Ah yes, that time of year again. As we all, weary and impoverished to a greater or lesser extent, try to drag ourselves back into some semblance of post-festive ‘normal’ life despite the mostly cold, dark and dismal conditions (in the UK, anyway!) we are supposed to be investing our energy, intellect and willpower into ‘bettering ourselves’. Start as you mean to go on and all that. Personally I can think of few worse times for taking on the added burden of deep and meaningful personal development but there are now a slew of multimedia campaigns encouraging us to Do The Right Thing and Make Our Lives Better whether it’s giving up alcohol, becoming vegan, joining a gym or starting a qualification.
Now, don’t get me wrong, none of these are bad things in and of themselves (even where commercially driven!) and I’m a big fan of self-improvement where it’s done for the right reasons. Last year, around spring time (firstly because it was the shop anniversary and secondly because spring really is a time of new beginnings) I kicked off the concept of the Otherworld Challenge. Not a challenge to Otherworlders, but for Otherworlders to challenge themselves – find something they might want to know more about and commit to a book a month, a chapter a month, a topic a month, a workshop a month, whatever they were comfortable with so that by the end of a year they could be much further forward toward that goal.
The main distinction for me is that instead of choosing something that you SHOULD be doing (losing weight, drinking less, eating healthily, saving the world etc) you choose the result you want and start working towards it, slowly but surely (which there’s obviously a lot of psycho-babble to support, SMART goals and all that, often easier said than done!) While true catharsis, reinvention, motivation and so on can be affirming and amazing and insightful, it’s not something that can be forced or engineered, certainly not because of an arbitrary date on a calendar. In magical practice we are continually encouraged to reflect, to cleanse, to commit and to re-evaluate – it will always be an ongoing process of setting goals, working towards them, knowing they will probably move about a bit in the meantime but valuing everything you can learn and achieve as part of the process.
So by all means take some time to consider where you might want to be by this time next year, and what you might have to do to get there, but don’t be overwhelmed by excessive external pressures or tempted by near-impossible goals. Remember that this is the time of year when we have to work harder than ever just to maintain physical and mental equilibrium instead of adding to the existing demands on our precious resources. Plus, you’re much more likely to find your reflections on the past year more palatable if you haven’t set yourself up for failure in the first place!
Wishing you warmth, love and inspiration as we embark into 2018!