I've tried many of those. I never got into using Samhain as a New Year, because I've never been Celtic in tradition so I didn't connect as fully to that Sabbat as many other Pagans do. I think of my birthday as a significant holiday, but it's never been a starting or finish line for the year, just a celebration that I'm still alive and, moreover, that I have friends and loved ones who want to celebrate my life with me.
My anniversary as a Wiccan is December 21, the Solstice, and for years my personal tradition was to mark the day by setting goals for the coming year at that time; I had the period between Samhain and Yule to come up with them, then the brief span between Yule and New Year's Day to come up with plans to implement them. It seemed like a good system, and yet it never really worked for me. The pressure to set goals for an entire year ended up, like most New Year's Resolutions do, dropped in the dust of mid-January.
This year I'm trying something new. Since I'm not claiming the Wiccan designation so much anymore, I don't feel the need to make as big a deal out of Yule, especially since the holiday season itself depresses and annoys me. I think I prefer to stick with the calendar year that we in the West have agreed on for social/business convention.
That in mind, I've spent the last couple of weeks in contemplation of 2009, and trying to decide how I wanted to handle my intentions for 2010. There are certain things I absolutely have to do this year, but moreover there are intentions I want to set, things I want to cultivate and things I want to weed out of my little soul garden. I've found several resources online for creative and spiritual intention-setting, the prettiest of which is the Goddess Year Workbook from GoddessGuidebook.com.
I'm not jumping on January 1 as the Day to Get it Started; instead, I'm allowing my ideas and intentions to unfold more gently and gradually. I've learned from this past year that force almost never yields a positive result. Self-hatred and anger have done nothing but empty my heart and poison my spirit. Force is the beginning of violence, and violence can't bring about love. I have to learn to love, and to let love in.
From my various readings and meditations of late I've come up with a few ideas I thought I'd share for getting your New Year off to a mindful, positive start.
1. Dump 2009. Tell it farewell however you're inclined to do so. Refuse to be its pack mule any longer--lay down the baggage of the past year and carry with you only what will help you on your journey through 2010. Go back through the year in your mind and sift through the baggage, naming each item you pull out: That depression you went through in February after your grandma died? You don't need that. Her memory? That, you might want to keep. Pick up each event and turn it over in your "hands," then decide whether to put it in your imaginary backpack or leave it behind. Just know that if your bag is too heavy to lift, you'll never make any progress going forward.
2. Come up with a theme word for what you want to manifest in 2010. There's such a grey area between being too specific on goals and being too vague, but usually having an underlying theme regardless of the level of detail is a good idea. Think of one word or phrase that encapsulates the most important priority of the year to come. Is it healing? Prosperity? Security? Overcoming Inertia? Reclaiming your Sacred Body? Joy? Gratitude? You can do a lot with this theme, but at the very least you should post it somewhere you'll see it every day, like on your altar, your bathroom mirror, or your fridge door. You could seek out quotes, pictures, and phrases that support that theme and make a collage, if you're one of the cut-and-paste types.
3. If your theme word is what you want to grow in 2010, imagine what the seeds for it would look like. Break it down into a few manageable goals that will help you reach that theme. I think a blend of lofty intentions and concrete plans are the mix that's needed to really accomplish anything. You have to dream big and then work hard. If you take the steps necessary to get you where your'e going, the Divine will help lift you over the gaps in the path.
4. Taking those themes and intentions, create a prayer or set of affirmations for 2010. It doesn't have to be long or complicated, and it certainly doesn't have to rhyme, but write out a prayer that you can say every day as part of your daily spiritual practice to help keep your mind and spirit aligned with your intent (and to call upon Divine help when needed). My advice would be to read it in the morning so that you keep it in mind all that day.
5. Think of your plans for the year as a set of nested circles. In the innermost circle you have the things you do every day: the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Whoever You Are. List daily habits that you want to stick with for the new year, no matter how small or silly seeming. You could include daily exercise, eating a certain number of veggies, being grateful, meditating, doing a few minutes of yoga upon rising or before bed, spending ten minutes on your inbox, or unplugging from the world for one hour every day--it's up to you.
6. The second circle would be a weekly plan, which would be the ideal place to paln a movement practice and household chores that aren't done everyday. You could set aside one evening a week as Date Night either for you and your SO or just for you alone; set the intention of doing yoga on Tuesday/Thursday and underwater basketweaving on Monday, to accommodate your Friday Night pizzafest with your BFF, or your church services on Sundays, or whatever you consider a priority every week.
7. The third circle could be monthly, a circle of Lunar celebrations or coven gatherings, drum circles, parties, Sabbats, et cetera that are usually social in nature rather than personally focused. The fourth, then, would be your yearlong goals and intentions, which you could try to synch up with the seasons if you were so moved: Winter for planning, Spring for beginning, Summer for action, Autumn for completion and release, and so on.
This is only one way to look at the year, and of course it's probably too complicated (or not complicated enough) for some. It's just an idea I had that I thought might work for people, and I'm going to be trying something similar for myself this year.
The important thing to remember is that New Year's Resolutions in most cases are little more than sources of guilt and regret because they're done "just because," or out of a feeling of social obligation rather than personal inspiration. Truly inspired plans need both energy and organization, motivation and grace, to come to fruition. You can't depend on "willpower" as "willpower" is as ephemeral as first love and just as hard to maintain. A crush is built on lust and infatuation, but a true adult relationship doesn't depend on these flighty feelings, building instead on trust, commitment, and compatibility. A diet, for example, runs on willpower for about a month, but when willpower proves unsustainable the diet collapses where a true life change is built on commitment, compatibility with your lifestyle, and trust in a higher power to help guide you as well as trust in yourself to find the courage and strength to stay with your plans and dreams, day by day, list by list, one check mark at a time.