Samhain is coming, and witches and Pagans are celebrating the start of a new year. The wheel of the year starts with Yule, or the winter solstice, in December, and ends with Samhain, or Halloween, in October. Its celebrated as a time for resolutions and new beginnings, much like January in secular society.
New Year’s resolutions are goals we set to better our lives. Statistics on resolutions started in January show the percentage of goals that are actually kept or met are depressingly low. No matter how dedicated we seem to a new path, it turns out setting that goal for the sake of goal-setting is just not enough incentive. And witches setting new yearly goals after Samhain are no different.
I’ve had more than a few rotations around the sun to think on this. Habits are hard to break, sure, and starting new things seems daunting, but we do it all the time. Are the statistics about “New Year’s resolutions” so low because we’re paying extra attention? Or is it a mindset issue?
I’m definitely Team Mindset. I think the reason we don’t ever follow through on these changes we want to make in our lives has nothing to do with the goals we set, or when we set them, and everything to do with our outlook on them. In magick, we know that intention and mindset are everything, but we don’t always apply this concept to non-magickal undertakings. I think it’s time we change that.
When a person sets a New Year’s resolution, they go at it with the frame of reference that they’re starting a new thing, introducing a new concept into their life. And new things are hard. It’s a daunting, uphill battle to keep that goal in sight when you don’t know if you’re making progress and you don’t know how long it’ll take until the new goal is met, or the new practice becomes habit. It’s like climbing a mountain. It’s hard to see the peak through the trees, and it’s hard to keep track of how far we’ve come or how much further there is to go. We’re aiming for a destination, and we measure absolutely every inch before we get there.
I propose a mindset shift when it comes to goal setting. Instead of thinking of a resolution as something we need to work towards and achieve, restructure it so you’re leaving something extraneous, something you’ve outgrown, behind. Chances are, your life will still improve along the same path you had intended, but you aren’t tied to a tangible, singular goal when you focus on “letting go” instead of “working towards”. And without a set goal in mind, you make room for what you really need to come to you, instead of what you think you need.
Example*: I want to start eating healthier to lose weight. Focusing on the number is stressful, and I have to remember to watch what I eat and count my calories and hope that one day it’ll become second nature; that one day, I’ll drop to the arbitrary number I think I should hit.
When we restructure this goal to shed something unwanted, it becomes as easy as letting go. Instead of eating healthier, I look within and let go of the desire for bad foods. I’m not focusing on micro-managing my meal, I’m just saying “I don’t need the junk anymore”. It’s less of a structured goal and more of a mindset and lifestyle shift, but the end result will be the same. I’m not imposing strict rules into my already stressful day – and when we do that, and then trip up (which will always happen because, hello, human nature), we’re so much harder on ourselves because it’s perceived that we’re farther away from the goal. Without the structure, without the hard-set goal, we’re just going through our days with a different perspective. The pressure’s off. We can make mistakes, and it’s okay, and we can hit the goal because it’s not the goal that matters, it’s the intention.
This can work for abstract concepts too. If I want to be happier, it’s not going to do me any good to force myself to think happy thoughts all day long, only to berate myself when I have a bad day. Instead, I can focus on releasing the sadness I hold, so that there’s more room for the happiness to flow to me.
I know it sounds like these things are the same goal, just worded differently – and they are. 100%. The trick is in the intention. If we convince our brains that it’s as simple as letting go, instead of the uphill battle of climbing a mountain, the task seems infinitely easier. It’s completely psychological, but it works. And it doesn’t set success by what we think should be at the end of the resolution. If I set a goal of losing 20 lbs but structure it in a way that I’m letting go of unhealthy habits, I may not ever lose that 20, but I could still reach the state of healthy I wanted, just in a different way. Maybe I start to walk more, and I don’t lose the 20lbs because it turns into muscle. That’s certainly a healthier lifestyle, and it wasn’t tied to a certain outcome. I’ve let go of things I no longer need, and made room in my life for better choices and a new path. It may not be what I expected, but it’s what I needed.
Resolutions don’t have to be hard, and the success rate doesn’t have to be so low. If we don’t think of it as something we have to do, if we don’t set impeding structure, we can live our lives and make the changes we want to see.
Are you setting goals for the upcoming 12 months? How can you restructure your mindset so you’re setting yourself up for more success?
*I used the example of losing weight because it’s an easy one to identify with, and it’s quantitative. But please, let me be the first to tell you – there is NO arbitrary number on a scale that will make you healthy, happy, and beautiful. A healthy lifestyle is so much more types of foods, activities, and choices than it is a certain number. Every body is different, so “healthy” will look different for everyone. I support resolutions to be healthy; I do not advocate losing weight for the sake of some number on a scale. And if you think you have to, let’s chat. I’ve got an open door, closed mouth policy when it comes to body image issues.