It’s that time of year again… time to make your New Year’s Resolutions. But how and why you make your list can be just as important as what is on it. Let’s look at some techniques (magical and otherwise) to make your goals more likely to be met.
1. Make a list. Start by actually writing down each and every goal that is important to you. Then cull, ruthlessly, until you are left with only the goals that you really, truly are willing to put the time and effort into. Once you have your final list, make a copy of it and place it where you will see it every single day of the upcoming year. You can print it out with your computer, if you want. But how about hand-lettering the list in your best handwriting, and framing it with hand-drawn zentangles or sketches? Or maybe some fancy calligraphy is more your style. However you choose to do it, you want to send a convincing signal to your brain (and to your heart) that this list carries more weight than last week’s grocery list, or next year’s Christmas cards.
2. Another thing to keep in mind when making your list, is what are your “victory conditions”? Keep them ultra-specific. If you end up going beyond your original ambitions, then fine and good. But as any psychologist will tell you, your brain is an expert at changing the goalposts. So if your resolution is something like: “Learn to play the guitar”, as soon as you learn to play a few basic chords, suddenly that’s not good enough any more, and you want to learn your favorite song. And then maybe you’re disappointed because you don’t have it memorized. And on and on, until pretty soon it’s the end of the year, and you still haven’t “Learned to play the guitar.”
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with continually re-evaluating and re-aligning your goals. The problem comes when we are so focused on our new aims that we cannot see the slow, painfully won progress that we’ve already made. Set clear, attainable goalposts all along the way, and then (most importantly), celebrate your victories and acknowledge your progress.
3. Find a patron deity to call on, but don’t expect them to do all the work. Light candles, whisper prayers, whatever you need to do, but understand that you, yourself have to do the heavy lifting. In other words, don’t pray to Asclepius to make you a brilliant surgeon, and then forget to enroll in medical school! For that matter, don’t even blame Asclepius for the test you failed because you were too busy re-arranging your altar to spend any time studying. If you want something badly enough, ultimately you’ve got to be the one who makes it happen.
4. Don’t confuse temporary defeat with permanent failure. Not gonna lie… it can be so disappointing when you don’t reach your goal. But when that happens, you have choices. You can give up and admit defeat (never a good option). Or you can gird your loins and join the battle once again (Yay, you!). A third option might be to allow yourself a time of introspection and contemplation, so you can reflect on what is really important to you, and what price you are willing to pay for it.
Remember too, to take a clear-eyed, detached look at what you have actually accomplished. For instance, if your goal was to make a drawing a day for the next 100 days, and you only managed 50 days before life interrupted your plans, guess what! You’ve had all sorts of successes, even if you didn’t accomplish your goal as it was written. After all, you made a GREAT start at creating a habit, which will make your success that much more likely when you begin again. And you’ve learned new skills and new techniques… so much more than you would have if you hadn’t set your goal in the first place. Don’t overlook all the things you’ve done right!
5. Find your focus. And I don’t just mean your powers of concentration. I mean like Dumbo and his feather. Have an actual physical item that can act as a touchpoint or anchor- something like a ring or a crystal- that reminds you constantly of your goals. If having a physical item that you can hold and touch makes you stronger, smarter, and more determined, then by all means, use that to your advantage. At the very least, it will serve the same purpose as a string tied around your finger– as a reminder to help you stay on track.
6. Don’t limit yourself to once-a-year resolutions. With the goalpost so far out, the tempatation is to feel like you have plenty of time to get the job done. Want to lose weight? Sure you do… starting next week, after all the holiday baking has been consumed.
Make a practice of making smaller goals, more frequently. I love to set new goals for myself on the New Moon. It’s a simple-to-remember, utterly magical time that is naturally aligned to fresh starts and renewals. The moon phase has the added benefit of being very visible and easy to follow. Are you on-track for your current goals? A glance at the night sky will tell you!
7. Words have power. Use them wisely. Make time each and every day for affirmations. The quiet times of the day, first thing in the morning or last thing at night, tend to work particularly well for this practice. Keep the affirmation short and sweet, and don’t shy away from adding an “As my will, so mote it be” on the end of it. This is spellwork, make no mistake.
8. And on the subject of words: listen closely to your self-talk, and adjust it as needed, because frankly, we tend to say things to ourselves… dreadfully hurtful things… that we wouldn’t say to our worst enemy, much less to someone we care about. This is absolutely not ok! The next time you catch yourself saying things like, “I’m so fat, I’m so stupid, I can’t do anything right”, just stop! Find an alternate message that is positive and encouraging, such as “I am eating healthier, and making better choices.”
9. Above all else, let your thoughts and emotions work together. Take stock of how badly you want to reach your goal. Is it an all-consuming passion? Or more like a, “Gee, I guess I should…”? Don’t fall into the trap of living up to others’ expectations. Find what means the most to you, and go after it with everything you’ve got.
I wish you every success in reaching your goals, this New Year, and always!