Happy New Year! 新年快樂! Feliz año nuevo!
Let’s all just take some time to reflect on 2015. It had its share of drama. Good things came and went. Terror and division became all too common in the headlines. Hopefully, yours was one to cherish, but if it was a bad year, at least it is over now. These barriers in our mind invisible yet so important, of the moving from one calendar to the next, can be an important psychological step. Move from the old into the new. Close the door on 2015, and try to take the lessons it offered with you on your journey into fresh moments.
Now we turn the page and begin a new chapter. What wonders does this coming term hold in store? Perhaps you are lucky to already have things to look forward to; a wedding, a holiday, a graduation, or a baby. Perhaps what’s coming up for you doesn’t fill such generic milestones, but slots into an alternative bucket list; first marathon, first solo skydive, getting your PADI, or climbing Everest.
Hell, it might just be you’ve decided to start eating crinkle cut instead of regular crisps with your Netflix sessions! It all counts!
A new year is a great opportunity to turn your gaze to new horizons. I know it’s a cliché, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. With so many others basking in the positivity of a new beginning, the energy is all around you. Tap into it and exploit it for yourself. This is your time!
So for those of you still without an idea of what you might want to do over the coming year, here are some goals you may want to use. Or adapt. Or ignore. This is your year. Go out there and own it!
Learn about a new topic
The internet is bloody marvellous. Not only does it offer 24/7 access to news, games, and other people, but it also connects you with the wealth of human knowledge, and the shared library of wisdom that humanity has assembled in the last 8,000 years.
Thanks to websites like coursera and Khan Academy, you can now sign up online for free learning!
Ok, I’ll let my inner nerd quieten down for a bit. But truly, this is something wonderful that should be celebrated and enjoyed.
You can find sites for everything, from guitar lessons to 6th grade maths, traditional Chinese to coding. Go ahead, Google it.
See this article from Observer Innovation for links to a variety of different courses to get you started.
For those of you interested in learning a new language, check out the Itchy Quill guide to the best sites and apps for language learning here.
Learn a new skill
But life is not all about sitting in front of a computer now, is it? Some of us are handsy people, veritable artisans who respond much better to the kinaesthetic pleasure of holding and handling, not merely studying.
For those, there are plenty of things to try your hand at. Jewellery making, woodcraft, pottery, baking, fencing, knitting, painting, driving… the list goes on.
Most colleges run night schools that offer affordable courses in a whole range of vocational activities. There are also websites like meetup.com which offer you a chance to find similar minded people and talk about/establish events about your chosen area.
What’s stopping you?
Start a new hobby
Or maybe you just want a new way to relax? You could look into a new sport, or another way of channelling your competitive streak.
How about another income stream? I’ve got good friends who make a healthy income from eBay. They trawl the charity shops and boot sales looking for gems. With the power of a smart phone in your hands, you’re seconds away from a valuation, and an idea of whether you can make money from something.
Of course, there are the classic hobbies such as stamp collecting and fishing out there to be tried too.
For more ideas, check out this list on the Art of Manliness.com – though these don’t have to be hobbies for men. They’re not gender specific, after all…
Pay it forward
Do something for someone else, like help out a friend or neighbour. Maybe someone is moving house, or they need a hand with their kid? It doesn’t have to be a massive task, but it’s always nice to help out someone without expecting something in return. You could make their day!
If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, what about volunteering? Here in Taipei, it’s common for foreigners who cannot get pets in their own apartments to help out at local dog shelters by walking dogs after work. There are a lot of refugees kicking around in Europe at the moment, and I’m sure you can imagine that local authorities are swamped. Why not see if you can help out? Or start collecting old clothes together to be sent to displaced peoples.
Or, you know, just help old ladies across the road or up the stairs with their shopping…
Catch up with old friends or distant family
Sometimes it’s easy to lose track of time. I’ve been out in SE Asia now for over two years, and I’m not the best person at keeping in contact. Out of sight, out of mind.
But I know that for some, it really means a lot if you reach out to them. It lets them know you haven’t forgotten about them, and that you are thinking of them.
So call up grandma, or send an email to Judith and the kids, or just write a letter to your mate Shaggy Dave.
Who knows, you might be just the person they need right now…
Visit a new country
Bit of a no brainer this, but with the summer still a healthy half a year away, it can feel a little dull sat there in a cold apartment watching the mould climb up your walls. What better potion for your ills than warmer thoughts of a sunnier summer, and the chance to hop abroad?
Kamchatka? the ‘Stans? Timbuktu? Tuvalu?
Throw a dart at a map, and book your ticket now before the summer rush. Then you’ll know you’ve got a solid six months of saving time to scrape together some cash, some research, and all the bravery you’ll need to take the plunge into a new adventure.
Hell, I’m doing it myself right now…
Set yourself goals, and challenge yourself
I managed to read 33 books last year. For me, that was decent. I’m no Good Will Hunting, I need a bit of time to get through a book (though I love reading). This year, I wanted to read more. So, I set a target for 35 books. Nice enough, I thought. “Where’s the challenge in that?” said a friend. “If you really want to challenge yourself, put 40.”
So I did.
Lord knows how I’ll find the time. 33 was a struggle. But having that target, that goal, gives me something to drive for. If I fall short, I’ll still have probably done better. But if I achieve it, well, I’ll have done something awesome.
And this mentality applies to anything. Pick a local marathon, sign up, then train your nuts off to be ready for it. Even if you end up crawling over the finish line, the positive effects of trying to prepare and then actually doing it will be myriad.
What challenge will you set?
Cut out the negativity
Some people suck the life out of us, and similarly so do some situations and environments. Make this year the year you finally put some distance between yourself and those things that drag you down.
Have you got a negative habit perhaps, such as smoking, eating unhealthily or drinking more booze than a ship of sailors? Make this the year you take steps to make your life that little bit better.
I quit smoking at the end of 2014, and I’ve now gone a full year; no patches, no slips, no consequences. I’m just a year healthier than I was as a smoker.
Believe in yourself, and start thinking about what you can do.
Make this the year you follow your dreams
You may have had something you’ve been putting off for ages. I did. Mine was a novel (and now it’s nearly done!)
No more excuses, let this be the year. You’ll make time for it if you really want it! And you want it, don’t you? Of course you do!
Go out and get it!
Special thanks to Ambro, Bill Longshaw, David Castillo Dominici, graur razvan ionut, imagerymajestic, nenetus, satit_srihin, stockimages & Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.
© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016