A New Year, at least according to the Gregorian calendar, is upon us and many use this time to create new resolutions. But as long as there have been resolutions, people have struggled to keep them.
The practice of creating New Year’s resolutions is at least as old as ancient Roman times when such resolutions were made as pledges to the god Janus, the namesake for the month of January. Janus was the god of all beginnings and its derivative, doorways. He was invoked as the first of any Gods in regular liturgies. The beginning of the day, month, and year, both calendrical and agricultural, were sacred to him.
As we spend this time meditating on the how we might want to improve ourselves and developing our New Year’s resolutions, consider the acronym W-I-C-C-A:
Who, What, When, Where, Why
- Who – The practice of Wicca is about self-responsibility and growth. You should establish your new year’s resolution based on how you want to grow and then take responsibility for that change. It is not about placing blame on others or expecting others to create the change for you.
- What – Self-reflection and self-assessment are important before any growth can occur. Be fair and really examine your current state in relation to where you are trying to go. One technique I use in my practice is called shadow work or the acknowledging of the darker, more hidden motivations of my actions.
- When – The beginning of a new year is a good time to make a resolution to change your behavior in some way because you know millions of people are doing the same thing. Take advantage of the enormous positive energy this creates. But your self-examination might determine that this is not the right time for the particular change you seek. Balance and priorities are also important considerations.
- Where – Success is not a destination, but walking the path you were meant to walk. Establish resolutions that help you walk that path.
- Why – Clearly understand why you want the change, and make sure you do it for good reasons. Be fair and really examine your current state in relation to where you are trying to go. Establish resolutions that help you walk that path.
As spell workers, we should be very familiar with this step. It is important to be clear and precise with your resolutions. “Get more exercise” is vague. “Eat healthier” is not precise. For example, instead of “Get more exercise” choose “Walk 5,000 steps daily” or “Take the stairs each morning to get to my office, not the elevator.”
You should always strive to make your goals measurable as it makes it easier to track your progress. This might be easy if your goal is to lose weight, but in other cases it might require more creative thought. For example, if you want to stop biting your nails, you might try taking pictures of your nails over time. You might have to seek a trusted mentor or friend to provide you periodic feedback. You also need to make sure you are measuring the right things. For example, if your goal is to increase your knowledge of herbology, then you must make sure the books you read increase your knowledge and not just repeat the same information, or even worse, provide you bad information. Logging progress into a journal or making notes on your phone or in an app designed can help you track and reinforce behaviors.
Make a public declaration. Telling people you intend to lose 20 pounds, run a marathon, learn how to speak a foreign language, or achieve some other goal will make you more reluctant to abandon that goal. Social media can be a useful tool. Post your new diet plan. Text those who can encourage or network with you. This can be the reminder and motivator to keep you on track. Accepting help from those who care about you will strengthen your resilience and reduce the stressed caused by your resolution.
When I consider my resolutions, I am inspired by the third round of a Heathen ritual of Sumbel which is often called the “Oath, Boast or Toast” round. During this round, Heathens may make an oath to do something or improve on something. If they choose to do so, the oath will be considered sacred, absolute and binding to the point that the other participants will make note of your oath and keep you to it. Heathens consider oaths as obligations for those who witness them as well as for those who make them.
Permanent change happens when habits are changed. Habit formation is the process by which new behaviors become automatic. One of the easiest ways to change is to find a habit you already have that is well-established. For example, if you already go for a brisk walk 3 times a week, then consider adding in 10 more minutes to the existing walk.
Also, consider making the new action EASY to do in the beginning. Since you are trying to establish a conditioned response, you need to practice the new habit from the existing stimulus from three to seven times before it “sticks” on its own.
It is important to accept incremental victories. Be appreciative of your successes and avoid centering on your failures.
Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal and OK. Don’t give up completely because you ate a brownie and broke your diet, or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy. Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track.
Rewarding progress increases your probability of success. Reward yourself both for what you have achieved and the act of trying. In other words, don’t wait until you have lost the full 20 pounds to reward yourself. People who have attained success tend to focus on behaviors, rather than outcomes.
Create a positive, appreciative environment of appreciation around you. Appreciate your partner, your children, and your friends. Appreciation is like having a savings account for a rainy day.
I hope that whatever resolution you decide to make creates positive change in your world. Remember, even small actions can create great change.