The holidays are a good time to remember what we’re grateful for, and right now I’m grateful that the holidays are over. Don’t get me wrong, I spent lots of sweet time being with people I love, which is my favorite thing. But I’m happy to get back to my routine, and I find that my “everyday life” – when I’m not surrounded by presents and cookies – provides more challenge for appreciating all that I have to be grateful for. It’s a better workout for my gratitude muscles. (Also, I can get back to my Dreambook, where I have daily prompts for gratitude.)
As I see people around me making new year’s resolutions, hopeful but uncertain if they’ll keep them, I notice that a practice of gratitude is a vital part of developing and believing in our ability to change and to fully accept our role in it, i.e., our creative power.
Resolutions are usually prompted by a feeling that something needs to change. Yet if we only focus on what’s wrong, we’re impotent and miserable. When we decide to make a change, a mentality of “my current situation sucks” probably isn’t enough to carry us through actualizing that change. But a recognition of all that’s good in our lives reminds us (if we’re open to it) that we co-created this. And if we want something different, we can envision a new reality for ourselves and bring it into being.
I believe we’re much more effective at consciously shaping our lives when we do a few simple things.
First, we pay attention and appreciate all the ways in which life is going well for us, all the beauty, all the love, and all the miracles. If you can’t see these things, something is veiling your vision. Cut through it.
How can we hone our creative power if we don’t even recognize it? The more we stop and acknowledge the magic (i.e., practice gratitude) the more magical life becomes, and the more we can appreciate the role we’re playing in it. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just try it for a week (practice gratitude all day, every day). You’ll see.
Second, be sure you’re receiving what you’ve asked for. This is kind of a repetition of my first recommendation, but specifically refers to your receptivity regarding the change you’ve initiated. Make sure there’s space in your life for it, and a willingness to let yourself change. Make sure you notice when your world begins to shift – even minutely – in the direction you’ve intended, and acknowledge that your creative power is working.
Third, release your resistance to having what you’ve asked for. Sometimes we think, “Why on earth would I oppose this?!” And I’m not placing blame here. I’m just saying, be completely truthful with yourself about the hidden (or not-so-hidden) desires and beliefs that may be in opposition to your intention. And let them go. We have three processes for clearing resistance to your intentions in our book, The Well Life that can help.
Why do so many people fail to keep their new year’s resolutions? Easy. They are resistant to making this change and/or they have specific “counter-intentions” that are getting in the way (or put simply, they want something else more).
Many of these counter-intentions are rooted in childhood. For instance, you may have a childhood belief such as “it’s bad to be strong” (because, for instance, that would mean not needing your parents, or it would entail taking back power you’ve given away to others) or “I don’t deserve to be happy” (because, for instance, in pursuing happiness you made a mistake that hurt someone). I don’t agree with Freud on everything, but he was spot-on in asserting that childhood impressions affect us throughout our lives. For many of us, it’s the work of a lifetime to recognize how our inner child is running the show and to shift power to our mature inner adult.
Fourth, be consistent. I’ve heard people say, “The Universe hears your every request, so you don’t have to keep asking over and over.” I believe that it’s true that the Universe doesn’t need to be asked twice – the issue with people not getting what they say they want lies more on the human side of the equation. We change our minds all the time and we lose sight of what we’re bringing into reality.
So I recommend writing your intentions down. Personally, I like to make a ritual out of it, lighting a candle, bringing my full attention to the process, using a nice pen and a special piece of paper, feeling the intention with my whole being, visualizing its actualization, etc. Then, every single day (or twice a day) read what you’ve written and re-embody these intentions.
Finally, don’t indulge in criticizing your life. A gratitude practice helps us maintain perspective throughout each day. And a practice of stepping back – expanding into the awareness that contains this character whose life you’re leading – helps you avoid getting trapped in black-and-white judgments. When you are able to see the big picture, it’s hard to feel cursed.