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Almost Timely News: New Year's Fire Ceremony for Goal Setting (2023-01-01)

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New Year’s Fire Ceremony for Goal Setting

Years and years ago, I received permission from one of my teachers, Stephen K. Hayes, to perform a specific meditation ritual around the new year to help set goals and achieve them. For years, I did this at my house, inviting a select group of friends to participate, and I was looking back at some of the feedback recently from ceremonies past. Many folks said it made a difference, so I figured it might be time to share it a little more broadly.

This year, we all know the world is going to be more contentious, more challenging, more adverse in many ways. Yet as with everything, there are also more opportunities, more chances, more fleeting moments we could seize towards our goals. To make the most of what opportunities we have, we need to be prepared, mentally ready to act when it’s our shot.

We tend to succeed when we’re clear about our goals and we’ve got a plan for tackling those goals that we can execute on every day, every week, every month, every year. We tend to be less successful when we don’t have those things. This fire ceremony, a tradition in the martial art I practice, is one technique for helping you achieve those goals.

Disclosures and Disclaimers

This version of the fire ceremony is intentionally scaled down for you and me as individuals or maybe just a few close friends. If you want the full, traditional experience, you need to seek out one of the teachers in my martial arts tradition; I learned this from Stephen K. Hayes, and he’s the person I’d reach out to if you want to experience the whole ceremony in all its detail.

If you plan to do this with others, be very selective about who you participate with. Invite people who have positive intentions and have been and are generally committed to your success without reservations or conditions. For the purposes of the ceremony itself, avoid inviting people who are nervous talkers, who cannot abide a few moments of silence without filling the air. Distraction is the enemy of focus, and this is something you want to be focused for.

Follow Along

The audio and video for this ceremony are linked above. Feel free to play them as you do this so that you can pause at each step as needed.

Choosing a Goal

A few things before we begin. First, you have to DO this. You have to participate. You can’t just watch this video or read this newsletter and expect results, any more than you can watch a video about working out and achieve your fitness goals, or read a recipe and have food to eat. You have to do the work, follow along, and perform the exercises.

Second, your goal should not come at someone else’s expense. It’s fine to want a goal like having a million bucks. It’s not fine to have a goal of taking a million bucks from X person. Call it what you want, divine intervention, karma, the universal scales of justice – a goal at someone else’s expense tends not to work out.

Third, your goal should be clear and specific. Make a million bucks is good, make a million bucks without sacrificing your health or family relationships is better. Lose weight is good, lose 10 kilograms is better, lose 10 kilograms while maintaining a food budget of X euros is very specific and good. Clarity and specificity make achieving goals easier.

You can have more than one goal, but for the purposes of this exercise, start with one goal. You can always do it again with a different goal.

If you’re performing this with others, it tends to work better if you do NOT share your goal during the ceremony. There will be ample time in the days and weeks ahead to collaborate with others and build shared accountability.

The Setup

Let’s talk about the setup next. To perform this version of the fire ceremony, you should be in a safe space or place where you can literally light things on fire. This can be outside in a fire pit, in a gas grill, or even in the smoking area of wherever you live, where there are ashtrays and things that aren’t flammable nearby. Unless you’ve got access to a fireplace, you probably shouldn’t do this indoors.

You’ll need a source of fire that can be sustained for a few minutes. A candle will do, as will a grill, a fireplace, etc. I’d say to start, a candle is just fine, but feel free to use whatever works best for your circumstances.

You’ll need some scissors and a few sheets of plain paper, as well as something to write on.

You’ll want to have fire resistant gloves, tongs, chopsticks, or anything that can hold a piece of paper on fire safely if you’re using a candle. If you’re using a fireplace, fire pit, or grill, then you just need the ability to safely place pieces of paper in a fire.

For safety’s sake, please have some kind of fire extinguishing equipment handy. Again, make sure you’re doing this in a safe space!

Preparing the Materials

Before you start lighting things on fire, take the sheets of paper and cut them into four sets of shapes.

  • One long rectangle
  • Five circles
  • Five squares
  • Ten octagons or leaves, your choice depending on how good you are at cutting shapes out of paper

    They should be big enough to write at least a complete sentence on. I find that shapes about 2-3 inches/5-7 cm work best.

You’ll also need one regular sheet of paper to take some notes on.

The Ceremony Process

Let’s get started.

  1. Clear the space and get ready. Take care of any biological needs so you can give your full focus to the ceremony. Tradition suggests removing anything metal that you’re wearing; that’s still good advice. For sure, remove anything that will distract you like your phone, smart watch, etc. And put them all in silent mode.
  • On the long rectangle piece of paper, write down your goal. We put our goal in writing so that we’re absolutely clear about what we want to bring about in the world. A major reason we don’t accomplish our goals in life is we’re never clear about them. By writing it down, we give ourselves clarity. Be sure to note this on the note-taking sheet of paper as well.
  • Write your name and the year. If you’re doing this at the beginning of a year, putting the year ahead works great. If you want to do this on a more personal occasion like a birthday or anniversary, put that date instead. We put our name on our goal as a tangible reminder of who’s responsible for our goal. We might or might not get help from others in achieving our goal, but the responsibility is ours alone. We put a date of some kind on our goal as a reminder that a goal without a deadline is just a wish.

  • On a few of the stop signs, write down 3-5 external factors or conditions that could get in the way of achieving your goal. What external things could work to prevent you from succeeding? After you jot these down, put them into the flame so that the world knows what you’re looking out for.

  • On a few of the circles, write down 3-5 external factors you will need to succeed. What people or situations will you have to change, move, or work with to make your goal a reality? After you jot these down, put them into the flame so that the world knows what you might be asking of it.

  • On the remaining stop signs, write down 3-5 internal factors or conditions that could get in the way of achieving your goal. What are the specific internal tendencies, habits, and inhibitors that could work to prevent you from succeeding at your goal? After you jot these down, put them into the flame so that the world knows what you’re committed to overcoming.

  • On a few of the squares, write down 3-5 internal factors you will need to succeed. What ideas, feelings, beliefs, or habits will you have to develop, face up to, or give up to create the internal conditions you need to achieve your goal? After you jot these down, put them into the flame so that the world knows what you’re committed to becoming.

  • Make brief notes of the things you’ve just put into the flame – the external factors that would inhibit your goal, the external factors that would advance your goal, the internal factors that would inhibit your goal, and the internal factors that would advance your goal.

  • Finally, take the rectangle with your name, date, and goal on it and put it into the flame. As you do this, as you watch the fire spring to life, realize you are telling the world that your goal is real, that you’re bringing it to life, and that you’re announcing your commitment to take immediate action towards your goal. Ask the world to remind you to take action towards your goal every single day, steps of any size that move you closer to your goal. Remember that an average plan vigorously executed beats a beautiful plan you never take action on. Let the fire and flame be a signal to everyone that this goal is happening.

  • Once the paper has burned up, carefully snuff out the fire and clean up. Some people prefer to gather the ashes and save them in a little container, or smudge themselves with the ashes as a tangible reminder of what they’ve committed to. Whatever you do, take your note-taking sheet of paper as the start of your plan, your blueprint to succeeding at your goal, get started, and keep going. The dividing line between success and failure often isn’t resources or intelligence, but perseverance.

    Keep going!

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    Thank You

    Thanks for subscribing and reading this far. I appreciate it. As always, thank you for your support, your attention, and your kindness.

    See you next week,

    Christopher S. Penn


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