Setting an intention
Human beings seem to like new year's resolutions because they can make change happen at the push of a button. Interestingly though, new year's resolutions often don't last. It looks like they are not so sustainable.
In yogic circles, we speak of setting an intention, which isn't the same as a new year's resolution. It doesn't mean bending over backwards to reach your goals. You formulate your intention in the privacy of your mind and leave it at that. Still, something within re-aligns. It's like the act of unfurling the sail on the mast. Then all there's left to do is to wait for the wind to blow in the right direction. And one day, when the wind is right, you just take off.
Setting an intention, however, is a slow-going process as far as the outward change is concerned. Nothing seems to happen at first. It's more like making a wish for yourself. But because it is your wish, you don' t have to remind yourself to stick to it every step of the way. You don't have to white-knuckle your way through. You don't have to do so damn much. You just set your compass and let the stream carry your vessel. Or as the yogis say: "Prana (life force) flows where focus (intention) goes." Meaning that if you decide on the direction, some other (higher) force will support you on that journey.
Can it really be so easy?
After interviewing recovering addicts for a book project, I feel hesitant to write that all you need to change your life is set an intention. I'm sure many an alcoholic wishes they could decide to stop and then the wind would blow them into sobriety. We all know that's not how it works. If you decide to stop drinking, you still have to learn to say no each time someone wants to buy you a beer. Or each time you want a beer. Whenever something painful happens, you'll have to learn to endure it without booze to soften the blow.
But even an alcoholic needs to set an intention. Most people I have talked to have had a moment, often called rock bottom, when they knew from deep within they no longer wanted to use or carry on like this. This resetting of the compass is in no way visible from the outside. But the willingness, which is the term used by Alcoholics Anonymous, is what sets the healing process in motion.
It's my belief that when the desire to align ourselves differently echoes from deep within, then change will follow. The effort lies more in reaching the certainty that you no longer want to escape the pain, but acknowledge and accept it. But once that sail is in place, there is only one way to go.