You know what you want to do and be but can’t seem to strengthen your resolve and make the changes you want. You have a mental picture of the ideal you and the present you but you can’t seem to bridge the gap between the two.
Whether it is making healthier choices in what you eat and drink, how much you exercise, what daily habits you want to incorporate into your life, or some inner quality you want to cultivate, it all starts with making a firm resolve and then acting on it.
We are usually able to strengthen our resolve and take the steps to bring in the changes we want to see only after repeatedly suffering through the consequences of our actions (or lack thereof). There finally comes a time when we say, “enough.” We don’t want to experience the same remorse and disappointment anymore.
How can we shorten and ease this long and painful process? Here are four powerful ways to strengthen your resolve:
#1: To strengthen your resolve, inspire your heart
Have you noticed that unless your heart is into something that you have decided you want, you aren’t able to carry out your plan? Or even if you do, you gradually lose your motivation and can’t sustain your resolve?
This is exactly what happens to most of us when we make New Year’s resolutions. Our rational thinking mind loses the battle to the heart that isn’t excited or inspired by our new plans.
The head is like an ant screaming for what it wants, and the heart is like an elephant that easily tramples the ant.
I came across an interesting fact about the brain. A man had a stroke that damaged the emotional part of his brain. But the frontal lobe, which is responsible for higher functions such as thinking, analysing, judging, and memory, was not affected. In spite of this, the man was left without the ability to make decisions. This unexpected result of the brain damage showed that emotions play an integral part in decision-making and in implementing changes.
Before resolving to do something, ask yourself why? Why do you want this? Does it excite you? Do you feel happy thinking about it?
You must value (head) and love (heart) what you want to achieve. Once the intellect is convinced and the heart finds joy in the decision, there is no danger of sliding back into old habits.
#2: To strengthen your resolve, follow the advice of someone you trust
Faith in the words of someone you trust or hold in high regard can be the trigger that will strengthen your resolve. It could be a family member, a friend, a mentor, or an expert in a particular field. This was what happened when I stopped eating non-vegetarian foods.
My sudden and strong decision was triggered by reading something that my guru, Swami Tejomayananda had written. Before that, I had gone for years thinking and wishing to be vegetarian.
My mother was a vegetarian and I was greatly influenced by her growing up in Singapore. Like the rest of my family, I ate meat, chicken, and seafood, but mostly because they were in the delicious local curries that included them. Many times, I would only eat the curry. At the back of my mind, I always thought of becoming vegetarian one day.
As I grew older, my desire to become vegetarian grew. I dropped eating meat more than 30 years ago but continued to eat chicken and seafood. After a few years, I dropped the chicken (mostly because it didn’t agree with me) and continued the seafood.
Still a few years later, I dropped all shellfish and told myself I would stay with just fish to give me more options in case I went to a restaurant. But even eating fish disturbed my mind. I wished I could find the courage to just drop it all. As a serious spiritual seeker, I felt that my old habits and attachments were preventing me from moving forward.
Then one day in 2003, I read a line in a book written by Swami Tejomayananda. In it he said that if you were on a ladder and you wanted to move higher, you would have to take your foot off the lower rung. You can’t keep your foot on the lower rung and expect to move higher.
And that was it. That was the last push I needed to make the higher move. I firmly decided right there and then that I would become a vegetarian.
From then on, I found that going for social gatherings or to restaurants and seeing only a small number of vegetarian options simplified things for me. I didn’t have to contend with choosing from a confusing variety of different choices.
My mind became calmer, and I began to value that peace over indulging in non-vegetarian foods.
#3: Use spiritual knowledge to strengthen your resolve
Your desire to grow inwardly and be a better person helps to strengthen your resolve and make the changes you want to see in your life.
What’s one thing that can inspire your desire to improve yourself? Knowledge of your innate spiritual nature.
We are spiritual beings in human bodies. Our ultimate purpose is to bring out this divinity within ourselves. Our human lives and everyday experiences are meant to help us learn and improve ourselves to achieve this purpose.
Without the knowledge of our spiritual nature and higher purpose, we are easily swept away by worldly attractions and temptations. The way to gain this knowledge and be reminded of it is to keep spiritual company every day.
Some ways to keep spiritual company is to listen to spiritual talks, meet with other like-minded people to discuss spirituality, and read spiritual articles and books.
Spiritual knowledge positively influences the quality of your mind. It instills it with higher ideals and cultivates noble emotions that help to keep you inspired and on path. It is this knowledge that helped me strengthen my resolve to make another big decision in my life.
In 2018, I went to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in my own city of Toronto. There I picked up some information on the appalling cruelty that happens in the dairy and poultry industry.
I read how cows are artificially impregnated, and when the calves are born, they are forcibly separated from their mothers. Both the mothers and babies cry for each other. If they are female calves, they are reared for their milk. If they are male, they are fattened and slaughtered as veal.
The dairy cows are good only for their milk which is sold for human consumption and not for their own calves. Instead, the calves are fed a milk replacer.
The dairy cows are impregnated repeatedly in the course of their lifetime and suffer the same separation and loss of their offspring each time. Finally, when they cannot produce any more calves or milk, they are slaughtered for their meat.
These docile, gentle animals are reared and treated as mere commodities for human consumption and profit. Most people don’t know about the immense cruelty and violence in the dairy industry.
I also learned about the terrible suffering of chickens reared for eggs and meat.*
When I learned this shocking information, I couldn’t have eggs or dairy products anymore. I cut back drastically, indulging in the only dairy snack I enjoyed—chocolate. In a few short months, I totally transitioned to a plant-based or vegan diet.
Previously as a vegetarian I still ate dairy foods and eggs. But being vegan wasn’t as easy because I found myself reading labels and noticing that many everyday foods contain milk and eggs such as bread, pasta, sauces, and noodles.
However, there was no question of being tempted because just the thought of the extreme cruelty inflicted on cows and chickens sickens me. And the short-term pleasure of eating something that has come from the pain of another innocent living being goes against the spiritual values of kindness and compassion I am striving to live up to.
It’s been four years since I opted to be vegan, and I’ve never looked back.
#4: Pray to strengthen your resolve
Trying to overcome old habits and personality traits is not easy and sometimes feels impossible to accomplish. There seems to be an inner war between your higher and lower self.
When you’ve tried everything and can’t do it on your own, call upon divine help. Prayer tunes the mind to the divine and invokes its help and power.
In my article, Extraordinary stories of healing from addiction, I share how the power of prayer helped two people heal from addiction. The first is the story of Vasiliy, a former alcoholic and drug addict and the second is of Laura, whose prayers strengthened her mother’s resolve to give up drinking.
Before I interviewed Vasiliy for this article, I knew nothing of how Alcoholics Anonymous helped people overcome their addiction. But when I spoke to him, I was pleasantly surprised that The Twelve Steps program is actually a spiritual one. It is based on invoking God’s help to overcome old addictions and to help recovering addicts make amends to those whom they had wronged.
God, Source or any name you choose to call the divine is within us all. If we are not able to make the inner changes we want, then we can pray that the divine make those changes for us.
Prayer helps in overcoming all forms of negative thoughts, tendencies, fears, and emotions. It is a sure way to gain peace of mind, equanimity, and inner strength to face life.
Transform yourself both inside and out
Inspire your heart, follow the advice of someone you trust, cultivate spiritual knowledge regularly and sincere prayer—these are four powerful ways to strengthen your resolve.
Choosing any of these methods can help to relieve the pain of being stuck in your life following the same patterns over and over again. They can bridge the gap between the ideal you and the present you, and transform your life both inside and out.
*Read Ed Winters’ book, This is vegan propaganda (and other lies the meat industry tells you). In the chapter, “There’s no such thing as a happy farm animal”, Winters gives a stark and horrific account of his visit to a chicken farm. Ed Winters has also produced a 4-minute film entitled, Milk | A short film from a mother’s perspective.
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