10 Easy Ways To Get You Moving Towards Your Dreams

Do you find that January is the month you decide to do something to get you moving towards your dreams?

Do you make endless New Year’s resolutions, spend a fortune on planners, write bucket lists, create vision boards and create a public commitment by telling all your Facebook friends that this will be your year?

woman about to start a crafting project surrounded by flowers - moving towards your dreams

Each new year gives us a blank canvas to create our dreams afresh – but where to start?

Yes – you will hike across Mexico and start an award winning travel blog.

Yes – you will give up sugar and practise impeccable nutrition (and share it on Instagram, obviously).

Yes – you will finally stick to a beauty routine that will give you glowing skin, much to the envy of Kim Kardashian.

Yes – you will be calm, centred, loving and gentle even to those idiots who jostle you on the train in the morning and take up two seats?

All too often we set the bar way too high and then berate ourselves for giving up in the first week of January.

We all want instant change – but here’s the thing.

Change takes time.  Results take time.

You have to learn new behaviours, new reactions, new thoughts and prepare yourself for the ways your changes will affect everyone in your life.

We’ve all heard stories about relationships dissolving when one partner loses the weight and regains their mojo – much to the displeasure of the other.

If your friendship group revolves around the habit you want to give up then you need to think about this.

In my many years working in an office, those who smoked would often have a tight-knit friendship circle born of many years freezing their butts off out in the cold with a rushed ciggie.

Those who gave up smoking were no longer part of that group.

Peer pressure has a huge part to play in our ability to say no, enough, time to stop.

Many self help tomes advise making a public commitment is a great way to get you moving towards your dreams because of the risk of the failure of embarrassment.

I’m not so sure.  I think silence is better.  Quietly move towards your goals without fanfare, seek help from the best people you can find – those who have achieved what you are setting out to do.  Not those who would quite like to do it too but have never got round to it – but are still complete experts.

The biggest challenge is just starting, let alone maintaining the impetus to stay the course long distance.  We’ll have that last drink tomorrow, eat that last cake tomorrow, go for our first run tomorrow.

So what can you do if your goal is really important – for example you need to lose weight for an operation, or you need to cut someone really toxic out of your life?

Here are 10 simple things you could try and they all revolve around changing what you say to yourself and taking baby steps.

Small changes can lead to massive improvements if they are manageable and don’t add to your stress levels.  It is utterly pointless taking up something you know you’ll give up sooner rather than later because you will only succeed in lowering your self esteem and self confidence.

Exercise

Instead of:  I will get up at 6 am and run 3 miles
Try:  I will jog on the spot for the length of Coronation Street (or your favourite soap)

Instead of: I will schedule at least 3 gym classes per week
Try: I will find the family some new swimsuits and go for a swim every Sunday with the kids

Food

Instead of:  I will give up all sugary foods
Try:  I will give up cake during the week and treat myself to a couple of slices at the weekend.

Instead of: I will sit down to a home cooked meal every night
Try: I will cook three times a week and add extra home-cooked vegetables to any shop bought meals.

Money

Instead of:  I will save every penny towards my summer holiday
Try:  I will start a savings account and put in £20 (or whatever) every month and use public transport instead of taxis.

Instead of: I will get rid of all my debt
Try: I will contact my local Citizens’ Advice Bureau and talk to them about creating a sensible savings plan to reduce my debts – ensuring the most important debts are paid off first (e.g mortgage and rent arrears).

Work

Instead of:  I will find the job of my dreams this year
Try:  I will talk to someone already doing my dream job to see how they got started and what qualifications and experience they think I should get.

Instead of: I will speak up in every meeting and share my ideas
Try: I will ask for my idea to be included in the meeting agenda beforehand and make sure I speak up if the question “any other business?” arises.

Relationships

Instead of: I will find the partner of my dreams

Try: I will smile and be more approachable, make sure I look my best whenever I leave the house and sign up to a reputable online dating site.

My point is that your dreams have to be broken down into actionable steps – and those steps should not be daunting or complicated.

Moving towards your dreams gradually means, I think, that you are far more likely to get there.  As the old saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

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Want This Year To Be YOUR Year? Tell Yourself A Better Story.

Now we’re all re-emerging from the traditional post-festive slump, do you find your thoughts automatically drifting to those things you want to improve this new year? We have already probably read, by now, the myriad of pop psychology suggestions to transform our existence – from writing a letter to your future self and making gratitude lists to mindful meditation, seeking your guardian angel and rebalancing your chakras.

write a letter to your future self - woman outdoors sat on a log typing on a laptop

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Listen, I love this stuff and you won’t find any cynical sniffing from me if you tell me your goal next year is to explore your spirituality.  Too few of us are stuck in a kind of two-dimensional hell of work and shopping with very little actual human connection in between.

But here’s the thing I want to suggest you try.

If you stop and listen closely to the voice in your head, that incessant chatter which is you (probably) berating, criticising and scolding yourself, you might notice something.

You say the same stuff over and over and over and over ……

Basically, you are retelling your life as a story in which you may not necessarily be playing the role you want to play.  Is there someone else you have cast as the star whilst you have a mere walk-on part?

If you think about your history, your past, it is a collection of memories you’ve put together seen from just one perspective – yours.  We can never know exactly what someone else is feeling. Their behaviour may give clues, of course, but nevertheless, the only person we can truly begin to understand is ourselves.

Some of the people we find most inspiring, whether they are celebrities or members of our family, have the ability to make their own sunshine.  They put a positive spin on everything that happens. They are the ‘silver lining people’.

Hands up, on occasion, I find ‘silver lining people’ extremely annoying but in my more sanguine moments, I acknowledge that they are definitely on to something.

So, rather than retell yourself ghastly tales of past times when you were the fall guy, the stooge, the fool, where you let your light be eclipsed by someone with all the brightness of a 20-watt bulb, why not put a twist in the tale?

Ask yourself.  If I were to rewrite this, what would have happened?  And, in future, when you think of that time, tell yourself this new story.

If the old version of events has a terrible hold on you, see yourself writing it down then pick up the paper, scrunch it into a ball and chuck it over your shoulder.

Or pretend you have set it on fire and those horrid memories have literally gone up in smoke.

As you look to your future,  why not write yourself the story of the year now, complete with a list of what WILL happen. I don’t mean a bucket list.  I mean a list of glorious, golden outcomes.  Actually, writing a letter to your future self is a great idea because it will give you something to look back on to see how far you’ve come.

Faith and positive thinking may make your dreams happen.

We are adult and know that there are no guarantees in life but, equally, to live with an optimistic view where you let in the light has to be better than starting another year in a fug of gloomy despondency.

January is such a dark, dank month.  We miss the sun and the light both emotionally and physically. Those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) must feel this loss of light even more and, once the Christmas bonhomie has passed, there is a tendency for those of us who suffer from depression to sink into a deeper pit of our own hopelessness and melancholy.

But if we look around us, the best-loved stories are still there and are a testament to our eternal belief that good triumphs over evil, that light always wins out over darkness.

I am thinking not just of religion but of the Harry Potter stories and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

If we can let ourselves enter their worlds and believe so willingly,  why don’t we write our own sagas and recast ourselves as heroes and heroines?

Ultimately you know, we’ve all got the Force.

The ONE Thing That Will Definitely Scupper Your New Year’s Resolutions

How are you doing so far?  If you’re like me, you’ll have written a list of New Year’s resolutions that is about the same length and complexity as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Heck, short of wearing a hair shirt this year, you will be perfect dammit!

You will have sleek thighs, a spotless house and the inner calm of the Dalai Lama. No more excess consumption of sugar, carbs, things in packets or boxes, shouting at the kids, thinking anything vaguely ‘toxic’.  You get the drift.

Days will be filled with endless random acts of kindness.  You are going to be soooo good, every time a butterfly flaps its wings, the lakes of positive karma you are generating are going to make a yak smile in Nepal.

Except.  Except….

I can guarantee that there will be a flaw in your cunning plan to be nicer than Mary Berry whilst combining the intellectual vivacity of a young Germaine Greer with the mysterious allure of Claudia Winkelman’s fringe.

If you are not doing it for YOU – you’re on a high road to nowhere.

Yes, if you have added a resolution to your list to make someone else happy at the cost of your own bank balance, peace of mind and happiness, it’s all going to go pear-shaped pretty early on.

How many of us join gyms because our partners helpfully ‘suggest’ we’d look better if we lost a few pounds?

How many of us decide to read mind-numbing pseudo-scientific tomes and dreary best-sellers in an effort to make ourselves more interesting.

It’s about as sensible as learning all the 64 words for ‘the’ in Russian language when the nearest you’ll get to Moscow is a bottle of vodka.

There are, indisputably, resolutions we should undertake for the benefit of our health – drinking less, eating better, exercising more, but if we are doing any of these to seek someone else’s approval, now is not the time.

I think our motivation to make serious, long-lasting changes can take a real knock if we fail with our resolution at the first hurdle.  Better to wait until we are ready – at a time not dictated by the turn of the year, the addition of another digit to the man-made records of time.  Man-made – there’s the rub, to quote Shakespeare. Is anyone keeping a track of the change of years in the rest of our galaxy (apart from astronomers)?  No? Exactly.

You know, if you find yourself designing your life with the sole intention of pleasing others, the best New Year’s Resolution you could make, if you can’t quite kick the habit, is to please yourself.

If we are happy in ourselves, don’t you find that a lot of petty problems fall away? We don’t worry about the extra pounds, our weird laugh, our inability to read a wine-list or, in Ieuan’s case, a habit of adding strawberry jam to his chicken goujons.

We can learn a lot from our kids.  They embrace the moment and are glorious in their individuality – right up until a helpful adult suggests a few ‘changes’ they might like to make.  You can see where it all starts, can’t you?

So, this New Year’s Day, I hope you’ll junk the resolution list and instead write a list of things to do just for you.

And if they’re weird, odd or laugh-out-loud peculiar – good.

Trust me, the Galaxy Time Police are probably having today off too.

Happy New Year!

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Will Your Life Be Better With These 50 “Pearls of Wisdom”?

As we approach New Year I’m sure we’ll read many articles about how to improve our life – whether by reinventing ourselves into the person we think we’d like to be, or by adopting life hacks.

Flowers and postcard saying adventure awaits

I love a good list and this one was put together by the Skipton Building Society whose researchers asked 1000 people aged over 65 and in retirement to pass on their advice to the younger generations.

As you might expect, being sensible with money is a dominant theme!  For example, “don’t go into business with family, avoid lending money you’re likely to need back and never let the sun set on an argument with friends”.

Here’s what else the survey discovered:

“Among the basic financial common-sense advice such as pay off debts rather than spending money on luxury items and try to pay off your mortgage as early as you can, are nuggets such as save the long working hours until the children fly the nest, and spend quality time with grandparents as they won’t be there forever.

Retirees also cite the importance of doing something every day that makes you happy, and trying not to worry about what other people think.

All great advice and easier said than done but the point is we have the luxury of time to at least try some of these.

The over-65s can look back on mistakes they have made and opportunities they’ve missed during the first two thirds of their life, and try to encourage their children and grandchildren to follow a different path.

When it comes to finances, retirees are brimming with useful tips for youngsters – such as plan for retirement rather than burying your head in the sand.

‘Spend some, save some’ is also advice commonly passed down by people over the age of 65 – with many feeling you should holiday as much as you can, while you can.

Retirees are quick to suggest people should start saving at a young age, and recommend people don’t lend money they may need back.

In relationships, elderly respondents believe you should marry someone who makes you laugh, and make sure you stick by old friends even when making new.

Those in retirement also say you should never rely on just one or two close friends – create a network of many, and when it comes to keeping friendships, never go into business together.

Never give relationship advice as you’ll always be wrong, keeping a happy wife means having a happy life and continue having date nights after having children are also top relationship tips.

The top 50 Pearls of Wisdom also includes some practical guidance for those who haven’t yet reached retirement – such as always trust your gut feeling, always lose gracefully and be persistent.

Retirees also recommend flossing regularly as dental problems are awful, make friends with the local residents and only pack what you can carry yourself.  I can second that one!

Pursuing hobbies and interests outside of work, trying to secure a job which you enjoy and treating yourself once in a while are also things retirees have learned are important over the years.

Older generations are also keen for people to ensure their children know the value of money, and also encourage them to teach their children how to budget from an early age.

The study shows 51 per cent of retirees polled do have some regrets about their working years – of these, 19 per cent wish they’d worked fewer hours and four in 10 wish they’d made more of an effort to pursue their dreams.

A further three in 10 people wished they’d created a better work life balance, while 45 per cent would have put more of their earnings aside into savings if they could turn back time.

Now in retirement, 17 per cent are struggling with money, while 28 per cent say their health is their biggest concern.

More than half of retirees look at younger members of their own family now and wish they would start taking their family more seriously.”

TOP 50 WORDS OF WISDOM

  1. Pay your bills and stay out of debt
  2. Pay off debts rather than spending money on luxury items
  3. Pay off your mortgage as early as you can
  4. Plan for retirement rather than burying your head in the sand
  5. Teach your own children how to budget from an early age
  6. Be kind
  7. Spend some, save some
  8. Teach your children the value of money
  9. Pursue hobbies and interests outside of work
  10. It’s okay to need help
  11. Don’t make decisions when you’re angry
  12. Treat yourself once in a while
  13. Spend more time with the children before they leave home
  14. Don’t complain about getting older: not everybody gets the privilege
  15. Start saving at a young age
  16. Manners maketh man
  17. Do something every day that makes you happy
  18. Try to not worry about what other think
  19. Travel / go on more holidays while you can afford it
  20. The most important person in your life is the person who agreed to share their life with you – treat them as such
  21. Neither a borrower nor a lender be
  22. Never lend money that you need back
  23. Make new friends but stick by the old ones
  24. Always trust your gut feeling
  25. Marry someone who makes you laugh
  26. Always lose gracefully
  27. Take criticism constructively
  28. Spend quality time with your grandparents as they won’t be there forever
  29. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to grow up
  30. Make sure you get a job doing what you love
  31. Always sleep on a big decision
  32. Get to know your neighbours
  33. To thine own self be true
  34. Never let the sun set on an argument with friends
  35. Start thinking about your retirement before your boss does
  36. Never go into business with family or friends
  37. Happy wife = happy life
  38. Don’t work long hours, save it for when the children have left home
  39. Nothing worth doing comes easy
  40. Only pack what you can carry yourself
  41. Be persistent
  42. Do what you can to live close to your grandchildren
  43. Floss regularly, dental problems are awful
  44. Always avoid inconveniencing others
  45. Never give up what you want most for something you want now
  46. Don’t rely on one or two close friends, create a network of many
  47. Never give relationship advice – you’ll always be wrong
  48. Continue date nights with your partner after having children
  49. Never make someone a priority who only makes you an option
  50. Clean less

So there you have it.  Do any of these resonate with you?  Personally number 37 is a bit of a favourite and I’ve never had any trouble with number 50!

 

I guess the main takeaway from this which we should all remember is simply “life is shorter than you think”.

Happy New Year! These are the resolutions you REALLY need to make

Over the last 48 hours, we’ve all read ACRES of poems, pithy thoughts and witticisms, resolutions, revolutions, advice about ablutions, diets, regimes and the rantings of Piers Morgan.

Caitlin wearing a Pizza Express paper hat

Just wear the bloody paper hat!

Hopefully you have managed to distil from this copious verbiage those philosophies and ideals which will carry you safely through this new year and out the other side.  

Fuelled by Thorntons Continental and red wine, I thought I’d share some bon mots with you, honed from my odd 50 years (and some of those years have been extremely odd) so that you may gain some clarity about the swirling cloud of Facebook cats and celebrity idiocy that by now will be reaching toxic levels.

1. Don’t hang around with people you don’t like.  

There are approximately 7 billion people on the planet.  Surely you can find someone else to go for a drink at the weekend?   

This includes those people who specialise in back-handed compliments or who can’t resist dragging up that thing you did in school which was hilarious in the 70’s but means absolutely nothing to anyone now – but them and you.

2.  Try something different occasionally. 

Obviously I’m thinking of gentle activities here like crochet or anything that doesn’t involve lifting.  Or much movement.  

3.  Smile.  

Apparently it’s a fact that if you smile, your whole physiology changes and you feel better. Gritting your teeth is a short route to the dentist.  Or in my case, the jaw clinic at our local hospital.

4.  Tell people you love them. 

Life’s too short and all that.  I like to tell the husband this occasionally, not least for the look of shock he usually wears, swiftly followed by “what are you after?”.

5.  Treat yourself.  

For God’s sake, if you can afford that bag and you want it, buy it.  Is it really worth 48 hours of arguing with yourself as to why you should / shouldn’t when you know you’ll buy it in the end anyway?  

If you feel really guilty about making yourself happy, make a donation to your favourite charity to balance up your karma.

The rest?  Guess what?  You already know what to do.  

The question is will you choose to do it? 

Will you choose to exercise, eat right, not get bladdered every night, be a decent person? 

Unless you have the moral compass of the Marquis de Sade you really don’t need ANYBODY to tell you what to do. 

So my last piece of sterling advice (at least today) is simply this.  

When the cracker of life is pulled and the novelty that falls out is either complete rubbish or in someone else’s half of the cracker, just put the bloody paper hat on and smile.  

There’s always another year.  Hopefully.

This year I’m resolving to….. ish……

1.  Eat healthily.  I say healthily, actually I mean back away from the biscuit tin and try to remember the existence of fruit.

It’s the biggest party night of the year.

2.  Drink less. Whilst this means I will drink less wine, in practice it will mean I forget to drink sufficient water.  Since Jesus turned water into wine, I reckon I’m about 50% there already.

3.  Exercise more.  Unless my back goes, when I will wander through shopping centres shouting randomly like a drunk tramp as the spasms hit, whilst the husband and kids will speed up and abandon me to lurch wantonly through John Lewis.

4.  Listen to more music.  Quietly.  Too much noise is not good for my tinnitus but I miss belting out power ballads at the top of my lungs and scaring the neighbour’s cat. N. B. music does not include the shouty Viking rock my husband loves.  If I want that kind of noise I will just put a saucepan on my head and bang it repeatedly with a ladle.

5.  Not read the Daily Mail Online (or the Daily Kardashian as it has recently become).  Some of the grimness of its reporting is really upsetting, but we all know I’ll be trying to guess who sent this week’s letter to Bel Mooney and wondering if the You Editorial Team would have the vapours if they saw the state of my interior decor.  That’s not a euphemism by the way.  In any case,  the NHS has had far too much of my interior decor this year, to the extent that I have “if lost please return to University Hospital of Wales” embroidered on my knickers.

6.  Not watch the same TV programmes over and over again.  I am qualified to be an estate agent for Midsomer and Sykes is the only dog I would ever consider having as a pet.  The death rate in Midsomer Murders would only be a problem if the Council Tax bandings were unreasonable.  

7.  Not buy the latest celebrity lifestyle tome in which rising at 6 am is de rigeur as is straining your home grown green tea through fine denier stockings and doing yoga to salute the sun.  Nobody has seen the sun in Wales since 1976.  And if I bend down, my physiotherapist has to be called immediately.

8.  Be a better mother.  I am not entirely sure what this entails but I believe it has something to do with being higher on the Julie Andrews scale and lower on the Gruffalo in a dressing gown scale.

Do you have any exciting resolutions this year?  Whatever your resolutions are, I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!