Real change starts with kavannah (intention)


Dear Helen
How do you set goals for the New Year, beyond losing weight packed on during the festive season? I’m feeling adrift and want to hit the reset button on how I relate to the world.

Hoping To Be Resolute

Dear Resolute:
Your answer comes in two parts: setting an intention and setting guidelines to manifest that intention.
The Hebrew word kavannah means intention. It’s like a vow, a serious decision made in a serious way, after lots of preparation, even if that getting ready might look like lots of pacing and trying every other possible option first. You need to identify what kavannah resonates in the marrow of you. I’d recommend getting a journal, writing 2018 firmly on page one and setting aside a little time each day to write until you find clarity. Your kavannah doesn’t have to be as simplistic as “lose a pants size,” but it might be “develop a healthier relationship with my body and food.”
For example, more than a year ago I set a kavannah of writing a book to address the deeper issues people ask me about and that I think about in my life. My kavannah is to write my truth simply and clearly. It’s taken longer than I anticipated, because the deeper I go, the more I’ve had to work on my own issues. Also, because I want to articulate a process to help folks clear barriers that keep them from being happier, not just cross “publish book” off my to-do list.
While writing, I revisited the 10 commandments I wrote in 2000, when I launched my alter ego at yourjewishfairygodmother. com. The original 10C were: (1) Ask for what you want; (2) Think strategically; (3) Treat other people well; (4) Keep asking questions; (5) Work every angle; (6) Use charm and chutzpah; (7) Say what needs to be said; (8) Enjoy the ride as much as the win; (9) Make your own good luck; (10) Believe in yourself.
I’ve since changed number 5 to “Know your values,” because what seemed flippantly cute in 2000 sounded too self-serving in 2017’s harsher realities. Also because it’s even more important now to know what we believe in, for our own lives and for society. Ask Helen helps folks navigate the external world, while the book is more about our emotional and spiritual innards. The hidden truth is that you can’t ask for what you want until you know yourself well enough to know what that is. When you’re setting a kavannah for change, your values are an important place to ground your plans.
So here’s my prescription for manifesting whatever kavannah you want to set for yourself this year: write your own 10 commandments. Be very clear this is not the work of an evening with your journal and a bottle of wine. It’s an ongoing process that’ll be most useful if you’re muttering to yourself and editing them regularly. Look at them weekly at first, then every few months, to see if you’re actually living by them. If not, ask what you would change in you or them.
You can also use this exercise for the various microcosms in your life, like time management, nutrition and exercise choices, and commitments to your family, career or spiritual practice. I started a practice this year of setting (and reviewing) my 10C for various sectors of how I live. In the process, I found synergy in how certain practices evolved and aligned with my core values. I’m hoping that’s what the book will help folks do for themselves.
Good luck with both goal setting and goal manifesting. Be sure to calibrate your expectations so that you don’t fall into the typical January trap of fleeting and failed resolutions. Give yourself ample helpings of both time and forgiveness to do better and to fail, to refocus yourself and to practice change in small steps so the kavannah that you set for 2019 reflects your progress.

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