Every year in January, thousands of people set New Year’s Resolutions – but few stick to them once the excitement has worn off.
Vaisesika Das, who is a BBT Director and temple president at ISKCON Silicon Valley in California, knows a lot about setting goals. After he guided all ISKCON North American leaders to set a collective goal, book distribution in the region soared from only $700,000 remitted to the BBT in 2011, to $2.1 million in 2016.
Meanwhile Vaisesika’s temple, ISKCON Silicon Valley (ISV), is one of the most dynamic in ISKCON. One of the reasons is that in early January every year, he holds a meeting with ISV devotees to take them through the process of sharing last year’s successes and challenges, and setting goals for the New Year.
Here, Vaisesika shares why goals are important in Krishna consciousness and in other aspects of life; and how to set your New Year’s Resolution goals effectively in a way that will lead to success.
Why Set Goals?
In his purport to Bhagavad-gita 2.66, Srila Prabhupada writes, “Disturbance is due to want of an ultimate goal.”
“So I impress upon devotees that it’s really important to have personal goals in various categories,” says Vaisesika. “For instance, if you don’t have a goal for improving your sadhana (personal spiritual practice), then you’ll stay on a plateau.”
What Stops People From Setting Goals?
According to Vaisesika, the five reasons why people don’t set goals are: 1) They haven’t thought clearly about what their life will be like if they actually attain certain goals. 2) They don’t know how effective goal setting is. 3) They don’t know how to set goals. 4) They fear they might fail. And 5) They feel overwhelmed, and think they’re too busy and disorganized to set goals.
However, setting goals can become easier with the following tips:
Write Your Goals Down
There’s a lot of power in just eight words from motivational speaker Jim Rohn: “Decide what you want, and write it down.”
“If you only have goals in your head, they haven’t manifested externally enough to inspire you,” Vaisesika explains. “As soon as you take the time to articulate what you want in writing and put it onto paper, it crosses from the thought world into reality.”
Vaisesika Das sets goals with devotees at ISKCON Silicon Valley
Keep Your Goals Where You Can See Them
Once you’ve written your goals down, put them in a place where you can see them regularly, and review them often.
“Then your mind gets refocused,” Vaisesika says. “Otherwise, you lose focus and you forget about your goals until it’s too late. Remember – where attention goes, energy flows.”
Break Large Goals Into Smaller Tasks
After writing your goal, break it down into small, easily achievable tasks – and do something towards them on a regular basis, such as weekly or daily.
For example at ISKCON Silicon Valley, to facilitate devotees’ goals to read Srila Prabhupada’s books within a certain period of time, Vaisesika created the smartphone app “Be A Sage Page By Page.” Users can select a scripture from a picker wheel, and the app will show them how many pages to read a day in order to finish the book within a particular duration.
“Many devotees thought finishing the Chaitanya Charitamrita or Srimad-Bhagavatam was unattainable for them; but when they broke it down into small pieces like 5 or 10 pages a day, they became victorious,” Vaisesika says.
Set a 30-Day Goal
Vaisesika highly recommends setting a 30-day goal. “You can tolerate almost anything for thirty days,” he says. “But in that time you can build so much momentum and create transformation in your life. On the other hand, if you say ‘I want to attain this,’ but don’t have an end date, or the end date is too far away, you may become fatigued, get distracted, and give up.”
Smaller time frames also have their uses – you can set fifteen-day goals, one-day goals, or even five-minute goals. “This is very helpful when you’re trying to get out of the mode of ignorance,” Vaisesika grins. “Just say, ‘For the next five minutes, my goal is to –’ and fill in the blank.”
Share Your Goals With People Close to You
According to Vaisesika, another practice that breeds success is to create accountability by sharing your goals with people that you trust.
Good Japa Is the Foundation For A Successful Life
“At ISV we have what we call a ‘Sacred Japa Circle,’” says Vaisesika. “We emphasize how good japa (meditative chanting on beads) is the foundation for all the rest of our life. If we have good japa, then other things will tend to fall into place more naturally.”
Go to Bed Early and Rise Early
To improve their japa practice, ISV devotees set a goal to go to bed earlier and rise earlier.
“Often people don’t think about it, and just spend an extra half an hour messing around watching Youtube videos,” says Vaisesika. “Then they can’t get up, their japa suffers, and their spiritual life and everything else in their life becomes diminished.”
He adds: “Instead, take rest on time so you can get up and have the time you need in the morning to chant good japa.”
Although rising early is an essential part of spiritual life, it’s also recommended as a method to boost creativity by many personal development teachers. So whatever your goal, setting that alarm clock a bit earlier should be on your list.
Srila Prabhupada was an expert at setting and achieving goals
A Healthy “Material” Life is a Support System for Krishna Consciousness
“Our so-called material life is a support system for our Krishna consciousness, and vice versa,” says Vaisesika. “Unless we have two feet on the ground – we feel healthy, are financially sound, we have good relationships – it’s very difficult to have good sadhana. That’s largely what varnashrama is about – making material adjustments so that you can keep your mind concentrated on the ultimate goal of life, which is serving God.”
Thus Vaisesika advises devotees to not only set sadhana goals, but also goals in the categories of physical health, finances, personal improvement and family.
For instance, he recommends that married couples, fellow ashram devotees, or co-workers set specific time aside at least once a month to have a deliberate conversation. “Find out how your partner or colleagues are doing, and what their needs, interests and concerns are, rather than just going on with your daily work and forgetting it.”
Having Goals Makes Life More Exciting
In a December 1972 letter to Karandhara Das, while instructing him how to manage ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada wrote: “Our leaders…. should try always to generate some atmosphere of fresh challenge to the devotees, so that they will agree enthusiastically to rise and meet it.”
“That fresh challenge is what keeps life exciting,” Vaisesika says. “When you always have little challenges to reach, then you know you’re always improving.”
Follow the Example Set By Srila Prabhupada
“Prabhupada, remember, started by setting goals, even before he came to America,” Vaisesika points out. “He drew out elaborate plans. He wrote purposes for ISKCON when he incorporated the society. In the museum of his personal artifacts in Vrindavan, you can still see the little notebook that contains his list of goals for the next months and years, written in his own hand. So he was constantly setting goals, and that’s one of the reasons why he was able to achieve so much.”
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