You know why New Years resolutions fail?
Because they are made while stubbing out a cigarette in what you really hope is a pile of your own vomit seeing as you just fell in it while trying to retrieve your phone from the toilet in order to check how long it is till midnight. (“Five hours? Really? I didn’t pace myself very well.”)
New Years is something I enjoy the idea of but hate celebrating.
Single Gordon didn’t. He loved celebrating it. One of the best nights of his life was ringing in the new millenium at an enormous dance party on Bondi Beach, off his face on ecstasy and making out with terrible strangers as the first sun of the next thousand years rose over the Pacific ocean.
But it’s too cold in this hemisphere, I don’t make out with terrible strangers anymore and I fucking hate being trapped in town at the end of the night because there is a four hour wait for a cab to take you home. It’s already getting difficult now with the number of Christmas parties clogging up central London.
So there is a trick to making -and keeping- new year’s resolutions, and it’s the same trick to making better magic. It’s also, I just realise, the scouts motto.
1. Get organised
Why am I posting this now?
Because organisation -and her younger sister preparation- are the keys to success. If you work out what your resolutions should be beforehand you are far less likely to find yourself writing in lipstick on the window of the bar: “no more kissing the boss”.
Think about the root word of resolution. It means to “unloose”, to “dissolve”… It is the first part of the alchemical “solve et coagula”.
You are breaking apart suboptimal parts of yourself so you can rebuild better ones. To me, this requires a little more thought than pushing what’s left of the chocolate cake across the table, wiping your mouth on your scarf and then staggering out of the restaurant wearing only one shoe, promising the waiter that you’ll be thin and pretty by Easter.
2. Think sex, money, power
Consider these ‘results areas’ rather than fixed categories that describe the totality of your life. (Of course, if you’re cynical, they could be used as complete categories.)
Resolutions are personal. You can’t ‘resolve’ for world peace or lower unemployment. On a more micro level, you also can’t ‘resolve’ to get married. But you can ‘resolve’ to be more open to and better in relationships.
- Sex: Sex, attractiveness, health, beauty, esteem.
- Money: Wealth, security, home life, stability.
- Power: Career development, higher education, ambition, better focus, milestones, bucket lists.
See if you can’t get one resolution for each category.
3. Use magical target selection
With your resolutions selected, find their probabilistic weak points.
Want more money? Then upgrade yourself. Spend some money learning skills that add value to your career. Investing in your career is better than any other form of investment. You can believe me or you can think about exactly how much more you would be making each year if you spent the same amount of money on your career as you did on your value-diminished house. Your salary each year would be more than the total value of your house.
If I had an MBA I would be making double what I make now and I already make pretty good money. That postgraduate history stuff I want to do, however, wouldn’t have the same impact. Yet another reason why doing what you love is bad career advice.
Upgrade. Don’t wish for a payrise.
Want to lose weight? Don’t wish for willpower because willpower is a finite resource. It’s a bad magical target. You will be much more successful in your weight loss if you resolve to remove as much stress from your life as stress depletes willpower.
Note that that last suggestion is good for achieving a whole host of resolutions. Possibly the majority of them.
4. Use magic
It’s what it’s for, after all. Consider your carefully chosen resolutions as magical goals than you can shoal for.
Obviously you don’t have to do this on the actual night, you’ll have enough on your plate working out how you’re going to meet up with your friends now that you’ve ruined your phone.
No, this is the difference between ‘emergency magic’ and a ‘magical campaign’. And it’s why we’re thinking of them two weeks out.
Which dovetails nicely into the next point.
5. Take it seriously
And not because New Years is a Ye Olde Magical Event Of Great Power And Significance With Aligned Planets And Shit Like That. Taking a longer historical view, the date is more or less arbitrary. Yes, yes, Ancient Egypt’s five days of chaos and blah blah blah. But there is a better reason for taking it seriously; a simpler reason.
Take it seriously because it is the most potent cultural and psychological ‘beginning time’ we have (in the west). Changes look less weird to everyone else if you tie them to New Years.
It’s going to look like you’re job hunting if you suddenly decide that you want to learn international negotiation skills in March, for instance. And your spouse will think you are gearing up to have a torrid affair if you drop twenty pounds and get an expensive new haircut completely out of the blue.
Think of it like hiding in the crowd.
Because we always underestimate how much change resistance we are going to face. Most people don’t change and they don’t like people around them changing, either. It’s tolerated in January… For a while.
Which is why, if you’re serious about results -and you know that I am- you’ll use this opportunity to minimise change-resistance and thus improve your overall likelihood of success.
6. Don’t take it seriously
It is, after all, a party. I’ll be tearing up Paris with my sister for a few days in a festival we have named the Feast of Saint Bickany. (“Between Christmas and New Years”. It’s something of a tradition for us to hang at that time of year so we’re making it official in the very best Chaos Magic way. Bickany was sainted for preaching among the pirates, for she was of pirate stock originally, and knew their ways. Picture her as a confused teacher’s assistant dressed as the Virgin Mary. And not ‘properly’ dressed as the Virgin Mary, more like she’s on her way to a Halloween party as Mary. She’s probably wearing tennis shoes. Her prayer is the lyrics to Kylie’s All The Lovers. Spoken solemnly.)
New Years is most certainly is not the time to cry into your champagne and bore people you have just met with all the crap that is wrong with your life. That is a recipe for snap resolutions that will be gone before sun up.
A bit of psychological prep work -like following these steps- will defuse that outcome if you think it’s a possibility. Quite a number of us have had quite a shit year. You’ll know if this is you.
So do some thinking beforehand, then have some fun on the night and don’t forget that, in the end, it’s a day just like any other.