Day before choosing my theme for 2018. But I know I will be drawn to a theme that gives me something I need for the big changes ahead.
I bumped into someone a few months ago who said they’d been meaning to thank me for my first blog post about this in 2015. Since then, she and her family have turned it into a beloved tradition to choose and share their themes for the year on New Years’ Day, and reflect on their themes from the past year.
So why not give it a try yourself this year and see where it takes you? Try not to agonise or analyse too much when you choose your theme, just sit quietly, see what arises, and pick a word that feels right. If you’d like a bit more inspiration, you can also read my previous posts:
I wish you all the happiest of times as the year comes to a close, strength and compassion to face any difficulties, and presence and joy in the beautiful moments that lie ahead, whatever theme shapes that path.