One of the reasons that those 30 or 60 minutes on the yoga mat can be such a sacred time and space is because unlike almost everything else in life, you don’t have to have any purpose or end destination. You don’t need to have goals and you certainly don’t need to achieve anything. You just have to show up.
When I discovered this about yoga, you have no idea what a HUGE relief it was for someone like me who has been an overachiever all her life, incessantly striving to excel at whatever activity I dive into. For as long as I can remember, I have been motivated by accomplishment. We could get into all of the psychology behind that, but to keep it brief, if I’m not “accomplishing” things, I’m battling off deep feelings of failure, and doubt about what value I bring to others (High-five if you relate!).
Somewhere around the age of 27 and in those last few years approaching 30, I began to question what I had really accomplished since graduating college and stepping into the world. Naturally, I looked around me at what my peers were doing with their lives and began to feel plagued by self-doubt. My story changed from “I’ve been pouring my heart and soul into what I love doing” to “I’ve been using words like “bohemian” and “non-traditional” as excuses to not grow up and accomplish real things.”
Instead of looking internally for what accomplishment meant for me, I began to use other people’s markers to evaluate my “success” (i.e. how much money was in my bank account, what status I held in my field, and the one every girl’s family loves to remind them about as the clock ticks; why I am not happily married yet, with 2.5 kids, a dog, and a beautiful house).
Back at about the age of 22, I had set 3 major goals for myself to accomplish before turning 30. You can guess that buying a house and getting married were not part of these goals. When I reached the finish line and looked back at whether I had accomplished those goals, I was so deep into my self-doubt story, it didn’t even matter that I had far exceeded those goals. Actually, by this point, I think psychologists would have described my condition as a serious identity crisis. EVERYTHING tormented me. I never felt so lost in my entire life.
Fortunately, I feel I can say that I’ve made it to the other side of this crisis, although still putting together the pieces of what was ripped open over the course of about 4 years of deep introspection and profound despair! By the way, I’ve now set 3 new goals to accomplish before turning 40, and they are nothing like the goals I set for the 30-mark. Needless to say, I have a completely different outlook on goal-setting than I did at 22 and a huge part of this lesson came from what yoga has taught me over the past decade.
Okay, so how does yoga tie into this and how can it help YOU achieve YOUR goals?
First of all, we all have a different relationship with goal-setting. I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that at the very least, most of us try to kick off a new year with some resolutions. Well, unless you are from Argentina! I’ve learned in my time living here that new year’s resolution setting is a pretty gringo concept! HA! There is definitely something worth investigating there!!
Nevertheless, us gringos or “yanquis” as they call us here, are prone to taking on some kind of self-improvement goal at the start of the year. Now, how many of those new year's resolutions have you actually accomplished? If that question made you nod your head or laugh you are in the same boat as many.
Okay, so circling back to yoga. I know I said you don’t need to have any goals with yoga! And let me be clear, if you do have yoga goals there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! If you want to get your leg behind your head by next year and that motivates you to go deeper into your journey, I 100% support you.
The important lesson, however, that yoga can teach us about goal setting, is how to stay passionate about the process and unattached to the outcome. Write that down.
As I mentioned before, yoga just asks that you show up. That’s the staying committed part. If you feel crappy and you show up on your mat and stay in child’s pose the entire class, that could be your biggest accomplishment for the day. Just showing up. You arrive, you get real with yourself, and you give it what you have and you stop comparing what you have to give today with where you were at yesterday or where you think you should be already.
When you practice recognizing what you ACTUALLY have to give in yoga, you are rehearsing to meet those moments in your life where you couldn’t feel farther from your desired “outcome,” with compassion and honesty. You are also making space for reassessing whether those goals were realistic, to begin with.
Now, don’t go tweaking your goals just because you had one “crappy” day. But, remain aware of how aligned your goals are with your truth, and just show up, as you do on your mat. Show up on training wheels. Show up with all your baggage. Just show up as you are.
There are a million sayings in yoga that all say something along the lines of, “it’s not about the pose, it’s about what you cultivate along the way.” Sometimes we can be so blinded by our desired outcome, that we’re not even present to the gifts we receive throughout all the striving. You may not feel closer to achieving your goal and you may also never achieve it, but if you stay present, you will without a doubt notice all of the paths that have opened up as a result of staying passionate and open throughout the process.
You will receive tons of outcomes and accomplish tons of goals you didn’t even know you had, even if they are not THE outcome. Can you stay present and open to receiving whatever the journey gives you? Can you become a curious investigator, and ask yourself the questions you need to hear? Can you search for your truth even if it is different than what you want to believe or what others believe? This is the part of staying passionate about the process. Be inquisitive and practice this on your mat, and it will without a doubt seep into your daily life.
Of my 3 goals before 30, the hardest to achieve, and the one that I most clung to with blinding perseverance, was becoming a professional tango dancer. For me that meant finding a tango partner, teaching others to dance and contributing to the tango community, actually being able to survive entirely off of sharing what I was most passionate about, and definitely being able to quit the other soul-sucking work I did to get by. That was the ONLY outcome I would accept.
When 30 started nearing, I had definitely accomplished teaching tango and several tango partners had somehow finally fallen into my lap after searching the entire universe for the one. I also had every reason to believe that I was ready to take the leap to quit the day job and dedicate myself 100% to tango.
But I didn’t do that.
Instead, I woke the fuck up.
After all the striving, frustration, agony and desperation that marked much of my journey towards achieving this goal, I came to a realization that my desired outcome, my goal, was no longer aligned with my truth. At least not in the way I was approaching it. And don’t get me wrong, there was also so much fun and joy and incredibly memorable moments along the way that I will never regret.
Nonetheless, let’s call this realization the height of my identity crisis. The moment I had no idea what to do with myself or who I was. The only thing that was crystal clear to me was how the last 10 years of my life had been built upon my attachment to this one final outcome.
Well, you can guess that what followed was a new journey of stripping away whatever it was that kept me holding onto that original outcome for dear life, and instead, creating space to be truly honest with myself. I found that what taught me to create that space were those daily 30 or 60 minutes on my yoga mat. Carving out whatever amount of time I had, even if it was just 10 minutes, to go within and allow myself to show up as me.
Of course, going into that space can be damn scary and if it hadn’t been for that regular practice of allowing the Veronika that doesn’t have to accomplish things to exist, well, let’s just say things could have turned out much worse when crisis hit.
However, the point I want to make with this personal story is that yoga and the journey inwards can absolutely set you up for successfully achieving your goals, although, it may just reroute you a million times and at the end of it all show you that where you were headed is no longer your destination.
Accomplishing goals is not just deciding what your goal is and then taking the prescribed steps to get there. And it’s certainly not about taking other people’s prescribed steps! Write that down too, and don’t ever let yourself believe that what’s true for someone else is true for you. Accomplishing YOUR goals is about cultivating an inquisitive and open mindset that allows you to experience your unique journey to its fullest. It’s about revealing to yourself who you are and making room for that person to grow into somebody new. It’s a transformation. And it will happen when you remain committed to the process, and unattached to the outcome.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite and I think very appropriate yoga quotes,
“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.”
- B.K.S. Iyengar
On that note, if you are ready to commit yourself to your journey, join me for a free 7-day trial of my monthly online studio membership. Each month takes you through a little transformation, whether that be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual: