New year

There’s something about the summer break that leads us to review our lifestyle and habits. The start of a new year also encourages resolutions and plans to do things differently, or sometimes to do them better.

This is a good thing.

The Greek philosopher Socrates said that the ‘unexamined life is not worth living’. This may sound a bit harsh, but it does remind us that the lives of all of us remain works in progress. The exciting thing about this statement is that it reminds us that we can all grow, change and achieve new goals regardless of our age or stage.

The following is a simple three-step plan to help you consider your achievements, plan new goals and create habits which will help you to reach them.

Back in 2004 I authored a book called ‘Get a New Life’. It was a labour of love, which also sold surprisingly well. Writing it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. And, surprisingly, people are still reading it!

I mention this because in the process of writing this book, I read just about every personal development book that mattered at the time. I’m still reading them! I love thinking about and learning about new ways of doing things and how other people take on life challenges. Here are some of the many insights I’ve encountered that could help you make 2024 your most exciting year so far.

Let’s get started

If the weather’s good, it may help to head outside and take an hour or two to process the following suggestions and start your own list of new things you’d like to try this year. Depending upon the time of day a coffee, cordial or glass of vino could enhance your inspiration. 

  1. What happened last year? 

Start with a positive, affectionate review of your past year and the good things you have done. As well as listing these achievements, include notes on whether they were difficult to do and if so, how you got started and kept going.

Next list your disappointments, however big or small. Not to dwell upon them but to note them. Think about whether they were avoidable. If so, what is the lesson? Or maybe whether they are still fixable. If so, how?

Now think about these two lists and decide what type of projects or activities you would like more of. And which you would like to remove from your day-to-day routine. 

  1. What are your dreams?

Many people can’t answer this rather pointy question. They simply don’t know. They often feel more comfortable recounting their worst nightmares. It’s true that we can sometimes feel so ground down that we don’t allow ourselves to dream. Well, that’s not for you today. But if you genuinely can’t think of things that will make your soul sing, then here are a couple of suggestions. Take yourself to an old school, bricks and mortar, bookshop. Go for a wander. Pick up any books that appeal, and after an hour or so, choose three that really speak to you. Is there a hint in here? Singing in a choir, cycling in Tasmania, vegetable gardening? Got it! …

Another strategy is to purchase a print newspaper (digital news doesn’t quite do the trick) and spread it out on the table. Read an article or two on every page. News, arts, sport, food, real estate – all sections. Note which articles you enjoy. Note where your eyes go. Do any advertisements stimulate new ideas? Has anything in the paper excited you, piqued your curiosity to learn more? Are there hints in here for future projects and adventures? Travel, short courses, exploring new neighbourhoods or hobbies? Maybe stories of volunteering, nature conservation or other creative pursuits?

Lastly, have you checked in with your teenage self? The one who remains vibrant and still wants to guide many of your decisions? Honour this self – it’s often the smartest part of us; the one with genuine emotional intelligence. What exactly is your teenage heart urging you to do?

Now look at those dreams and ‘if onlies’ and choose about five that you are keen to tackle in the coming year.

  1. How and where to start?

How do you make these changes if you feel overwhelmed or nervous or scared? As with every other major task, by breaking it down into a series of small steps. 

For each of your five dreams, take a page in your notebook and start a checklist of the things you need to know to get this dream underway. Let’s take a biggie. Maybe you’re separated and feel that it’s time to ‘get back out there’. Whoa! That’s daunting. But if your teenage self says it’s a good idea, it probably is. Tackling major changes starts with research. Decide who to share your plan with and ask their advice. This could be a friend who has successfully re-partnered. Talk to people who know about dating and friendship apps. Think about your interests and where like-minded people meet to pursue these interests. This may lead you to find your ‘tribe’. Read books or listen to podcasts on relationships, separation, re-partnering. Regardless of the goal, doing research will lead you to a short list of actionable items that will get your plans underway.

How do you stick at it?

It’s a common experience to start the year fired up with new goals and to find that old habits take over or your initial enthusiasm fades. Most of us achieve very little totally on our own. Consider diarising your actionable items and enlisting the support of a trusted friend to help you stick to these deadlines. Read books on setting habits and keeping them (see below). Read your list of goals every morning to remind yourself of them.  Motivate yourself (and make your goals easier to achieve) by noting any barriers, and ways you might systematically dismantle them. 

A word of caution about who you share your dreams with. In most cases our family and friends want the best for us. But sometimes our plans can unsettle them. It may be genuine concern, envy or just a sense that you are not staying in your place – and that may cause them to be negative. Don’t let this stop you. As long as you feel your plans are exciting and relatively safe, you do only have one life, so now’s the time to live it!

I started with a quote from Socrates in 399 BC. Let’s finish with something slightly more contemporary from author, Stephen King, who tells us:

‘The scariest moment is just before you start, after that things can only get better.’

Reading List

The following five books are favourites. I’ve read them many times, given them as gifts and shared their titles with countless friends who’ve loved them as well.

  • Your Best Year Yet, Jinny Ditzler
  • Ikigai, Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles
  • First Things First, Stephen Covey
  • Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg
  • The Second Mountain, David Brookes

Affording your dreams

It’s all very well to dream big, you might think, but many of us have a handbrake on our plans owing to financial constraints. Some New Year goals are modest and don’t rely upon deep pockets: things like being more mindful, volunteering or walking daily. Others might need some financial input. Our weekly enewsletters are full of ways to maximise your savings and suggestions how to access any and all discounts and concessions available for older adults.  One of the most important habits to get into is to make sure you have sorted out your Centrelink entitlements.  You can check what you might be eligible to receive here. And investing in one of our many targeted advice consultations could add considerably to your discretionary income. You can find out more about these in one of our free 10-minute meetings.

Are you a goal-setter?

 Is New Year your preferred time to do this? If so, do you have any advice for others who want to make changes, but are unsure how to get started?