Tag Archives: Resolutions

Resolutions, and Goals, and Objectives . . . . Oh, My!


We seem to be careening towards Samhain at an incredible pace; there are fewer than two weeks left to this liturgical year. The veils are already tissue thin. Family members (living and dead) populated my dreams last night and my brother (who was about as unreligious as you can get) told me, “I was always better at theology than you.” I woke up thinking, “But I am better at praxis.”

For many Pagans, Samhain is a time to make plans for the coming year, to set new goals and objectives, to organize new ways of working in the world. Maybe it’s a way of casting an anchor forwards to a time when the veils won’t be so thin, of helping to assure ourselves that we won’t wander too far in the Autumn mists. And maybe it’s a way of working really deep magic — the kind that changes your life and the world — at a time when our landbase itself is magically transformed by green leaves turning crimson and fluttering to the ground.

I’ve posted before about my practice of selecting a Word of the Year, a technique that I learned about from Christine Kane. You can find her worksheet (which I fill out every year) here. There’s certainly nothing wrong with simply writing a basic list of goals and objectives and there’s plenty of information about how to do that. What I like about the Word of the Year practice is that it provides an organizing principle. I develop my list of goals and objectives around my word and find that I’m able to achieve more when everything is related. I’m still thinking and meditating about my word for the coming year.

Poet and novelist Theodora Goss recently posted a helpful technique that she uses to accomplish her objectives.

I’m the sort of person who wants to do everything: Teach. Write novels and stories and essays and poems. Spend time with my daughter, of course. But also learn Hungarian, and go to the ballet, and read books. Travel when I can. Decorate my apartment. There’s time for all of that, but I have to figure out when and how to do each thing so I’m doing it well, and not exhausting myself. That takes pacing.

So for example, I’m decorating my apartment. My impulse is to do everything at once: to buy the bookshelves, put them together, stain and finish them. Buy the pillows, the fabric to cover the pillows. Sew the pillow covers. But I don’t have time to do everything at once, because I’m also teaching and writing. So instead I do a little each day, and I find that as long as I’m doing something each day, eventually it gets done. The shelves go up, the pillows are covered and put on the daybed.

It takes having patience, and being able to divide work into discreet tasks so you can do it a bit at a time. So for example, today I’m going to stain the shelves, then let them dry overnight, turn them over, and stain the other sides tomorrow. They should be completely stained by this weekend, when I can put the whole bookshelf together and finish it with oil. Soon, and by soon I mean at the end of the week, I’ll have a bookshelf, and the books that have been sitting on the floor will have a home. I do hate books sitting on the floor, so not having a place to put them has been an exercise in patience. But I know that as long as I work on the shelves every day, a little at a time, I will eventually have a floor without books on it.

As I get older, I find that, more and more, I have to approach chores this way. My energy may not hold out to let me finish an entire project in one day, but, with a bit of planning, I can make a schedule and accomplish what I want over a few days. (Have I mentioned recently that calendars are every bit as much magical tool as athames, wands, goblets, and candles? They are.) And, like Ms. Goss, I can feel that I’m making steady progress. Pacing, Ms. Goss writes, requires three things:

1. Prioritizing. Know what you actually want to do, and get rid of the things you don’t want to, to the extent you can.

2. Dividing tasks over time. Figure out how to divide what you need or want to do, and do part of it each day until it’s done. But almost anything you do, even the things you love to do, you will tire of, if you keep doing them long enough.

3. Dividing your time into tasks. What do you want to do when? What are the things you most need or want to get done today, and how are you going to arrange them? Can you fit in the things you need to do, the things you want to do, and the things that will give you a break from everything else? Remember to take a walk, read a book . . .

What word might organize your goals for the coming year? What techniques do you use to keep moving forward?

I leave you with some further good advice on making resolutions from my brilliant friend Elizabeth Engel:

Picture found here.

Change in Conformity with Will

2013 calendars design elements vector
Although the liturgical year begins, for most Pagans, at Samhein, the secular new year, January 1st, is just around the corner. Now’s a good time to make manifest all of that introspection that we’ve been doing for the past few months. And if magic is, as Uncle Aleister averred, “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will,” then establishing goals and objectives for the coming year — adopting New Year’s resolutions, if you like — is one of the first steps in what can be an important magical working.

Of course, the standard thing to say about resolutions is that they don’t last. People start off with good intentions and, within a few weeks, they give up on going to the gym, or reading every night to their child, or sitting daily in meditation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Stories of people who have changed their lives are legion and those changes started with a determination to cause change to occur in conformity with will — whether at the New Year or at some other time.

Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful at changing my own life in conformity with my will:

* Christine Kane‘s “Word of the Year” worksheet is a really valuable tool; I do it every year on secular New Year’s Day. She offers it free, although you do have to give her your email. She’ll send you an occasional inspirational post and/or ad for her coaching, but you can unsubscribe if you don’t want those.

If you try it, let me know, in comments, how you like it. What’s your word for this year?

* I’ve written before about calendars. The calendar is, IMHO, the most important magical tool that anyone can have. A calendar lets you control your time (How many times have we all read that putting down exercise appointments will help us to schedule regular exercise? And it may seem quite simple, but it’s also effective. “No, I can’t do the call at two o’clock; I have a previous appointment. How about four, instead?” Works for daily practice, too). It lets you track your progress (a simple check mark next to each kept exercise appointment, a tally on the last day of the month, a star or pentacle next to every fifth success). It lets you break your goals into doable chunks (noting on the 15th of each month that it’s time to put money into savings, writing weight goals at the beginning of each week, scheduling the dates by which you’ll have found a yoga studio, registered, gone to the first class, etc.) Find a calendar that you like — electronic, desk, or wall — cast a circle, and start causing your life to change in conformity with your will.

* A friend of mine puts the two ideas together and writes his word on the year on each page of his desk calendar. There it is, reminding you what’s really important each time that you check to see what appointments you have and whether you have time for another one.

* Donald Michael Kraig suggests five magickal keys to achieving your resolution to change your life.

* I’ve always found clearing away clutter and getting rid of the detritus of the prior year to be a great way to let my Younger Self know that I’m serious about making changes. In Thinner This Year Chris Crowley suggests starting off the first day of a diet and exercise program by doing a big physical project — a really long bike ride, for example — just to convince yourself (I’d say “Younger Self”) that you’re serious and that this is the beginning of something big.

How do you convince Younger Self that you’re serious?

* And, then, there’s this very good advice from my brilliant friend:

Picture found here.

You Should Listen to My Brilliant Friend

As I think I’ve posted before, I’m wicked crazy about calendars, resolutions, goals, objectives, intentions, affirmations, visualizations, vision boards, meditations — all of those magical tools and activities that can move me from the liminal (Hecate-blessed) space where change CAN happen to the “mundane” (I hate that word and would love to find a meaningful replacement) place where change DOES happen. And so, unlike my beloved friend, I do write down (and usually achieve) those boring kinds of resolutions (still working on “lose ten pounds,” although I lost 3 times that last year and am on track to do more this year).

Nonetheless, I’ve found Elizabeth’s greater point to be true: we’re a lot more likely to actually achieve goals that encapsulate and


who we really want to become or that allow us to do something that we really want to do (I really want to take fencing lessons with G/Son (I really want to BE a Nonna who can take fencing lessons) and that’s going to require more weight loss and more time on the boring-as-all-get-out-but-so-conveneint-that-there-are-no-excuses gym-quality treadmill that I bought and had installed in my basement) than we are to achieve those goals that we only think we “should” achieve. (Some time, I’ll tell you the story of the year that my mom decided that I “should” read Kon Tiki (I think she saw it on some list of books that kids in my grade “should” read and demanded it, even though I was already reading books way beyond that), which, while it is probably a v nice book, remains, to this day, unread, even though I am a v, v, v bad bookworm and have been known to read encyclopedias and dictionaries for fun; I could have gotten out of chores by saying that I was reading Kon Tiki and I still wouldn’t read it — that’s how much I hated doing what I “should” do)

For the past several years, I’ve adopted a practice that I learned about from Christine Kane: Word of the Year. Rather than write a set of random, unrelated resolutions, I spend the time from about Samhein until New Year’s Day pondering, journaling, trancing, and meditating about my life (OK, and also the standing-in-the-shower-&-standing-in-line-at-the-coffee-shop muttering, too.) I keep a list of possible Words and, on New Year’s Day, I commit to a Word and do Christine’s worksheet (which she’ll let you download for free; well, free in exchange for your email address and we all have an email address for that stuff, right?, although I do like getting her regular emails), interspersing it with pictures that I’ve found on-line that help me to get a visual understanding (hello, Younger Self!) of what my life will look like when I live this word. (Those pictures also become my screen saver for the year on my computer. My Word of the Year becomes, in some permutation, the password for many of my on-line sites.) On the date of my birthday each month, I spend time re-reading my Word of the Year worksheet and figuring out how I am, and am not, living my Word. And that leads to my plan for the coming month.

And then I go ahead and write out those boring, old resolutions, but I relate them to my Word of the Year. If the resolution just won’t relate to my Word of the Year, it goes on the (of course, I have one) “To Be Considered Later” List.

A word about “Ignite” which is the kind of presentation that Elizabeth is making in the video. Ignite presentations are allowed to be five minutes long and to include twenty power-point slides. I know that Elizabeth worked for a long time to get her ideas down to five minutes. (You should invite her to talk to your group for 20 or 50 minutes; she has a lot more to say. Leave a comment for me; I’ll get in touch with her for you.)

But the process forces the speaker to really hone ideas down to the bone.

How would it look if Pagan festivals, conferences, and gatherings regularly included at least 60 minutes of Ignite speakers? Would it give our young members a chance to showcase their new ideas (I can see Literata, Gleamchaser, and David Salisbury here!)? Would it give our elders a motivation to hone what they have to offer? (Z, JPW, Starhawk; are you in?) Would it give speakers w/ much more to say a way to entice people to their longer talks? (John Michael Greer, Anne Niven, and Chas Clifton, I’m looking at you.) Would it give some people who don’t identify as Pagan but who have much to say to us (Derrick Jensen, Mary Oliver, and Theodora Goss?? Who else??) a chance to speak to us w/o taking up too much festival/conference time?

What do you think? What do your five minutes look like? (And what ARE you going to do, as Elizabeth asks, with YOUR wild and wonderful life?) What resolutions did you make in January that need re-evaluation, recommitment, reevaluation now that we’re looking at June?

Also, too, I’m in Elizabeth’s Tumblr :).

New Year’s Eve PotPourri

*Do you make new year’s resolutions?

I have one brilliant friend who only makes fun resolutions for new year’s. Become expert at mixing cocktails, take a class to learn acrobatics, do a football fantasy camp — that sort of thing. Her theory is that if you need to lose weight or get on a budget, there’s no reason to wait for January 1st. (Yes, an Aires.) Do it when you realize that you need to do it. Save resolutions for something interesting and fun that you won’t have to force yourself to do. You’ll do it, have fun, and get a sense of accomplishment. And there’s a certain logic to that.

I have a different approach. Starting around Samhein, I do a lot of meditation, divination, and journaling about my life. I consider what I want to keep, what I want to grow, what I’m ready to let die, and what I want to introduce. (I stopped following an inspirational author this week when she suggested that the end of the year is a good time to “retrospect” your life. You know, “retrospect” is not a verb and, if it were a verb, it would be a wicked, wicked verb. I’m too in love with the language of Chaucer, and Shakespeare, and Thomas, and Parker, and (oddly) Dinesen to live in a world where “retrospect” is a verb.) Then, between Yule and the first of the calendar year, I choose a Word of the Year. It’s a practice that I learned from Christine Kane. I complete the worksheet that Kane’s developed and I make a screensaver for my laptop and a cover for my journal from pictures that illustrate some aspect of my word. (And, being, you know, a Witch, I do it with magical intent, inside a circle that I cast. I use all of the trappings that speak to my Younger Self: costume, candles, incense, music, lights.) Then, I set annual goals and monthly and weekly objectives. Those turn into my daily to-do lists.

What’s your word for 2012?

*Tomorrow is the day that calendars go on sale. Calendars are, IMHO, magical tools on a par with athames, wands, chalices, swords, and Words of Power. A calendar, more than almost anything else I know (except perhaps a clean, uncluttered, safe place to live), allows you to be in control of your own life. A calendar lets you control how you spend your time, how you budget your money, how you make time for your own health, spiritual practice, and friends. A good calendar lets you take advantage of the magical tides inherent in the Wheel of the Year, the phases of the Moon, the various retrogrades and conjuncts of the planets. A calendar lets you say honestly, “Oh, sorry, I can’t. I’ve got something scheduled,” even when (especially when) that something is “treadmill,” or “time at altar,” or “sleep.” I keep two calendars at work: one on my computer that my secretary and associates can access and one on my desk, which is what I prefer to use because it’s easier for me to see at a glance what an entire week looks like. I keep a We’Moon calendar on my altar. I keep a wall calendar in the kitchen. And, every year for Yule, I make a wall calendar for Son, DiL, and G/Son’s other grandparents with pictures of G/Son from the previous year. I started doing it when he was a baby and it’s grown into kind of a tradition. This year, DiL’s father said, “Imagine when we have a set of 20 years of this. Quite a record.” So mote it be.

How do you use calendars?

*My recent train trip had me thinking about how very much train stations and train trips fall within the province of Hecate. Nothing except a long boat trip feels so much like being suspended “in between” as a train trip, especially one at night. Beth Owl’s Daughter has a good post that discusses New Year’s Eve as a day influenced by Hecate.

*On the train, I read several chapters of Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales, which I’m liking better than I liked Ego and Archetype, especially for the author’s willingness to admit that no symbol has just one meaning. I also read Among Others, which has some v interesting musings about how magic really works (or apparently doesn’t work) in the real world and what the ethical implications are of shifting circumstances in accordance with will. I’m working my way through Starhawk’s Empowerment Manual and am re-doing The Collected Works of Dylan Thomas. While I wait for Season 2 of Downton Abbey, I’ve done the entire series of Upstairs Downstairs and of Edward, the King. The latter, especially, has given me a new appreciation for someone I’d long considered a mere playboy.

What are you reading and watching?

*For each of my wonderful readers and commenters, I wish a healthy, happy, prosperous, and successful New Year. I am grateful to each of you.

Picture found here.