There’s so much going on right now that demands our attention and none of it is good. I won’t torture you with a litany of it all – you don’t need reminding. Suffice it to say that it’s overwhelming.
I’ve got a lot to talk about in this post, but I’m going to lead with the conclusion.
Do what you have to do to get by. But don’t abandon your dreams. Don’t restrict them. Don’t curtail them. When it comes to your life, don’t set small goals.
The World in divination
There’s a science to divination, but ultimately it’s an art. We draw cards, throw bones, or gaze into a teacup and we’re presented with images. Those images aren’t text, and they aren’t shorthand for text. They force us to think like our pre-human ancestors who had not yet evolved the capacity for language. And then because we are verbal creatures, we have to interpret those images and translate them into words.
The more I read Tarot, the more I agree with Camelia Elias: ignore the “official” meanings and just read the damn cards. A lot of work went into getting me to where I can do that, and I’m not always successful with it. But my most useful and helpful readings are where I do.
Last weekend I pulled a 5-card reading for a question that is intensely private, but also not particularly relevant to this post. Right in the middle was The World. And as I looked at the cards and tried to see what they were saying, this card screamed at me.
No small goals.
I was using the Celtic Tarot. Kristoffer Hughes’ accompanying book says the keywords for The World are “culmination, conclusion, accomplishment.” The page on divinatory meanings begins “Your task is complete. There is literally nothing else you can do; it is done.”
Whether we’re talking about politics, the pandemic, or our ordinary lives, we’re a long way from being complete. In this context, The World clearly represents a future state, not the current state.
But the future state is not fixed. It will be determined at least in part by our present actions. And our actions flow from our goals and dreams.
No small goals.
First you must survive
There are any number of memes going around that say if you don’t come out of the quarantine with what amounts to superpowers you’re worthless and weak. I don’t like throwing around the world “privilege” but it seems to fit here.
I’m having enough trouble keeping going even though I’ve managed to stay healthy and employed (which means I’m working, you know, full time), I don’t have children to care for, and I’m not living alone. I can’t imagine how difficult this is for others.
What are these meme writers doing? Living rent-free in Ghislaine Maxwell’s mansion and ordering Door Dash for every meal?
As I sometimes say, it’s hard to be spiritual when your roof is leaking.
Most times we can “dual track” – we can handle the challenges of mundane life and also work on our dreams and goals. For most of us, that’s the only way we’ll ever achieve any of them.
But there are times when you have to set them down for a moment to go fix your roof. If this is one of those times for you, then do it and don’t apologize for it.
Just don’t forget your dreams while you do.
From dreams to goals
Last month I wrote Working Magic For A Dream, which talks about what to do when all you have is a vague idea of what you want. If you’re in that situation I encourage you to read the post. Here’s a key excerpt:
We start with a desire, which is usually vague … Desire becomes a dream, where we start to imagine what life would be like if we attained our desire. The dream may be unrealistic or even impossible, but we want what we want. Dreams become visions, where we add more details and qualifications…
Will is how we turn a vision into a goal, a strategy, and a plan. Magic can help us get to where we want to go, but effective magic requires a clear target.
This is where most of us make an understandable but critical mistake: we set small goals.
Sometimes this is a lack of courage. What we want is going to be difficult and success is uncertain. So we settle for something we know we can do.
Many times it’s a lack of context – we don’t know what’s possible. I didn’t explore Paganism when I was trying to find my religious path in my late teens and early 20s because I didn’t know modern Paganism existed. There was Christianity and the other world religions… but in my experience, mainly Christianity. The only alternative I saw was atheism, and atheism has never appealed to me.
Is this a lack of knowledge or a lack of imagination? Perhaps a lack of awareness would be a better description, particularly in my younger years. You could say I had the data but not the knowledge that comes from the data.
But if I set small goals now, that’s a lack of imagination. I may not know what all is out there, but by now I should know there’s always something more.
Turn your dreams into goals – big goals.
Intermediate goals should be small
Big goals usually can’t be accomplished all at once. Houses need a foundation, then framework, a roof, plumbing and electrical, external siding and interior walls, and more. You can’t install a bathtub before you install the floor, even if a palatial bathtub is your fondest dream.
You may need education and training. You will almost certainly need experience with lesser goals: if you want to climb Mount Everest, you really need to climb several shorter mountains first.
In both romance and in politics, there is often pressure to “never settle.” I’m the last person you should go to for romantic advice, and I’m not going to tell oppressed people to “give it time” – go read Letter From Birmingham Jail if you think they should.
But partial success is still success, and it can be used as a stepping stone for even greater success. Meanwhile “all or nothing” usually results in nothing.
It’s not just OK to have small intermediate goals, it’s necessary. But keep your primary goals as big as you want them to be – as big as your dreams.
Unsure? Take the first step
My biggest holdup throughout life has been wanting a perfectly clear plan toward a perfectly clear goal before getting started. Life is rarely so accommodating.
I won’t say working for the Morrigan has broken me of this, but it’s certainly shown me its shortcomings. She’s not big on explaining Herself. You want to be a part of Her work? Come along. You want a script? She’ll find someone else.
The Seven of Cauldrons (Cups in most decks) is sometimes called the “head in the clouds” card. It’s what happens when you’re so obsessed with dreams you stop living. It’s also what happens when you have many choices and you refuse to choose one.
Big goals can be intimidating. But reaching them begins by taking one step.
Be open to good things coming in unexpected ways
This is the dilemma of choosing magical targets. The more precise you make your target, the more narrowly you can focus your magic – as well as your supporting mundane actions. This makes it more likely you’ll influence the situation in a meaningful way.
On the other hand, the more precise you make your target, the more you limit the ways good things can come to you. If you need to get from New York to Chicago, putting all your effort into manifesting a plane ticket makes it more likely you’ll be able to fly, but it also means you may miss opportunities to get there by train, bus, or car. Which could mean you’ll miss an amazing opportunity in Ohio you’ll never see if you fly over it.
The key here is to focus your magic on the ends and not on the means.
That requires knowing what you want, and accepting that it may not be what you’ve always thought you wanted, or that you were told you were supposed to want.
And that’s best done when you remember your dreams and the big goals they inspire.
No small dreams, no small goals
I’ve postponed numerous plans this year. I suspect I will postpone more. My mundane work has largely focused on doing what I need to do to stay healthy and employed. My spiritual work has largely focused on adapting to this time of social distancing. These are necessary changes.
Just before the US quarantine (such as it is) began, I wrote 6 Pagan Things I Want To Do Before I Die. These are dreams and goals. Some are bigger than others… and some are bigger than they seem at first glance. Accomplishing them has gotten harder and less likely, but I haven’t abandoned any of the dreams. And I haven’t made them smaller.
We need what we need. We want what we want. There’s no shame in trying and falling short, particularly if we can pass our incomplete efforts on to the next generation, who can take them farther, before passing them on yet again.
I want The World. So do you… whatever “The World” means to you.
Enjoy the journey.
No small goals.