What the Upanishads can teach us about achieving our goals

As we start the year, many of us will reflect on how the year has gone as well as dream about what we want to do and achieve in 2019.

Last year was a year of big change for me personally and I feel I have gotten much better at working towards and achieving my goals. There are lots of reasons for this but one of them I feel is really well expressed in the second chapter of the book we are currently reading in Liverpool Yoga Book club which is Essence of the Upanishads: A Key to Indian Spirituality by Eknath Easwaran.

I love how ancient wisdom can be applied to our modern lives, it shows the timelessness of the human experience, that what we struggle with has a timeless element to it. In the book Nachita seeks out the King of Death Yama in order to learn the secret of life and death. Nachita’s lessons begin by Yama explaining to him that humans have at any one moment a choice of two options preya and shreya. “preya is what is pleasant: shreya is what is beneficial.” Eknath Easwaran.

When we approach our own goals in life first we have to be clear on what they are. If we are not clear then we will mostly choose preya because that will lead to instant gratification. Sometimes shreya and preya are actually the same choice but often they are in conflict. Often the thing that will move us in the direction that we want to go is not the easiest path or else we would maybe already be there. Sometimes we have to do things that are often unpleasant in the short term in order to achieve what we want long term.

Hopefully those of you that practice yoga enjoy it, I certainly do. But if you practice for any length of time then there will be days where you don’t want to do it. On those days where you would rather watch TV, search the internet, chat online with friends, etc. you have a choice. Sometimes you have to practice when you don’t want to in order to get the longer term benefits you are seeking be that increased wellbeing, mindfulness or increased mobility and strength. 

In order to achieve my goals last year I have often had to do tasks that put me outside of my comfort zone physically or emotionally. Sometimes I have had to do tasks that are just a bit mundane, the goal itself is exciting and interesting but often achieving it means repeating simple tasks again and again and again. Sometimes the actual work is not particularly glamorous or exciting. 

There are always choices about what we do with our time and our resources. For me looking at my goals and then looking at my task list and working out what my priorities are has been an important and life changing routine. The goals are exciting but sometimes the tasks are not. I am not saying you always have to the hard task some treats and rest is good for balance too but always remember you have a choice and that small actions add up to make big changes. 

I think we often look for the one big thing that will change our lives but often in my experience it’s the small actions that we take consistently that make the biggest changes.

What have your biggest learning’s been from last year. What are you planning on doing different this year.

About Helen Aldred

Helen Aldred practices and teaches ashtanga yoga in Liverpool. She loves to share and discuss yoga, as well as health and wellbeing. Follow her on twitter and join Ashtanga yoga Liverpool's Facebook community .

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