The New Year brings with it the irresistible thought that, yes, you can be all those things you’ve always dreamt of being. You can change your career, be a better parent or even try to change the world. But how do you even start to change your life in such a momentous way? Never fear, the Sunday Herald is here to help with our guide to creating a new you.
So you always wanted to be a florist, run a café, teach yoga or do something that contributes to the community? Or perhaps you don’t have a clue what you want to do, but it’s certainly not what you are doing now, and you’re feeling stuck. Well, it’s never too late. Fiona Haynes, a career management coach at Edinburgh-based newfuture.me, says her company has helped people from 16 years old to 69. Her first piece of advice is that you need to understand yourself. “Look at your existing and previous roles along with your interests and capture what you really enjoy doing and what you hate. Jot down what your transferable skills are. Ask yourself, what matters to you in your next move? Doing something meaningful? Doing something for yourself? Using a creative side of you?”
Then, once you’ve done that, she advises you “think about what is realistic”. Look at online job boards like glassdoor and LinkedIn. Talk to any contacts you have within your target fields. Let friends and family in on your thought processes. Then, when you think you know what you’re going for craft a core CV which you can tailor to different applications. Possibly you may need to address a skills gap, take a relevant course, or get some voluntary experience. “Be confident,” she says, “proactive and positive. Getting out of a rut is truly possible.”
Write a novel
They say we all have a book in us. Will 2018 be the year you get your great opus on the page? The key thing is to get the words down. Routine helps you with this. Whether it be in the early morning, or late night, block time off. If you’re struggling to carve out this time or resist the distractions of social media, read Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World. Analyse the kind of stories you love. Read Stephen King’s On Writing, Francine Prose’s Reading Like A Writer and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Get down your bad first draft. Obviously you don’t want it to be bad, but don’t be bothered if it is, since this is all part of the process. Now you have something to work with. Join a writing group or workshop, or even find yourself a writing partner, particularly if you are attempting drama. Sharing and getting feedback is also key to the process. Don’t be afraid of criticism.
Learn to swim
One in five adults in the UK can’t swim. If you’re learning to swim as an adult, you’re probably facing some psychological barriers as well as physical ones, so what you need to do is get over those. Sign up to a series of lessons, either in a group, or private one-to-one. The first step is to just get comfortable in the water, so spend time there, get used to submerging your whole face, and then go for it. You will do it. And it will be just the same if you want to learn to ride a bike or drive a car.
Take up a musical instrument
It really is not too late. You don’t have to have started learning the guitar or the piano at the age of six to master it. The “critical period effect” – the idea that we learn these things best when young – isn’t as strong as often is made out. Start by getting private lessons or join a group. Glasgow Fiddle Workshop runs adult classes in anything from the accordion through to the harmonica. These days there are also endless tutorials on the internet. Want an instrument that is easy and that you can have fun with? Try the ukulele. The Idler academy offers an online course for beginners.
Learn a foreign language
In Britain, according to a British Council poll, 64% of us have always wanted to speak another language fluently. Yet only a third of us can hold even a basic conversation in another tongue. Language is a social skill, so the best way to learn it is through people, by joining a class or conversation group. Choose a language that offers opportunities for you to use it – perhaps the one spoken in your favourite holiday destination. There are a whole host of ways of learning, or supporting your learning, online, including the social networking site busuu. Follow the news in another language. Watch Spin for your French, or Inspector Montalbano for your Italian. And also don’t be scared. Speaking a new language demands that you go outside your comfort zone, be vulnerable, take small risks. It will pay off.
Go To The Gym
For those who haven’t been to the gym in years, the prospect can seem more than a little daunting – if not enough to turn you into a dripping sweat puddle without the need for any actual movement. However, rest assured that you are not alone. The key thing is just to get yourself through your front door in the direction of the park, if you want to start running, or the gym. You don’t need a whole new wardrobe. Some cheap leggings, a t-shirt and trainers will do. Go with a gym buddy and make it a date. If what you’re worried about is how you’re going to look, then banish that thought – no one is really going to be looking at you. They will all be just dealing with their own world of sweat and pain.
Don’t know what kind of training you want to do? The virtue of just joining a more general gym is that you can try a range of classes and work out what you like. John Kabete, who runs Extreme Fitness Academy classes on Glasgow Green which are designed to get people fit in eight weeks, says that actually “the winter is a good time to start”. Exercise outdoors burns more calories.
Don’t think of it as a gruelling ordeal. This is going to be fun and you’ll great. But also when you’re telling yourself you don’t really have time remember that exercise is one of those mood-enhancing activities that helps you get through everything else, whether that be parenting or concentrating on that new novel you are writing.
There’s a reason losing weight is such a common, and repeated resolution. That’s because all too often, when people lose weight, they put it back on again. Hence, there’s a big red warning sign over this – which is to avoid the kind of weight loss plans and fads that lead to yo-yo dieting. There is, of course, a whole wealth of fads and diet trends to choose from, from fasting routines through to food group elimination diets, and it can seem bewildering. A study published in Current Gastroenterology Reports last month reviewed the efficacy of four popular weight loss methods. These included juicing/detoxification, intermittent fasting, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and the Paleolithic diet plan. Of them HIIT, an exercise regime alternating short intense work outs with rest, was found to be the most promising. Juicing detox was judged dangerous, and tended to lead to rapid weight loss followed by regain of weight. Intermittent fasting has had little significant research in humans, but studies in animals have been promising. The Paleo Diet did lead to weight loss, but could be expensive and difficult to maintain for.
But losing weight need not be about a new diet. It could be exploring the new trend for mindful eating. This practice of choosing and savouring food, away from distractions and with attention to how hungry you are, has been shown by a study from North Carolina State University to help people lose weight. Mindful Eating Scotland runs a course on how to go about it, beginning January 20 in Glasgow.
Get off social media
Even Facebook has acknowledged, in a post last year, that being on social media a lot might not be that good for you. Of course, some of us feel we have to be there, perhaps for our work, community involvement or friendships. If you’re one of these people than take a look at Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World, which contains a whole host of approaches to help you keep social media contained, have a good social and family life, and produce “deep work”. Sound too good to be true? Newport will make you believe it is almost manageable. One of his tips is to take all apps off your phone. “These apps,” he says, “are highly engineered to be addictive, and your phone keeps them readily available at all points.”
Spend more time with friends
In her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Australian nurse Bronnie Ware listed “not maintaining friendships” as one of people’s biggest death-bed regrets. Many of us, in the UK, have busy social lives but few close friends. Rather than throwing energy at a butterfly life, write a list of the three people you really feel closest to and spend more time with them. What you most need to do in order to enrich these friendships is make space in your calendar for companionship. This is not surprising, since when we spend time with a person we show we value them. Also, go out of your way to be a cheerleader to your friends. Celebrate their successes, and commiserate over their failures.
Be a Better Parent
Dump the parenting guides. Actually one of the best pieces of advice comes from Brene Brown, a professor with the University of Houston who is an expert in courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, and shuns the idea of parenting experts. The key thing, she says, in parenting, is that you need to be the adult you want your child to be – simple, eh? Among the approaches she encourages is being “wholehearted” in all things, and “daring greatly”. Print off her Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto and stick it on your wall. You won’t reget it.
Most of us don’t really need to build a new us. We don’t need a whole new life. One of the biggest things we can probably do is appreciate the one that we have. So don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel this year. Just allow yourself to enjoy it turning. Say thanks for all the good things. You’re probably doing just fine.