Reflect Before You Resolve

Reflect Before You Resolve January 2, 2013

There is something seductive about the beginning of a new Gregorian year. The New Year’s Eve countdown, the changing of the calendar, and the end of the Winter holidays all whisper that the old has gone and the new has arrived and with it a clean slate where anything is possible. We know that setting goals is a key step in creating the changes we want to bring about, and so many of us will engage in the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions.

Yet we also know New Year’s resolutions are famous for not making it to February still intact. We underestimate the difficulty of changing life-long habits. We set big goals without thought to the smaller goals that are necessary to support them. We chase things we think we want or think we should want without regard to what we really want. Magic is the art and science of creating change in conformance with Will, but New Year’s resolutions are typically more whim than Will.

For me, the period between the end of the mainstream holidays and Imbolc is a contemplative season, a time to dive deeply into spiritual practice and to minimize distractions. It is an ideal time to reflect on my True Will and on what I need to do this year in order to manifest it.

Lamplugh Glacier – Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

At this point I don’t have any goals for 2013. What I have is a theme, a general idea of what I need to accomplish, of what I need to do and be. That theme, as I detailed two weeks ago, is integration. I need to integrate my Druidry and my priesthood into my whole life, and to tear down the walls of compartmentalization that were built for valid reasons but have resulted in a fragmented life.

What will that look like when it’s done? Exactly what does it mean to be a Druid and a priest? What changes do I need to make at work? What changes do I need to make with my family? What is a compartment wall and what is a valid and necessary boundary? What spiritual practices will facilitate and reinforce the changes?

I don’t know.

If I can’t answer those questions then I’m not ready to set specific goals or otherwise make resolutions. First I have to do the reflective work of figuring out what they mean.

That starts with meditation. Not Eastern style “empty your mind” meditation (though that practice can be very helpful), but simply sitting or walking and letting the concepts of “Druidry” “priesthood” and “integration” bounce around in my mind. See what associations come up: what images, what activities, what situations arise. The raw material is already there – I’ve got fifty years’ worth of books (fiction as well as non-fiction), movies and TV shows, and the lives of real Druids, priests, ministers, monks and lay religious people to draw from.

Then the process moves to contemplation. Which of those millions of ideas and images seem like they would be a good fit for me? What matches my dreams and desires? What matches what my gods and goddesses have asked me to do? What promotes the greater goal of improved connection and compassion across nations, generations, and species?

And by contrast, what is pretty but won’t work? What satisfies one need but starves another? What feeds my ego but not my soul? This is a process of imagination and visualization, of trying on roles and tasks and seeing how well they fit before actually committing to them.

Only when the contemplation process turns out some ideas that look promising is it time to begin making plans and setting goals. Perhaps I’ll have refined things to the degree that I can create detailed plans with nested goals, activities, and checkpoints. Perhaps I’ll only be able to do things that are generally associated with the theme, but those things will get me closer to being able to make plans and set goals in the future. Either way, I’m much more likely to accomplish something meaningful if I work through the process of reflection, contemplation, and planning before I make any New Year’s resolutions.

The beginning of a new year is seductive, but history shows that getting off to a quick start is no predictor of success in making changes in your life. Instead of making resolutions, take a few weeks to reflect on your True Will and how you can best manifest it this year.

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