A month into the new year and I haven’t come up with much in the way of resolutions. Making any New Year’s resolutions at all is kind of new to me. I’ve dodged making them for years. New Year’s resolutions have always had a sort of artificial feel to me. You’re committing yourself to change something in your life, not necessarily because you’re ready to make that change or because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s January 1 and everyone says you’re supposed to improve yourself in some way. This is hardly a solid foundation for lasting change.
Last year, however, I made a few resolutions. I didn’t set out to do so, but they crept up on me. I bought a calendar/journal that happened to have a section at the front dedicated to yearly goals and I filled in a few, in great part because all those blank spaces just cried out to be written in. I don’t think I achieved more than one or two of them, but having them actually visible in a book that I was using on a daily basis kept them somewhat near the surface of my mind. And since they weren’t “real” resolutions and I hadn’t made any all-out commitments to any of them, I didn’t beat myself up too badly for not having kept them perfectly.
Which brings us to this year. With another copy of that same calendar/journal in hand, I’m eyeing that yearly goal section and thinking that I’d better deal with it a little more consciously this time around. Now some resolutions—and let’s be honest and just call them that—can be repeated from last year. Deciding to journal more frequently in 2011 was an ongoing process, not something that needed to end in December; it’ll do perfectly well as a resolution in 2012. With others, I’m not sure if they’re resolutions or not. I’ve taken on a reading challenge, but is a challenge the same thing as a resolution? Is it that I’m resolving to read more books in 2012? And looming behind them all are the resolutions that are scary to make because they’ll involve genuine change: if I bring them about, life won’t be the same afterwards. (You’ll note the lack of specific examples here. For what I’m thinking about, I’m not ready to commit even the idea of them to written form yet.)
So, okay, say New Year’s resolutions are a socially acceptable form of magic. You state your purpose and turn your will towards accomplishing it. I figure this alone explains a good part of my reluctance to make these resolutions: in all my years of being Pagan, I’ve never been all that interested in using magic, and calling it “resolutions” isn’t going to suddenly change that. But finally seeing the similarities between magic and resolutions got me thinking more about both of them. For one thing, the common wisdom of New Year’s resolutions is that most of them will be broken. I’m guessing that anyone who’s still keeping their New Year’s resolutions by the following fall is being quiet about it (which, come to think of it, fits the “keep silent” part of the Witches’ Pyramid nicely). But expecting resolutions to fail is hardly a good mindset for successful magic. If you consciously link New Year’s resolutions and magic and you then fail to keep your resolutions, will that affect your ability to work magic not directly linked to your resolutions? My understanding is that magic relies on belief that it will work, and wouldn’t a trail of broken resolutions impair that?
Turning it around, though, magical skills could help you keep your resolutions. Changing verb tenses is the easy one: make your resolutions in the present tense, just like affirmations. After all, saying “I will do [whatever]” gives you up to a year of wiggle room, which isn’t likely to strengthen your resolve. Also, I’ve noticed that magic is most likely to be effective if you can put a real emotional charge into it. So it makes sense to make resolutions that you really care about and not ones that you think you should make. And like magic, back your resolution up with real-world action, not just good intentions. Mind you, every January, I think various columnists, writers, psychologists, and anyone else with an opinion on resolutions says all this stuff in a non-Pagan fashion, but maybe it helps to make resolutions sound more like magic than like homework assignments.
And in the interests of making it clear that not all resolutions fail, I’ll just mention here that yes, I did journal more—lots more—in 2011, as I decided to do. Some resolutions not only succeed, they exceed expectations. On to 2012!