For many Pagans and Wiccans, there are times of the year when we ritually shed the old baggage and focus on new beginnings. Because of this, goal-setting can become an important aspect of our spiritual development. When we set ourselves a goal, we are basically saying to the universe, "This is my will," and that's how magic begins. One of the problems many people seem to have, however, is that they don't really think about the goals they're setting. They may have unrealistic expectations, or base their goals on the behaviors of other people. Both of these have the potential to set us up for disappointment. To avoid feeling like a failure, let's look at some basic guidelines for setting -- and subsequently achieving -- goals.
Start Off Small
One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they set goals that are really huge, and that can be intimidating later on down the road. Sure, it's admirable to say, "I’m going to lose 50 pounds!" But you know what? Those pounds come off one at a time. Why not set a smaller goal, like losing ten pounds, and then add to it once you've attained it? For many people, it's easier to lose ten pounds five times than to lose fifty pounds once.
Keep It Simple
Sometimes we set expectations for ourselves that are complex, and that can be detrimental to achieving them. Let's say you've decided you want to embark on a career in social work. But before you can do that, you've got to finish up your GED, enroll in college, and then graduate… all before you even begin a job search! Keep it simple, and take things in stages. "My first goal is to complete my high school education." When that's done, move on to the next step: "Now I can take some college classes." Remember, in addition to achieving your goals, you also have day to day life to take care of.
It's important to recognize your own strengths, but it's just as important to acknowledge your shortcomings. If your goal is to buy a nice house in the suburbs, and you're just barely making ends meet at a minimum wage job, it may be years before you can achieve the goal of buying your own home. However, what you can work on in the meantime is doing things like paying off existing debt, building a savings fund, and making sure your credit stays good so that when the time comes for you to buy that house, you've already paved the way.
Be Sure of What You Want
Are you setting your goals based upon what you want, or what other people think you should want? Think carefully about what you decide. Are you trying to achieve your dream, or just follow along with what people think you'd be good at. For years, people told me I should go to school to become a teacher simply because I'm good with kids. However, I've never had the desire to spend my days teaching, which means that for me, it would be foolish to set that as a goal. Instead, I decided to find work as a writer, and by following my own dreams -- and not those of other people -- I was able to achieve the goals I had set.
Set Goals Based on "I" and "Me"
Do your goals involve changing someone else, or reaction to someone else's behavior? Let's say your goal is to improve your communication with your spouse. Does that mean changing your ability to communicate, or demanding that your spouse listen more? If it involves your spouse, make sure your spouse has the same goals as you -- you can't set goals for someone else.
Remind Yourself Regularly
Once you've set your goal or goals, make a point of reminding yourself periodically of what it is you're working towards. A friend of mine had always hoped to own a cabin in the woods and some land. For years, he carried a photo of a log cabin in his wallet, and eventually he was able to build one. That photo now sits on the mantle, wrinkled and creased. It was a constant reminder of what he wished to achieve.
Keep a Running List
Sometimes, small goals can mesh together to create a large one. Going back to the example of getting that career as a social worker, post a list somewhere that you can see it. Number each of the small steps you need to take before you can get that certification and career. As you achieve each one, cross it off.
You can wish until you turn blue, but unless you make time to work on what you want, you're not going to get it. It's fine to want to build a savings fund… but if you spend all your spare cash on new clothes, you'll never get your savings account. You may want to go out with your friends, but if you have a class to attend, you'll need to decide which is more important to you. Realize that each time your goals fall down on your priority list, you're lengthening the time it will take to achieve them.
Accept Help When Offered
Sometimes, we can't do everything all by ourselves. If opportunity comes along that will move you closer to achieving what you want, then take it. Don't be afraid to ask for help, either. This includes asking friends, family, or even your gods for assistance.
Be Willing to Change
It's perfectly normal for people to change. That means that sometimes what we want out of life will change. If that happens, don't feel bad if you look at your list of goals and realize that you no longer want everything that is on there. Don't feel like a failure if you wake up one day and it occurs to you that you're on the wrong path. Life is an ongoing path, and part of living it is recognizing the twists and turns in the road. Change when you need to, and embrace a brand new journey.