I love January! I think I like it more than Christmastime, although both come with their own set of rituals, demands and expectations. It’s important to remember that we can make a fresh start any time, which I’ll cover here, but as it’s the New Year…
Every day is a fresh start, but 1 January is extra special
For some reason, New Year has always served as my reset point; my joy-and-motivation initiator – my reminder that every day is a fresh start. Certainly, that may be cliché, but I’m sure others see it the same way.
I also know I’m not alone in scrapping the whole ‘resolutions’ and ‘goal setting’ business. January 1 is a holiday, my uncle Doug and cousin Liz’s birthdays. The only pressure I want to experience is the cork popping out of a bottle of bubbly!
How to do January (or any time, for that matter) stress-free but with maximum impact then?
I’ve been practising for a few years and have simplified my start-fresh ritual.
Here’s what I’ve learnt:
A book, that is. I’ve spotted a pattern throughout my year – when I’m perpetually emailing or mindlessly scrolling Facebook each evening, I’m less happy than the times I’m engaged in a good read. I’m more of a non-fiction gal myself, but it doesn’t matter what your preference is. Find time to read. It’s too easy to fall out of the habit of reading books, but the practice has proven health benefits including improved memory and reduced stress.
Tip: Not sure where to start? Ask for recommendations on Facebook or talk to friends. Take it one step further and join a book club this year (there are countless options, both on and offline).
We are blessed with thousands of free interesting, inspiring and motivating resources at our fingertips. If you’re short on time, try the Blinkist app that summarises popular books into 15-minute sessions; or start a routine of listening to a Podcast once a week. Breathe and Calm are fabulous apps that will get even the most resistant amongst you into healthy meditation and mindfulness habits. The most accessible of course, is YouTube, with more hours of content than we can consume in four lifetimes. Much of it is even very good!
Tip: Sign-in to YouTube with your own unique account, so you can personalise your experience.
Make this the year you engage a coach or mentor. Since I opened up to this, my life has changed. I used to think I had to do it all on my own, but now I know for sure that surrounding myself with guides is wise.
To clarify, I see a ‘mentor’ as someone to look up to; whose footsteps I’d like to follow in, and who shares helpful advice. A coach, is usually someone who talks you through questions that help you come to a conclusion or solution that’s right for you.
Tip: Don’t worry if you’re not sure who these people might be in your life. If you’re on the lookout for a mentor, you’ll know when they appear. Or try Google – coaching is big business now.
Lean on gratitude as a tool moving into the New Year. Set an intention to consistently recall the things you’re grateful for. By giving energy to the good, you’ll attract more of it.
Tip: Start a habit of writing down five things you’re grateful for each morning and watch what happens.
Pick a tool, any tool – pen and paper, or an app like Evernote. Write down the things you want. It’s that easy. Think big; limitless. The power of putting it on paper is renowned, and for good reason. Many of us have seen the things we write down come true.
Tip: Don’t be too manipulative or specific. Instead, write down how you want to feel. For example, ‘I want to feel respected and be abundantly compensated for doing what I love’. Often what you ‘want’ comes in a form that you hadn’t imagined, so be open to the possibilities.
It began with something called a ‘happy planner’ that promised to keep me on track with my life goals list. The year, that is – I started off so well, planning ahead in my bright yellow hard-covered book that’s trimmed with gold and artistically decorated with beautiful landscape photography.
I spent time working through my planner’s activities which included noting intentions, and rating my happiness in various areas of life with a view to taking action on anything that felt lacking. On a glance back, I see I also filled in the ‘reverse bucketlist’ pages, where instead of writing down all the things I wish to achieve, I listed those things I was already proud of accomplishing (a very nice activity, if you need a boost today).
While I did initially make the most of my ‘happy planner’, it has actually been sitting on top of a pile of half-read books since May!
The bright yellow HAPPY cover serves as a reminder each morning of the possibilities ahead. But in the evenings, it came to prompt panic over all I’d intended to do but not yet acted upon.
According to the internet, this is now a thing – ‘FOMOMG’ (fear of missing out [on] my goals).
What on earth is FOMOMG?
What to do then, if we feel like we’re not where we intended to be now? That is, if we haven’t saved the money we wanted to, got the job, bought the house, discovered the romance, finished (or started) a project we’d hoped to have in hand.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and like we’re missing out, and some might agree it’s especially so at this time of year. Keen to not fall victim to this so-called FOMOMG, I resolved to lessen the pressure I admitted placing on myself.
Types of goal setting, not goal-setting or indeed not giving a f*ck!
I’ve been reading some of Sarah Knight’s work – she’s the author of the No F*cks Given guides and presenter of a TED talk on the ‘magic of not giving a f*ck’ that’s reached over four million people. Clearly, many are curious to know if it’s ok to shed our excess ‘stuff’, and Sarah’s now famous for spreading the word on how to let go of things you really don’t need to care about.
Akin to decluttering your home, we’re encouraged to do the same with our minds. You can start this today by writing down a list of all the things that are taking up space in your head, then carefully considering which items you don’t need to care about. Really. For example, are you worrying that you’re not as caught up in your career as your friends are (well apparently, according to Instagram)? Let it go. It’s likely to work out the moment you begin to clean up your thoughts and focus on the things that truly matter.
Life goals to set for yourself: choose wonder not worry
I’ve also been dipping into Amber Rae’s Choose Wonder over Worry (another one stashed in my bedside pile of books). She helpfully points out that it’s not the things we don’t care about that are hard to let go of, but it’s letting go of all those things we DO want to achieve, plan for or create, that is so hard. To choose ‘wonder over worry’, means doing just that – letting some of the stress and pressure go, and focussing on the thing that is the most important to you.
Make time for a festive break; consider the good in your world, and your achievements; play with your kids or pets; focus on ONE thing you’re looking forward to pursuing next year. Let go of the clutter and embrace with me the understanding that setting goals is one thing, but realising those goals can change is the real key to happiness.
How do you see it – do you set goals anymore, or focus on intentions? I’d love to know – please drop me a line in the comments.
First published in the December 2018 issue of Get it Magazine, getit-magazine.com.au
Late last year I picked up on something I might need to address, a behaviour that didn’t impress me; I wondered what it would take to do everything without complaining or gossiping? My life would surely be less complicated. I’ll admit, it proved harder than I thought, but my diary on my week without bitching unravelled as follows.
How to do everything without complaining or b!tching: let’s do this!
It happened during lunch a few weeks ago – I was catching up with a group of friends, and typically, not too far into the time we were together, I noticed us all descend into negative chit chat. I could hear the words spilling out of my own mouth and knew I should rein it in, but I was on a roll.
I bid farewell to my mates and headed off to finish work for the afternoon, but something didn’t sit right following the interaction. It dawned on me that with some groups of people, I had fallen into negative patterns. We all need to let off steam now and again, and let’s face it, sometimes we face situations that provoke even the most patient among us. Still, I felt a bad habit brewing, enabled and worsened by certain people and conditions, but also creeping into home life, WhatsApp chats and coffee dates with colleagues. Chronic complainers – we all know them, and that is not who I want to be.
Breaking a b!itch of a habit
They say 21 days is what it takes to form a new habit. I decided to compromise and swore off b!tch!ng for one working week.
I declared my intention to my partner Cooper, and at 9am the next day to Lisa, the first work-pal I saw.
‘No negative talk for a week!’ I shared. She smiled sweetly and encouraged me to pursue it. ‘Excellent!’. Within half an hour we were discussing how irritating Riverdale is and how we’re shocked it scores so many television award nominations. b!tch b!tch b!tch.
Oops. (sorry Riverdale fans… but honestly!)
Onwards, it’s never too late to start fresh. I made it to 3pm determined to stay sensible during a meeting I was set to have with a project group I’m part of. All good, until one of the team made a dramatic entrance announcing he had gossip. I love gossip! And I failed on day one.
Four days to go, and in my diary was a meeting with a fabulous friend of mine, Tina. We often collaborate, and the reality of our ‘one hour’ slots is 45 minutes gossip, 15 minutes work (we are very efficient).
There was giggling, joking and b!tch!ng. As we entered our 35th minute, I told her that I was trying to drop my negative habit and feeling better about myself, I talked us up towards positive perspectives.
Wednesday: mid-point hump day, tough. Instead of engaging with my known triggers, I intentionally surrounded myself with optimistic affirmations and kept an eye on @thedogist Instagram Stories to maintain high spirits. If you’re not familiar with The Dogist, go on – thank me later.
Chronic complaining can be broken by mindful action
By Thursday I found I was catching myself in the act, but still making excuses for my bad behaviour. Two of my favourite people tried to explain that there is a difference between ‘b!tch!ing’ and ‘updating’, particularly if one of them has been away and missed out on ‘news’. I’m not sure it works like that, but we were being mindful of our words and actions, and that’s progress.
As the sun rose on FriYay, I wondered if I should test the rubber-band-on-wrist strategy, to be snapped as a reminder if I caught myself mid-naughty habit; but I granted myself a reprieve. I realised the experiment had been successful – pain free, even – because while I completely failed on the no-gossip, no-b!tch!ng front, I was now fully aware of the behaviour I am changing for the better.
This is good, because I much prefer the girl who contributes knowledge, kindness and wisdom to conversations. If not those things, good cheer, at least. I can’t say that you won’t find me moaning about certain television shows (don’t get me started on Love Island), but nobody’s perfect.
Have you caught yourself in the act – what are your tips on not being the compulsive complainer in your social circles? Let me know in the comments.
First published in the November 2018 issue of Get it Magazine, getit-magazine.com.au
It was late one afternoon last week when a friend and colleague, Erika, popped over to my desk to have a chat. Bright and bubbly, full of fun dreams and goals, I enjoy her visits, tea in hand and the promise of gossip in her eyes.
I knew she’d had a tough month where some of those aforementioned dreams and goals had been rocked, predominantly because of the insensitive actions of a boy who did not deserve her affection.
Dreams and goals – careful of comparison
In her usual style, she wandered over to me with a warm smile, perched on my desk and commenced with a monologue about how she saw herself, saying she’d been thinking a lot lately about how by now she should be ‘more successful and further ahead in her life and career’.
I objected, not just on the grounds that I’m her friend, but because of my own burning question: ‘What is the definition of being ahead?’
Predictably the response involved comparisons to what fellow university graduates from the recent class of 201…? are doing, and her reflections on the aforementioned relationship that went cold.
As someone (vaguely) older looking at her situation, I’ve seen Erika secure an excellent job in a respected business where she started working as a temp; she impressed people personally and professionally, put in a lot of hard work and has in a short space of time developed into a PR pro. She learns every day, as we all do, but continues to ride the wave gracefully.
I believe Erika’s story is impressive. For her to tell me she feels disappointed about the success that I can see clearly, well, I had to give her a loving nudge! Aside from the proud job situation, she’d also completed a Master’s degree in the past year, and diligently dealt with personal life challenges.
With age arguably comes wisdom, and I’m going to stick with that logic. I shared with Erika that from my perspective there are two important things you can use to ‘measure your success’: how happy you are, and your ability to cover expenses. Yes, if these elements need to be addressed, then do so! But when all was said and done, Erika admitted she’s happy, and can cover her rent plus purchase wine on the weekend.
‘Success’ at any age is not about comparison to what your friends are doing.
Social media poses a problem for many on this front, and if you relate, switch if off for a while. If we did the same thing at the same time as our contemporaries, would we necessarily love life? No.
In my humble view, success is being happy. It is simple. It is your gratitude for life and acceptance of choices.
It is not ‘how far ahead you are’ – whatever that is supposed to mean.
Someone said to me not so long ago that I should be further ahead in my career. While I respect their opinion, that view is narrow. Granted, it is one that is still understood by a wide range of education, media, and corporate types, but it’s not relevant, especially in 2018.
I’m incredibly proud of everything I’ve done – the cool, the crazy, the difficult, the brave moves that have meant my ‘career’ path has not been linear. Confidently I declare that it’s been liberating and exciting and varied.
I’ve been happy. And I pay my debts, just like a Lannister (apologies, couldn’t resist).
So, I write to “Erika” here, that aspirations are amazing and reveal passion and drive, things I stand for in life.
Go after what lights you up; but turn comparison and an immediate feeling that you want more, into intention. This will bring awesome things to you in good time.
For now live in the moment, embrace it. Think about what life presently holds that you love, nurture that, and you’ll get ahead for sure.
Another year, another lesson learnt (hopefully). I reflect every January on my new year rituals, and like to think I wise up each time around. Perhaps…
New Year rituals – 2018 pondering
Welcome to the new year! Old habits die hard, right? For this month we’ll still write the date as ‘2017’, analyse our horoscope (even if we don’t believe), and determine that this is the year of less gin and more gym. Yes absolutely, (tomorrow)!
Many of us also repeat a new year ritual and I’ve come to relish in mine. After a run of January 1sts where I was left feeling more than a little let down and empty, I realised that the act of having refresh routine was what might save me.
Signs – what signs?
For a bit of light relief, the first thing I seek is signs it will be a year of promise. I’m delighted to discover that it’s the Chinese year of the dog. Anything to do with dogs is good by me!
I know nothing of numerology, yet I find myself dabbling with numbers: 2+0+1+8 – an eleven year, which breaks down to one plus one equalling two, marking the ‘beginning of a new direction’, so my online research explains.
Numbers and signs lift my spirits, but we know nothing happens without action and intention. So, after I’ve had my fun looking at what’s in the stars, my personal ritual gets old-school as I turn off the computer and turn back to pen and paper.
The important part of a new year ritual: write it down!
As far as I’m concerned, the power of writing things down is not to be underestimated. A few years ago, we went on a winter trip abroad and I used a long-haul flight home to Queensland to have a think about what I’d like to come out of the year ahead.
I peeled open my shiny new diary for the year – clean pages representing the chance at an organised, fresh start. In an appropriate space up the front, I wrote a list of things I hoped for. I didn’t have any real method in mind, I simply noted my desires.
We landed back in Australia and I went about filling my diary with events, tasks and to-do lists, enjoying the delicious satisfaction of crossing items off, marking as ‘done’. At some point later in the year, I went fishing around in the front of the book looking for a note I had paper-clipped inside, and I spotted the list I’d made on the plane.
Amazed, I realised that many things I’d written down (but had forgotten about) had come true. I felt like I’d experienced a little bit of magic in that discovery!
How do you want to feel?
Since then, I’ve been more conscious about my new year ‘write it down’ ritual, and I’ve tweaked it to make it as powerful as possible. I try not to be too prescriptive in terms of detail. Instead, I write down how I want to feel. This bit has become important to me. I have discovered that what I (think I) want, or what is for the greatest good, might not come in the exact package I imagine.
Some of my list includes, ‘I want to feel valued and respected at work’, ‘I want to feel inspired by the creative people who surround me’, ‘I want to feel fit and healthy’. Coming at the new year with this attitude – imagining it, and repeating these mantras – helps me detach from specific outcomes, and inevitably brings me a wealth of opportunities better than I could have dreamed of.
My new year ritual closes with two important acts: giving thanks, and letting go.
Gratitude to my people, lessons, loves and experiences that make and break. And, dropping (as hard as this can be) toxic grudges and situations that simply do not serve me.
Desires, dogs and new directions – feels good to me. What’s on the cards for you this month? We’d love to hear about your refresh rituals. Do drop us a line with your own words of wisdom, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Happy New Year!
First published in the January 2018 issue of Get it Magazine - read it at getit-magazine.com.au
Welcome to Travel Live learn, where we are passionate about living a life full of great adventures. We are Sarah + Cooper: we know life's short, and we're here to encourage you to make the most of it! We have worked in media, communication and creative roles for many years, and have spent over 10 years living and working abroad. Our hottest content topics here are pet friendly travel, house + pet sitting, and designing a life as expats or digital nomads wherever in the world you want to be. Join our community of over 11,000 like-minded adventurers - find out more by signing up for the mailing list and our Facebook Group. Find us on YouTube too. NEW podcast now live: search 'Freedom and Four Paws' on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts or your fave podcast service provider.