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How to Make 2014 The Best Year of Your Life

So how about, you make this the year of the YOU?

By Lizi Woolgar.
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So, welcome (nearly) to 2014. By the sounds of things, we have a number of substantial technological, social and political breakthroughs to look forward to this year. A cure for baldness, for instance, is predicted to become available at some point! But wait, there’s more. The Winter Olympics are set to take place in February in Russia, a solar eclipse will astound in April, the FIFA World Cup will be held from June-July in Brazil (#snore) and the USA and UK are set to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by December, ending the enduring war. According to the Chinese Lunar calendar we will be transitioning from the ever-fierce, severe, slithering snake to the … common horse. As far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t bode well for the most exciting, enthralling and ambitious year of your life to date. So how about, instead of this being the year of the horse, you make it the year of the YOU?

I’m especially talking to you recent grads who are feeling a bit lost and directionless right now. It is so fine. Most of us will be feeling exactly this way for the first year – maybe even two – after graduating and it’s easy to resign yourself to ‘just not being employable enough’. Well, that’s just not true I’m afraid, and brings me to my first point of advice for the upcoming year:

1.       Don’t be scared of your ambition

Stop using ‘I have no time’ as an excuse when half the time you’re sat around just…wasting time. Resolve to – either by the end of 2014 or a chosen month during the upcoming year –  really put every ounce of energy into following your dream. You can’t expect to just fall into it.  Don’t settle for less than you know you are capable of. As much as I hate to say it: #YOLO!!! But seriously, there’s no way you can spend your entire life with an ambition you absolutely believe you can achieve, yet remains forever trapped in your imagination.

Go on ... take that leap of faith!

Go on … take that leap of faith!

2.    Work on your mind

Actually focus on getting a little more intelligent. After years upon years of full-time education, you will be surprised at how quickly your sharpness starts to slip away. For me, this has been spurred on by embarrassingly only knowing the answers to pop culture questions at our yearly Christmas Eve quiz. I’m thinking I might actually read the newspaper, watch the news or read a non-fiction book once in a while this year.

But intelligence is of course not the only dimension of our mind worth targeting. We need to learn to Relaxxx (so says Frankie), so give meditation a go; just aim for once or twice a week to begin. DON’T STRESS OUT! Do more relaxing things to help you unwind like taking long bubble baths, burning incense, burning oil or just sitting and actively thinking about those thoughts running through your head (probably keeping you awake at night).

I found previously that when I allocated myself some time to purposefully worry – in terms of semi-meditation/very quiet thinking time – it helped me see the bigger, much clearer picture. Of course, as with all things I start, that fell apart pretty rapidly. I know I’m a giver-upper, but this is something I am determined to make more of an effort with this year, as sorting your head out really has to come above everything else.

3.    Stop being so self-indulgent on social media

I think social media is great. It allows connections to be made across normally brick-wall boundaries, the communication with others of similar belief, and really can be a key tool in moving forward with environmental, social, political (etc.) campaigns. IF it’s used in the right way, anyway.

But really, no one cares if you just stubbed your toe. Or you’re having a good hair day (#nofilter). Or about the millionz of selfies on your Instagram. Wow, you’ve spent your day putting on an entire face of make-up and taking selfies? God, I soo want to give you a job now (said no employer, ever). Literally, all it encourages is creepy stalkers. How about deleting just one of your social media accounts (I vote Snapchat gets it first) and spending the time you would have spent on that doing something more productive, if even just reading a real life book (kindle books do not count).

Maybe take pictures of ... NOT yourself?!

Maybe take pictures of … NOT yourself?!

4.    Travel more!

Of course, this is pretty self-explanatory. But if you’re forever longing to be one of those cultured, well-travelled hippie-types, strolling round with your genuine Moroccan oils and one-of-a-kind Egyptian costume ring, then you need to #getoutmore. Make proper use of your weekends if you work full-time. Hop on the Eurostar or find a short, cheap flight, and just really immerse yourself in another culture for an entire weekend. A spontaneous weekend of tapas and cocktails sounds way more impressive to your colleagues on Monday than just ‘watched tha X Facta and ate pizza’ now, doesn’t it? (And of course, the opinion of others’ is all that matters, kids).

Travel More

Travel More

5.    Be a do-gooder

Believe it or not, we are all capable of being one of those annoyingly ‘good at life’ types. This really only applies to those of you who have acted in a way where you feel you might still be in karma’s debt. But you can certainly earn back some brownie points (maybe make your very own My Name Is Earl list). Consider volunteering in an animal shelter or nursing home just once a week. You’ll be back on the nice list in no time.

Similarly, eat smart. I’m evidently biased (being veggie an’ all), but start to think about things like what our eating habits are doing to our planet (your Christmas podge is soo irrelevant to me right now). For instance, the meat industry produces a ridiculous amount of fossils fuels and thrashes through tonnes of water. Maybe consider eating a little less meat? Salmon harvesting is eating further and further into our already scarce and over-fished supplies. Maybe just reduce your weekly number of portions of fish?

6.    Value Friendship

Coming from an all-girls school, I have witnessed backstabbing and bitchiness for years. It really is a complete waste of energy and encourages dishonest behaviour, to the point of talking unkindly about someone you actually really like for no other reason than boredom. I, for one, am going to try and stop bitching in the New Year. I know I know, it’s always good fun to gossip, but imagine you were the person being talked about; you would NOT like it. A bit of consideration for others goes a long way in terms of karma.

On the flip side, get rid of those poisonous people in your life. There are millions of people to choose from. Literally. You do not need those people that make you feel like shoe-dirt in your life. Perhaps resign yourself to making more effort with old friends that you know you still love, but have just drifted from a little. Reach out those feelers. Make an effort to do some fun activities you wouldn’t normally do too; try ice skating, rock climbing or visit a theme park (because after all, #yolo).

7.    See the bigger picture.

This is so important. Please don’t all go leaving your jobs, turning strictly vegan and converting to Buddhism overnight. The changes you want to make really do need to be well-thought out and with a definite direction (unless some #amazeballs opportunity just happens to be thrown your way). I’ve never been a fan of the horribly well-organised mechanism of weighing everything up on paper by writing out pros and cons, but I know this works for some people. Obviously, do what feels right. Nothing is irreversible and, realistically, in my opinion, you can’t consider any decision you make based on your needs at a given point in time to be wrong. It was right there and then so you just need to stay focussed; remember the reason you decided to step in that direction in the first place (unless that direction is One Direction, for which the reason was presumably just Hazza’s beautiful locks).

Clear your head

Clear your head

8.    #NoRegretz

Sure, if I did something like, really bad, I need to regret that, but I want to use as many experiences as I can for learning from here onwards. I’ll give you a sort-of example of what I mean.

My dad is constantly telling me to check my balance. I of course take great pleasure in ignoring his advice. However, a couple of weeks back, my card was refused from a charity shop. That’s right, a CHARITY SHOP. I only had £1.60 in my purse. I rushed to the nearest cash machine: card declined. At this point I should mention I do also have a pretty generous overdraft which I had also totally used up. Oh ma gad I should have listened to dad. So I was left explaining to a pair of pretty peeved old ladies (who had de-tagged the clothes I was buying and consequently couldn’t reverse the transaction) that I had somehow lost complete track of my money, but I would scrounge some and return the following day to pay. Dude, it was soooo embarrassing. But, I must not regret it.

Lessons learned: a) listen to dad, b) check phonebill near month end, c) seriously watch my bank account oh magad. But I have well and truly learnt my lesson and am just grateful it wasn’t in some sort of disastrous occasion where I desperado needed some cash. So y’know, coulda been worse (also coulda checked my account at home and been a lot better, but then I wouldn’t have learnt a thing).

9.    Novelty resolutions

Think of some novelty ‘bucket list’ ideas for this year. Be a film extra. Learn a new dictionary definition every day. Learn all of your friends’ birthdays. Listen to one direction as much as you want and stop caring about your street cred. It’s far more endearing to be uncool.

10.  Make extra effort with clothes

Dress up for more occasions. Maybe for the cinema, coffee with a friend, or just going to see old family friends. Dress in a way that you want people want to remember after you’ve left. Stop being afraid of dressing exactly how you want to.

Werk it gurlfrienddd

Werk it gurlfrienddd

11.  Be a Belieber

Oops, I think I meant believer there.

Write down all of your plans in a nice new journal and whole-heartedly believe you can do it all. This year. Writing down ideas and goals actually sends a chemical signal to your brain that makes it more likely you’ll follow through with it. Try to look at your resolutions once every month or so and just consider whether you’ve made any progress whatsoever. If not, it just gives you a priority to work on that month. Try not to make more than 10 resolutions (unless you have 3 that are like, stay alive, drink water every day and sleep every night) because you will just lose all sense of satisfaction with your current self.

All of these suggestions are of course skewed towards my personality type, priorities and the activities I enjoy. Lots of people won’t care about making a bit more effort with clothes or some weird hippie meditation rubbish, but I’m sure we can all get on board with a shiny new pen, notebook and a little more foresight. I won’t lie; I’m probably one of the biggest flakes out there when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. But the magic number is supposed to be 21. 21 days. If you can last that long – you can do it forever. So how about we all set ‘21 day resolutions’ this year and see how you’re doing after that? Sounds a lot more manageable to me, don’t you agree? Good that’s settled then. Let’s check back in on the 21st of January. Good luck!

Lizi Woolgar

University of Bristol | 40 stories

Graduate of University of Bristol. Having spent my first two years of University writing for the student newspaper, epigram and Brighton-based Spindle Magazine, I then went on to edit the Style section of Epigram 2012-2013. Now keen to pursue a career in journalism/editorial work, I look forward to writing my weekly column for The College Tourist, all the while seeing where my writing and travel will take me.


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