When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, many of us make that celebratory toast to the New Year. Waking up on January 1st, we often resolve to make changes in our lives that we believe will bring us greater health, wealth, happiness, and peace of mind. We may promise ourselves that this is the year we’ll finally drop those 10 pounds, get in shape, fall in love, buy a home, get out of debt, publish that book, quit smoking, or find a better-paying job more aligned with our interests.

We want so deeply to make tangible shifts in our lives and yet, according to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, just eight percent of people achieve their New Year’s goals. While many of us might chock that sobering statistic up to the fact that most humans lack the self-discipline required to make significant long-term change, certified life, career, and wellness coach, Izzy Lenihan, would beg to differ.

“We don’t make an emotional connection as to why the goal is important,” she says, noting the reason so many resolutions fail. “A goal is a plan or an aim with a target in mind, but the intention is the energy behind it. That’s how you make things happen in your life–when it’s not just a thought, but it’s actually an emotion and you have that vision in front of you.”

Izzy says an intention is a message to the Universe of what we wish to experience, express, and receive. “The intention is the spiritual practice behind achieving your goal,” she explains. “One way to create intentions is to decide how you want to feel.”

Your ultimate goal may be to lose weight, but feeling as healthy as you can possibly feel might be your intention. “That’s a far easier way of practicing achieving that goal,” Izzy remarks. “Be the healthiest person you can be every day.”

Like many coaches, Izzy says goals need timelines (for example, how many pounds do you want to have lost in three months?) and are best achieved when they’re broken down into baby steps. She advocates two action steps and one internal process step, which she calls “the being step.”

Action steps towards the goal of weight loss might be drinking less alcohol, eating more green vegetables, cutting sugar from your diet, joining a gym, or working with a fitness trainer. “Along the way towards your goal,” she notes, “one of the things that will always happen is that you’ll get uncomfortable, so you have to attach an internal practice. It’s almost like a mindfulness practice in order to help you achieve the goal.”

Mindfulness (“being”) practices are the steps we can turn to when we’ve relapsed or we’re frustrated we’re not achieving our goals as quickly as we’d like. Kripalu Yoga methodology is especially helpful here. Just as when we hit a physical edge on the mat, when we hit physical, mental, or emotional obstacles in the pursuit of our goals, we might:

* Stay in the present (vs. ruminating about the past or worrying about the future)

* Practice self-awareness without judgment

* Find comfort in the discomfort (ride the wave)

* Express gratitude

* Forgive others or ourselves

* Surrender

* Invite self-compassion

Izzy reminds her clients that berating themselves for setbacks or missteps doesn’t make goals more achievable. “If we haven’t lost those three pounds by January 14th, we’re often like, ‘Oh, I suck at this!’ and the next thing you know, we’re eating a pint of ice cream or drinking a bottle of wine. We can’t punish our way to success. Instead, try to get curious and say, ‘Isn’t that interesting? I haven’t lost any weight yet. I wonder what’s going on.’ Notice how you’re feeling, but don’t beat yourself up about it.”

So yes, taking action is a must to achieve goals, but having a conscious internal practice is the crucial step that’s often overlooked. “That’s how you make a goal happen,” Izzy insists. “And if [you don’t achieve] your goal [in time], create three more baby steps–because a whole bunch of steps done successfully adds up to huge shifts in your life.”

Izzy adds that it’s helpful to employ the law of attraction when attempting to turn resolutions into reality. “You don’t attract what it is that you want,” she quips. “You attract who it is that you are. Let’s say you want to experience more joy in your life. Well, the reality is that you have to begin thinking like a joyful person. That’s how you’ll experience more joy. You actually have to become what you want to attract in your life.”

If you want more prosperity, Izzy says, you need to think not from a place of fear and scarcity, but from a place of prosperity and abundance. If you want to make a living as an artist, then you have to start living like one, practicing your art every day. If you want a loving romantic relationship in your life, you need to start showing up in the world like you love yourself. “It’s really all about aligning your intentions with your actions,” she says.

Finally, it’s important not to forget to celebrate successes. “If you’re trying to give up smoking, one way to do that is to have a reward on a regular basis,” Izzy comments. “You could put the money you’d spend on cigarettes in a jar and do something special with that money instead.”

Ultimately, when we hold to our goals while focusing on our intentions, we experience greater joy and peace. “We build self-confidence,” Izzy concludes. “We begin to establish a sense of integrity in that we’re not only saying what we want but we’re living what we want. It’s absolutely possible not just to make resolutions, but to make real shifts in our lives.”

Originally published by Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health