New year, new YOU, right? Inspired by the turn of the calendar page, we make resolutions and set new intentions to move us toward a better vision, and version, of ourselves. Many of these intentions quickly get lost, and we await a new impetus to reset them again. While the resolution may be well-intended, we often fail to succeed because we haven’t checked in with one important thing…our heart’s motivation.

What motivates us to make the desired change? I have given many nutrition talks at the start of the new year since many intentions are centered around getting healthier. I always begin by explaining that, in order to successfully change any behavior, we have to peek behind the curtain of our heart to discover our inner “WHY”? WHY do we want to change?

Motivation is different than intention. Intention is more like a desired goal or action. For instance, “I am going to be healthier” or “I am going to do more yoga or start meditation.” Motivation, however, is the inspiration behind that action. It requires us to address fundamental heart questions like these:

  • what do I hope to accomplish with this intention or goal?
  • what do I want my experience of life to be?
  • how do I want my life to have purpose?
  • what values do I want to be reflected in my life?
  • how do I want to connect with others?

Asking these questions may help clarify the unconscious motivation behind our intentions. If your intention is to “eat healthy” or “do more yoga”, for example, is your motivation based on wanting to experience more energy and joy in your life? to be able to participate in activities you love with the people you love? Or is it grounded in self-criticism, like to feel better about yourself or to please others? If you try to implement changes without reflecting on your heart, you may fail before you even begin. Your body and your heart know when you act out of self-love or self-loathing! I know this from personal experience, as I acted out of the latter for so many years!

Developing a positive motivation from the heart will inspire you to keep coming back to your mat or to whatever it is you hope to accomplish. It is what lights the fire under your seat and gets you out the door, or to your meditation cushion, or to your journal, etc.

This January, try taking a few minutes – maybe in the car on the way to work – to reflect on your motivation this year. What is the message in your heart? Why do you WANT to eat better or do more yoga or study something? Then ask what that might look like in practice (which means “in life”).

For example, you might try this formula: “I want…..; therefore, I choose ….”

“I want to feel more joyful and at ease in my day. Therefore, I choose to pause and contemplate/meditate in a restorative pose for 5 minutes before bed.”

“I want to be more compassionate and forgiving to myself and others. Therefore, I choose to say a positive affirmation or mantra daily and write in my gratitude journal.” (could write this on your phone!)

Before you rush to form these answers, try just contemplating the “WHY” question for a few minutes over several days before proceeding on to the action. You may be surprised how it could guide you to a different intention and action. Whatever you do, remember that this is YOUR practice, your heart, your body. Above all be patient, kind and loving as you explore the beautiful inner workings of your heart and spirit.

Peace, my friends, in this new year and always.