New year, new plans? Here are some tips to making changes stick.

New year, new plans? Here are some tips to making changes stick. December 29, 2022

Whether you call it ‘Twixtmas’, ‘the perineum between Christmas and New Year’, ‘midwinter break’ or just simply ‘cheese-fest’, this time of year is great for making plans.

It’s not cheese-fest for me, however, because last (whatever you want to call it) I made the decision to give up dairy for good due to an intolerance which was edging me ever closer to a stomach ulcer.

Knowing something isn’t good for you, isn’t the same as actively giving it up. That takes more than willpower, we like to pretend it won’t, but for many of us just saying we’re going to do something doesn’t change long worn in habits.

But the good news is, I made it happen.

A year on, I’m still dairy free and I’ve since made other health changes too.

Whilst using this time to plan my 2023, I decided to work out my own personal formula for setting goals I actually achieve.

I’m a neurodivergent person who relies on intuition, so my formula might be just what you’re looking for or might feel like the worst ideas ever. And that’s the first lesson

Figure out your needs and why they’re different to those giving you advice

Self-awareness is a lifelong vocation. We all have blind spots, even (especially) when we think we don’t. Acknowledging there are vast oceans of our personalities we’re not quite in touch with yet is part of reaching a good level of self-awareness.

As an exercise before you start planning however, consider what your own personal inner landscape is like. How do you make decisions? What are your habits before starting something? Think about your likes and dislikes and whether you have specific needs and behaviours to consider.

Planning takes lots of thinking time

It’s still actively planning if you’re meditating on ideas. You don’t need to do nothing to meditate. Thinking time can also be knitting, or painting, or editing photographs. It can even be going for a walk or having a haircut.

That procrastinating you’re telling yourself off for can also be thinking time. If your subconscious is leading you to tasks which don’t involve lots of brain activity, maybe it’s giving you space to plan whilst you’re cleaning the toilet. (You’ll be pleased to know procrasta-thinking works for writing too, or for making that phone call).

And yes, it’s still actively planning if you decided to take a nap instead. Napping is a great way to let your subconscious take over. If you want to make it more focused, you can even set a goal before you reach for your pillow.

Actions not Amazon

It can be really tempting to start a plan by buying everything you need to make it happen. But whilst buying some things can help you see your goal as reality, spending your planning energy on acquiring material things or subscriptions doesn’t necessarily morph into doing anything with them.

Use that energy to figure out the activity steps you need to take instead. Make a list of what you need and at what step you need to buy it as part of your action planning. But don’t spend on the thing instead of doing the thing! It’s not the same. It won’t give you the same results. And if your plans are tweaked a few months down the line, you might need to spend money twice.

But what do you really want?

Goals are interesting things. We often name the thing we think will bring us what we want, rather than the end result.

Do you want a new job or do you want

  • A higher salary
  • Financial stability
  • Better motivation
  • More fulfilling work
  • A reason to leave the house
  • More rest

You might want all of these things, or one of these things. Your result shouldn’t unsettle other parts of your life, but if you want a higher salary, focus on that not a new job. If you want more money, that might look different to a higher salary too.

Break that goal down. Recognise what it is you’re reaching for and see if there are any other ways of getting to that place. Your original ‘goal’ might still be the easiest, but if you know what your end point looks like, having to switch focus won’t feel nearly as difficult.

Think about SMARTening your actions

You may already have some understanding of SMART goals. If not, feel free to investigate further. The theory in brief is: “to be motivating a goal needs to be the following things – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed.”

Does this describe your planned actions? If not, give them a tweak

Check again

After a few days, look at the plan again. Is it really SMART? More importantly, do you really want to do it? Why not? Don’t be afraid to throw it out and start again. Do it as many times as you need to!

And then, check it again when you’re tired.

Start small

If you want to add new things to your day, do it one by one rather than completely changing your whole routine. The brain and body really love consistency. Last year I was dairy free for six weeks before I added a twelve-hour intermittent fast to help reset my stomach flora. And it took another nine weeks before I added yoga every day.

It might seem as though it’s taking a long time to reach your goals, but they’re far more likely to stick if you let your subconscious reprogram gradually.

And speaking of the subconscious… let it get involved

Hypnotherapy is great for reprogramming habits and beliefs straight from the subconscious, as are affirmations.

Give your subconscious cues to tell it this really is what you’re doing now. Be symbolic: buy that new suit; print those business cards. You don’t even have to spend any money: change your LinkedIn job title, start that new Facebook business page. It’s all sympathetic magic.

Use magic

Create a sigil or talisman to keep reminding your subconscious what it’s new normal is. Visualise yourself in your new goal. Birth your new project with ritual, shamanic journeying, or a hypnotherapy session which incorporates these spiritual elements.

Find resilience

Having fluidity in your plans is key to staying resilient, in case you need to shift them a bit once you’ve started the action phase.

But resilience is also about sticking to your goals, so be clear what you want to achieve and find other ways around if you need to.

Sometimes things don’t work out. For every successful person, there’s a string of ideas which didn’t get off the ground. It’s easier for those ‘entrepreneurs’ who start with capital than those who don’t, but starting over isn’t a failure. And anyway…

Failure is FINE

Fundamentally Irritating but Not the End.

You got this.

About Katie Gerrard
Author of "Seidr: The Gate is Open" and "Odin’s Gateways", Katie Gerrard is a witch working as a hypnotherapist, yoga teacher and workshop facilitator. You can read more about the author here.

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