While it’s still early in 2022 here, I wanted to share a few reflections about “New Years resolutions.” On one hand, the concept deserves some of the mockery it receives, given how unseriously people often approach such resolutions. On the other hand, though, this mockery is itself counterproductive, insofar as its implicit message is that trying to improve yourself is futile. As a Satanist, I see value in resolutions, insofar as they can promote such virtues as zeal, wisdom and perseverance. Resolutions can only foster these positives, however, if approached in the right way – which many people fail to do. Read on for my thoughts on correcting this.
Why people make New Years resolutions
There are, one could argue, two kinds of people: those who make New Years resolutions, and those who mock such resolutions. The latter often seem justified, on account of how frequently the former suck at following through. My own experience suggests, however, that there is nonetheless valid psychology behind why some people gravitate toward the concept.
The blunt fact, I’ve found, is that not all times and circumstances are equally amenable for altering one’s current habits. I’ve consistently found, for instance, that a new habit adopted when the year is young is more likely to stick. Contrarily, trying to correct bad habits in fall or winter has never worked for me: the energy simply isn’t there.
Implicit in such experiences is a response to the person who says, “why not just make a resolution whenever?” Individual experiences vary regarding how much one finds oneself affected by the cycles of both the natural and human worlds. Some people find that their energy level is affected by light levels, the sun, the moon, or etc. There is a common idea in witchcraft that the new moon is a good time to begin things. And what then is the New Years resolution, but this lunar concept translated into solar terms?
Yes, the preceding reasoning justifies Winter Solstice resolutions more directly than New Years ones per se. Consider also, however, human psychology, and how “real” it is capable of making various herd-invented stories seem to us. The abrasive individualist may think it “weak” that in some peoples’ experiences, resetting one’s psyche is simply easier to do in connection with a herd-based “reset cue” (the turning-over of the calendar) than in the arbitrary absence of such a cue. If that just is what some experience, though, why shame them for trying to use said dynamic constructively and transformatively?
Why people fail at New Years resolutions
The answer to the preceding question is, of course, that too many people fail and/or abandon their resolutions quickly. From the perspective of Satanism, a religion that prizes willful self-discipline, this is indeed a pathetic state of affairs. One could even argue that the pervasive trope of failed resolutions is, from a Satanic perspective, bad for society’s morale. It is one of many ways by which the herd bleats, “it’s okay to suck, because everyone sucks.” One may even detect here a secular echo of the Christian notion of original sin. To try and always fail is the human condition; alas, we cannot save ourselves – hence why we “need a savior”… ?
What I would thus like to see is: if one finds themselves affected by the changing of the earth’s cycles and/or the energy levels of people around them, and is thereby moved to want to make resolutions, do it – but for Satan’s sakes, follow through! Don’t be cutesy and jokey about trying and failing. If you aren’t going to try, hard, then say nothing. If you are going to try, then succeed – and be, thereby, a role-model calling others to overcome mediocrity.
Conversely, if you are not of such inclination for seasonal resolutions to work for you, don’t mock those feel differently. By all means, mock the flippant, who bring the concept into ill-repute with their incompetence. Show some respect, though, to those who attempt to support their striving for change by aligning themselves with an energy dynamic that they perceive as complementary to their efforts.
How to succeed at New Years resolutions – and, for that matter, other kinds
Now, the problem of the failed resolution – not just New Years, but in general – is largely rooted in poor discipline. In terms of the Tenebrous virtues, this is suggestive of inadequacies in zeal, wisdom and perseverance. People who possess these virtues in a balanced, healthy way are more likely to make and keep resolutions effectively. Lacking them, though, it is hard to devise the very endeavors that could enable one to develop them! Here, then, are a few suggestions, aimed at what I think should be manageable for most people:
Reflect carefully on what you want, and why
This is an issue related to zeal. Zeal consists in the possession and experience of exuberant desire, which motivates pursuit of fulfillment. Tenebrous zeal thus encompasses indulgence, vital existence, and similar concepts familiar to anyone broadly acquainted with Satanism.
The thing with desire, though, is that one needs to be honest about what one really wants. One must also be reflective about why one wants it – e.g. is it for one’s own benefit, or because other people have made one feel as though one “should” pursue it?
This relates to resolution failure insofar as said failures are often the result of insufficient investment in the stipulated goal. For example, “I should really be healthier” may sound like a constructive self-directed goal, yet be actually based on a felt need to conform to external pressures and/or an ideal that the individual does not actually aspire to in a genuinely-heartfelt way. In which case, small wonder, if they don’t wind up sticking to their new diet, or exercise schedule, or etc.
Takeaways from this include:
- Take time to intentionally reflect on what you want to change. Write down your thoughts if doing so helps make things more concrete.
- Be very clear re: what is your personal reason for wanting this thing, as opposed to just “something you should do” / vaguely socially-desirable / etc.
- Decide on one thing that you want most, and resolve to do that – not five different things that you vaguely “should” do.
Understand what is, and isn’t, an effective way of pursuing the goal
This is an issue related to wisdom. Wisdom, in this context, means knowing enough to be able to do what actually works. Self-awareness, e.g. of one’s strengths and weaknesses, is one part of wisdom (hence why “undefiled wisdom” is the enemy of “hypocritical self-deceit,” as LaVey would put it). Another key part, though, is the acquisition of practical earthly knowledge relevant to what one is seeking.
Lack of wisdom is relevant to resolution failure insofar as people defeat themselves via a lack of realism. They get off to a bad start because they made the resolution half-heartedly, and now it is the New Year, and they don’t actually have a plan. Or, they have a schedule they intend to adhere to, but quickly discover that it’s too onerous and abandon it.
Takeaways from this include:
- Figure out concrete details of how to train toward a goal before formally resolving to actually do the thing.
- Actually try out different methods of training before starting the resolution period. What does it feel like to only eat X and not Y, to lift X weight Y times per day, etc.? What does this then tell you about whether what you intend to do is sustainable?
- Set a goal that is challenging-yet-doable for you, and do not bother yourself over whether it may seem too modest to others. As the worst student in gym class for most of my youth, I failed to improve myself physically for many of my adult years due to being tripped up by this issue. Once I was able to set aside “how fit should an adult female be?”, though, and just focus on whether me-now was doing better than me-before, that’s when I made real progress.
This is an issue related to perseverance. Perseverance, in the Tenebrous view, is a virtue inherent to nature itself: any species that lacks it goes extinct. The Satanist, as an agent wholly invested in earthly life, embodies said investment by disciplining oneself to stand one’s ground, weather adversity gracefully, and find ways to accomplish that which is “too difficult” for others.
Older Satanic denominations are unfortunately no better than “mundane” people for a particular misunderstanding of perseverance. This misunderstanding consists in characterizing perseverance wholly as a manifestation of sheer willpower. This is the same unrealistic attitude that imagines one could “just snap out” of mental illness, addiction, etc. if one “tried harder.” In actual fact, though, perseverance consists not in pure force-of-will, but in force-of-will combined with strategy. One way of overcoming obstacles to one’s resolve is, indeed, to “just power through.” Too little appreciation is directed, however, toward the importance of setting up circumstances in a way that minimizes obstacles to begin with. The better approach is surely the one that gets results, not the one that merely manifests greater macho pig-headedness.
The relevance of this to resolutions is obvious: one cannot expect success to automatically follow from “wanting it badly enough.” Yes, success requires a certain amount of determination. Determination must be tempered, however, with realism, foresight and reflection.
Takeaways from this include:
- Do not make resolutions that have an overly-long or open-ended deadline. “For the rest of this year,” “from now on” and “for as long as possible” are all asking for failure. Resolve to do the thing for a specific time period, e.g. something like 1-3 months. Observe how easy or difficult it is to prevail during that time. Then, on that basis, decide whether to renew or alter the resolution going forward.
- Consider potential distractions and temptations, and take action to avoid or mitigate them. “What competes for my time?” is especially important to take into account, as “running out of time in the day” is a common thwarter of occult resolutions (e.g. taking up daily meditation) in particular. “What is the best time for me to do the thing, if I am to actually get it done?” is the sort of issue that should be experimented-with to determine ahead of time.
- Promise yourself that you will not quit at the first sign of imperfection. I strongly suspect this temptation is driven by the same psychological mechanism that makes it “harder” to start resolutions later in the year. The issue in both instances is excessive preoccupation with self-dissatisfaction “thus far.” If you failed to do the thing one day, though, just take note and do better going forward. Do not compound a single oversight by turning it into an excuse to allow complete failure to follow.
Much of what I’ve said above can be boiled down to “think and plan before you commit.” Such advice may seem obvious to a Satanically-inclined audience. I have long noticed, though, that a peculiar majority of “regular” people are strangely averse to it. They seemingly prefer to just blunder along wherever their emotions nudge them, trusting that blind optimism in spontaneity will produce a good result. I think, too, that even people who actively oppose such an approach to life will occasionally fall into it at times, for various reasons. The advice, then, obvious though it may seem to some, nonetheless strikes me as much-needed.
I don’t doubt either that all of the above will seem somewhat overblown to some readers. Such a perception is liable to arise, I think, from being unacquainted with esoteric conceptions of initiation. An initiatory trial, one can argue, is basically an especially-onerous resolution. The Tenebrous sorcerer must be capable of managing such things. A society that encourages flippancy about resolutions is, then, a society undermining the sorcerous potential of its citizens. Hence why I “have opinions” on this topic. (To put it in the idiom of the Order of Nine Angles: “You’ll never make Internal Adept at the rate you’re going…”;) )
What do others think, though? Is there overlap between the skillset needed to prevail through occult initiation, and the skillset needed to manage more mundane, pragmatic resolutions, such as the kind this post alludes to? Is there advice relevant to either/both that you’d like to add to mine here? Or, for that matter, dissent from my advice? Whatever the case, let me know what you think in the comments.
This post received minor edits for stylistic consistency on Aug 22/23.