The Art and Science of Timing for Goal Setting and Planning

I have been thinking a lot about planning and goal setting lately. You’re probably thinking, yeah, you and everyone else, as it is THAT time of the year. My inbox has exploded with year-end best-of lists and helpful workbooks for planning the year ahead (hell, I even have my own new year planning and goals post and template –  Setting Goals (Dreams with Deadlines) if you’re wanting that).

Because it is a truth universally acknowledged, that if you don’t set plans and goals then you are doomed to failure.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

― Benjamin Franklin

But, I am just emerging from a depth year, which has made me question, well, pretty much everything. And this annual ritual of goal setting and planning is no exception. I have realised that once I set goals, and dutifully write them in my planner, I no longer want to do them. They feel heavy and arduous, more to-dos for the list. And judging from the response to my Depth Year Reflections video, a lot of you feel the same.

Perhaps for creative people, or at least some creative people, this goal-setting/ planning received wisdom just does not work?

I loved what the Aussie author Jen Storer said about it in her recent blog post about being pulled both ways, being Navy and/ or Pirate, Plotter and/ or Pantser. It is EXACTLY like that! I want the structure, the framework, the safe container, of goals. But I do not want the binding, trudging, boredom of have-to-dos sucking the life out of my shimmering dreams.

After all, it is not the goal setting and planning that helps us achieve the things we want. It is, you know, actually doing the work. So, if the goal setting process is making that less likely, then that could be a pretty strong case against doing it. Or, at least, an invitation to be open to other options.

Reflecting on it more I realised there are parallels with (you guessed it) stereotypical “masculine” and “feminine” ways of approaching things. The prevailing goal-setting wisdom is a “masculine”/ blade approach, clearly appealing to our logic and practical selves. Our “feminine”/ chalice side does not get much of a look in, beyond maybe a tarot spread to help inform our plans. It reminds me of how I felt as a new mother, almost a decade ago now, feeling totally overwhelmed because I knew I needed to create to feel alive, but not being able to see a way to do that. I was stuck in the (“masculine”) thinking of needing an entire afternoon, and a tidy space, before I could start. Luckily I found Lucy H Pearce‘s book, The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood and her woman/mother-friendly approach showed me how I could take those itsy-bitsy pockets of time which I did have, that could so easily be frittered away, and make magic.

And that brings us onto timing…

As witches and magical thinkers we know that timing is important.

The sky above our head and the earth beneath our feet changes with the seasons, and those changes also happen within us. There are good times to do things, and there are not-so-good times (when it is better to do different things).

nature photography of river near trees

Photo by Michiel Alleman on Pexels.com

All this end-of-year planning frenzy suggests that the Gregorian calendar year ending and new one beginning, must be THE BEST TIME to set new goals and plans for what we hope and dream into being next year. Between solstice and January 1st (or between Christmas and New Year for some) must be the right time to do it. But why?

In the Northern Hemisphere it makes sense on one level. It is winter, a time when the energy draws inward. A time to dry out our seeds before choosing which to sow in the coming spring. And many people feel like drawing inwards, raking over the coals of the year, and getting warm and cosy with ideas of the new.

Does the same hold true in the southern hemisphere? Where calendar year end means mid-summer planning? If you’re in the southern hemisphere please let me know your thoughts.

On a practical level year-end also works, as there are holidays in many countries at this time, which gives us a pause in our usual activity, creating a space for the kind of reflection that makes for good planning. An opportunity that is unavailable at other times.

But, what I have noticed from making my moon posts and a couple of years of Museletters, is that there are MANY points in the year that can hold this “new year” energy. And these offer other “ideal” times for goal setting and planning: 0 degrees Aries/ northern hemisphere vernal equinox is one, our solar return/ birthday is another, the cross quarters, damn, every new moon.

And this has led me to the realisation that there is not just one ideal time. Even the same date/ time each year will feel and be subtly different according to the differences in weather (internal and external) at that time. After all, the natural world does not adhere to our man-made calendars, and, with our climate changing, the “usual dates” when seasons change and birds migrate etc. fluctuate even more than in recent memory.

afterglow avian backlit birds

Photo by luizclas on Pexels.com

I find that exciting! Rather than setting my goals once and then getting my head down and getting on with them, regardless of other factors coming into play, and ignoring my own resistance, it opens the possibility of a more flexible approach.

And what would this more natural-world-attuned, space-weather-specific, plotterpantser/ chaliceblade balanced approach look like?

Honestly, I don’t know. Sorry. But I do have some ideas that I am going to try…

I am going in with a “might-do” list, instead of a “to-do” list

This is an idea I have stolen from Alexis J Cunningfolk at Worts and Cunning Apothecary.  Instead of fixed goals I am going to spill out a bunch of exciting possibilities for things I might do, and then leave them there (in my journal) so I can pick and choose from them, or not, as the year progresses.

I have my Word of the Year

My word of the year practice has served me well over the past several years. It has never felt the same way to me as goals do. It is open, has parts I do not know yet, it leads me to places I would not have expected.  So I am sticking with it for 2020.

I am taking a space-weather-specific approach

Our current skies are dominated by a stellium in Capricorn. Saturn is (still) in his home sign and this has made me wonder if a more Saturn in Capricorn approach to goal-setting may be appropriate this year. And I think that would look like planning not for the shiny new you you want to be in 2020, but a way out of existing pain points (usually the opposite of how the goal-gurus tell us to plan).

For me this looks like:

I am ashamed that I…
  • Don’t speak the language of my ancestors
  • Don’t know the names of all the constellations above my head
  • Don’t know the names and characters of all the plants I see on my patch of land
  • Don’t know the composition of the rock beneath my feet
  • Don’t know the history of my place
  • Don’t know the stories and songs of my place
In a nutshell, I want to be fluent in the language of my land, not just the spoken language, but the kind you need to communicate with the trees, rocks and stars.
I will also be drawing from people I respect for input on the likely themes of 2020. I enjoy Austin Coppock’s Year Ahead Predictions, and I have purchased my lunar return chart from Elsa.

I will have regular check-ins

I kind of do this already, but this year I will more consciously be using my moonthly check-ins to take stock and see how things are going, course correct if necessary, and add in anything new to the mix that I fancy.
woman in white cap sleeved shirt blowing dust

Photo by Jakob on Pexels.com

Obviously, I don’t know how this will pan out, that is part of the fun.
And if you would rather do things in a more structured/ predictable results way, then that is totally cool – you do you, as the kids say.

I just thought I would share in the hope it may be useful.

Happy (gregorian calendar) New Year!

Hubble Bubble – August is Cauldron Month

“In all the old stories, the geilt is hypersensitive to the sights and sounds of the civilised world, finding them unendurable. She finds other people unendurable too; only alone in the wild, in nature, can safety and freedom be found.”
Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted: The Power of the Celtic Woman

While I claim not to be a crazy woman, I recognise that need to withdraw. The sights and sounds of this world, often larger than life, in technicolor and 3D, are overwhelming at times. Quiet is not just something I enjoy, it is something I need. Quiet and space. And I know I am not alone in this need. (I have witnessed it especially strongly in fellow HSPs). So, when I first heard Molly Remer talk about a cauldron month in 2016, it immediately resonated…

During August, I vow, I will take it all to the Cauldron…to let it bubble and brew and stew and percolate. I will pull my energy inward to let myself listen and be and to see what wants to emerge. I give myself permission not to create for public consumption during this month, but just to sit with myself and see what is bubbling, what is cooking, and how I might create a safe space for myself in which to stew up my truest magic.

Sustaining Myself by Molly Remer

I said to myself, that’s a beautiful idea, but I just can’t do it. I need to be connected, sharing my creations with the world, interacting with other people. I didn’t recognise that beneath that “need” for connection was fear. What would happen if I stopped?

The next few years I took a token Cauldron Month. I allowed myself to move away from daily posting on social media (and that is something that I have adopted as a habit all year round). But I was still blogging/ making videos/ writing and submitting. It was like I had a slow cooker month rather than a cauldron month. The alchemy was happening, but incredibly slowly (and it’s frustrating because you just want to take the damn lid off and stir and taste it, but you know you can’t because it will add another hour to the cooking time).

This year is different. This year I am going deep (which is appropriate, as Cauldron Month falls in the middle of my Depth Year). When I drew my cards for 2019 in my Wheel of the Year Spread, guess what came out for August? Yup, the Hermit! I took the hint (finally).

So, for me, the practical application of cauldron month means I will be removing all social media from my phone, including messaging apps like What’s App and Facebook Messenger. It says a lot that I have had to plan this in advance and let people know my plans. I am still reachable by phone or text for those who have my number, or by email (though I will be only checking email once a week).

But the HUGE thing is that, I am, like Molly, giving myself permission not to create for public consumption for the entire month! I won’t be posting any blogs, videos, articles etc. which feels like a huge deal because I have been consistently creating content for… well… a long time. It feels really radical. And just the right amount of scary. I have the whole of August to go deep into the cauldron of myself. Adding to the brew. Adjusting if necessary. Bubbling and boiling the raw ingredients into something tastier, more distilled – something ready to share. I can’t wait to taste what is in the pot come September.

paige-cody-hiuBsBPPquE-unsplash

Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

So, that is what Cauldron Month looks like for me, for you it may be different.

Does Cauldron Month resonate for you? If so, you should check out Molly’s excellent resources here

See you in September.

Waking Mama Luna: the stories behind the stories

People have been asking me where I got the ideas from for the stories in Waking Mama Luna.

Waking Mama Luna by Jessica M Starr Cover

Where do you get your ideas from?

It’s such a difficult question to answer, because often it just feels like they come from nowhere. Well, not exactly nowhere but somewhere that doesn’t exist in real terms. We all have ideas (we are all artists and creators) so we all know this feeling of something just popping into our head, like it was dropped or dictated there just for you.

For me writing is a spiritual practice that gives me direct connection to this creative source (or God, or Spirit, or whichever name works for you). How else could these ideas just flow into our heads? I believe our job is to notice, to take notes, writing down the words as they come, and then share them.

Anyway, all this is rather vague and perhaps useless. So, I have tried my best to answer in a more specific way…

Waking Mama Luna

I have long been fascinated with the moon. The way she waxes and wanes and how her ebb and flow affects us and our cycles as women. I love to take full moon walks and one autumn evening the moon was so huge and close I could feel her almost touching me. That night I had “the dream” and woke Mama Luna.

The Call of the Sea

In 2011 I miscarried our second child. A few weeks later it was a beautiful day and we went to Rest Bay in Porthcawl. I have always found being close to the ocean healing; the sand, the salty air. It sparked something and ‘The Call of the Sea’, was the bittersweet result. For me this story is about grief and loss and loving someone who is no longer here alongside us.

The Special Place

I heard a story about a woman who could carry a cow. When she was asked how she managed it she said she had cared for the calf as a baby and carried it each day (I can’t remember why she needed to carry it). Each day it grew a tiny bit bigger and each day she continued to carry it, until it was full grown. Those tiny daily increases felt like nothing but they added up to something so powerful and surprising. This inspired ‘The Special Place’. Again, a powerful mother-daughter relationship weaves through this story.

Iris’s Rainbow

I love Iris. I see her very much like my daughter Ella – though Ella is not as loud. This would make me her Mama, the one who dies. This story, for me, explores the motherline, that invisible thread which ties our generations together, grandmother, mother, daughter. It gives me faith that my children will be fine when I am no longer here to take care of them.

Breaking the Surface

Many moons ago I worked with GCSE English students. ‘Breaking the Surface’ came after a conversation with a student who was in a dark place at the time and feeling trapped. I understood those feelings. I knew them. I also knew the way out. ‘Breaking The Surface’ is my offer of hope.

Where do you get your ideas from? Is this the same for you? I’d love to know.