independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Ready to Fly: 2014 can bring change for the positive

2014 can bring change for the positive, if we know how. By Tanya Sweeney

Woman watering money tree seedling in cupped hands

As Oprah Winfrey once said: "Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right." Rare is the person who doesn't want to seize the opportunity to make some life improvements with the help of a clean slate.

In January, righting wrongs becomes something of a national hobby. But here's the dispiriting news, according to 'Forbes' magazine, of the 40pc who make a pledge to better themselves only 8pc manage to achieve their New Year resolutions.

Rather than make a total overhaul, experts suggest keeping the resolution list short and focusing on shifting one's mindset. We've asked some great minds for practical advice on how to achieve this.

 

1. How to ask for a raise

The expert: John Deely, occupational psychologist at Pinpoint (pinpoint.ie).

"Quoting the L'Oreal ad, 'because you're worth it', is guaranteed to backfire. Instead, do your preparation and research. Be clear about why you want a raise, whether it is the market value or the value you add.

"Identify a specific, realistic figure, and reflect on what else you want (such as other benefits or additional responsibilities). Think about the wider context -- how the company and sector are doing.

"Timing your ask is important, ideally in the context of some other good news. Do not accept a 'no' based on one meeting. Respectfully ask for a response based on some reflection. And if you're not successful, stay positive -- but start developing a career plan."

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2. Get over redundancy

The expert: Joan Mulvihill, CEO of the Irish Internet Association (iaa.ie).

"After I was made redundant in 2008, I really struggled with defining what I do. Everyone asks 'so what do you do?' But when you don't have one of the traditional professions, this can be a really difficult question to answer.

"Face-to-face meetings, networking in the real world and reaching out to everyone really matters. This is where you get to show people what you are really made of, and what you can do in a way that a CV or a LinkedIn profile never really can.

"Of course you need these things, but when it comes to finding a job, nothing beats using your network and asking for help. For me, sustaining my confidence meant staying out there in the real world.

"There were always things that needed to be done at home, but I knew there were no job opportunities in my living room. My resolution was to never sit on the couch until the evening.

"Losing my job has probably scarred me for life, but in a really good way. I learnt more during that 12-month period of my career than I did in any job before that.

"They say that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I don't know, I think what doesn't kill you probably just makes you realise how strong you were all along. It's not an easy time, but it does work out, albeit in unexpected ways.

"Be open to the unexpected. I never thought I'd work in the tech sector, I never ever thought I'd be the CEO of anything, much less a not-for-profit outside the corporate environment. But what did I know?

"It seems other people knew better as it was someone in my network that pointed me towards the IIA, which has given me the best four years of my working life."

 

3. Combat stress

The expert: Sarah Bird, stress management expert (sarahbird.ie)

"New Year's resolutions don't work. Big sudden life changes for unrealistic goals cause big stress. It's much better to make small but significant changes in your lifestyle.

"Start by changing your vocabulary. No more 'try' -- only 'do'. No more 'I have to' -- say 'I choose to'. And in life, be realistic about your time. Learn to say no.

"Try the stop-pause-breathe approach: five minutes of mindful breathing reduces stress. And remember, you are responsible for making the change. No one else will do it for you. It's good to keep in mind that 1pc permanent change is better than zero."

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4. Save money

The expert: John Lowe, AKA The Money Doctor (moneydoctor.ie)

"There is a difference between saving and investing. Saving is generally short-term and accessible, while investment is for a minimum of three to five years. You have to work out initially how much disposable income you have -- that is, after tax, after rent/mortgage, household bills, food, petrol and spending money.

"The most important decision about savings can be summed up in one word: start. By planning to save, you are setting goals -- for holidays or funding costs for next Christmas -- so save small but save often, whether through a bank's regular saver account (between €100 and €1,000 per month, best rate is around 4pc), the post office or your local credit union."

 

5. Get a new job

The expert: Jane Downes, career coach from Clearview Coaching (clearview coachgroup.com)

"'A job for life no longer exists'. When you read these words, do they scare or excite you? The people, in my opinion, who are getting hit the worst in the new economy are the old-school realists, those steady-as-she-goes types who were happy as Larry in the old economy.

"The challenge for these people is not realism. It is their lack of restlessness. They will trundle along, never asking what's around the next corner. This worked when the world of work was safe. In the new economy this is inadequate.

"The future belongs to what I call the 'Restless Realists'. Being career smart in 2014 means planning for change. Expecting the unexpected, drawing your own road map, being resourceful and working on your weaknesses. This is how you get or sustain a job."

 

 

6. Learn better time management

The expert: Dermot Rice, from Priority Management Training (priority management.com).

"The enduring bit of advice I have is that digital deluge is growing every year. According to Gartner research, the average corporate worker is receiving more than 100 emails per day and this is growing.

"If you don't get in control of this medium you will be constantly swamped and will never be able to manage time effectively. You need to get to the stage where the inbox is treated like a letter box, and is emptied after each visit and the emails are filed, deleted, sent to someone else or pulled to a task to be done later.

"The inbox cannot become a pseudo 'to do' list. Take back control, keep the inbox empty, and use time effectively to achieve your key objectives, such as spending time with family and friends."

 

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7. Clear out your closet

The expert: Emer Lynch, stylist (emerlynch.ie)

"If your wardrobe is bursting at the seams yet you've 'nothing to wear' most days, it might be time for an overhaul.

If you haven't worn it in the last two years, be realistic and brutal -- it's time to move it on. Next, divide clothes into work, weekend, fitness and party wear -- this makes everything much easier to find. Then divide into piles... jeans and trousers, tops, shirts, etc.

"Patterns will emerge. If you have somehow amassed 10 very similar shirts or knits, you may have to own up to being a serial shopper. Pick your top three of each style and move on the rest.

"Work wear is the trickiest. The reality is that when clothes get relegated to work wear, they are rarely worn again for leisure time. Decide on 5-10 combinations that will work easily and keep together in a 'work' section for easy replication when you are half awake. A good exercise is to check that everything in your wardrobe has something that you could wear it with. If you don't have shoes/ jacket/ trousers that will work with it you are probably never going to wear it."

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8. Quit smoking

The expert: Kevin O'Hagan, Health Promotion Manager at the Irish Cancer Society (cancer.ie)

"We know that 70pc of smokers want to quit. We want them to know that we are here to help. The first thing to do is to plan when and how you're going to quit. Next you need to motivate yourself and finally pick a day and follow through on your quit plan.

"If you can get through the first 30 days without cigarettes, you'll have made great strides in getting rid of the habit. Call the National Smokers' Quitline on Callsave 1850 201 203 to speak to a specialist Quit counsellor who can offer information and support to help you give up smoking."

 

 

 

9. Start your own business

The expert: Avine McNally, acting director of the Small Firms Association (sfa.ie)

"Entrepreneurship is an exciting, difficult and worthwhile calling. However, the harsh reality is too many new businesses fail. Why? Because of lack of planning.

"Almost 70pc of people who become self-employed do not prepare themselves properly for their new role and responsibilities. As a result, on average 50pc of all businesses in the EU fail within five years of starting. Entrepreneurs do not plan to fail, but they certainly fail to plan. Preparation is key -- careful planning is the most important step an entrepreneur can take.

"You can never eliminate all risk, but it can be reduced significantly to the point where the odds are in your favour.

"Preparing for what you will face as an entrepreneur, for the obstacles and hurdles that will be placed in the way, for the new skills that will have to be learned, the regulations and form filling that may catch you out and knowing who can help guide you through the process will help make the business dream a success."

 

10. Write/make a speech

The expert: Colm Roe, Toastmaster (dublinsouthtoastmasters.com)

"The easiest speeches to write and deliver are on subjects that you are familiar with, or passionate about. That's how you create your first great speech.

"Preparation is essential. The more familiar you are with the speech, the more confident you'll be. The opening should be strong enough to grab attention. If it starts weak the audience can lose interest.

"I could give you advice on how to do a great speech -- and there are hundreds of self-help books on it -- but the only way to become a skilled and confident speaker is to actually speak in public."

 

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11. Eat better

The expert: Nutritionist Anna Burns (annaburnsnutrition.com)

"When we embark on a weight-loss regime we often focus our energies on not eating chocolate, take-away, crisps, even bread. Turn that thinking around.

"The language of weight-loss is always negative, one of loss and discipline. Ask yourself, instead: 'Have I had my fruit and vegetables today?' Five a day is a lame aim. Think eight-plus.

"Start your day with fruit, end your day with fruit and punctuate your day with fruit. Have vegetables at lunch as well as at dinner. Suddenly, your focus has turned from one of hardship to one of plenty. The pursuit of optimal health should be your goal. Weight loss will be served to you as a bonus along the way."

 

12. Become more active

The expert: Gillian O'Sullivan, retired Olympic athlete and personal trainer (gillianosullivan.ie)

"The first important thing to do is to set a tangible target. Don't say, 'I want to drop a few pounds', say 'I want to drop six pounds'. Instead of 'I'd like to get fitter', sign yourself up for a 5k run. Secondly, it's really important to put a plan in place. Where will you work out and how much can you manage? It helps to have set days to exercise, and to know whether you're a morning or evening person.

"If it's pelting rain in January, always have an alternative plan to hand. The weather in Ireland is bad, but never bad enough that you can't get out at some point. If you have a bad week or couple of days, just tell yourself that you'll start back up on Monday. But don't let it go for more than two or three days, as it'll be harder to get back into the mindset.

"I find people's main problem is they think they will change their lives with a huge overhaul, and that's destined to fail. Instead, set yourself a realistic and reasonable target -- 30 minutes exercise a day."

 

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13. Fall in love

The expert: Matchmaker Avril Mulcahy (avrilmulcahy.com)

"Decide that 2014 is the year that you create time to meet a partner. Remember, you need to create a role as a lover even before you meet your partner. The trick is not to be constantly putting your efforts into the search.

"Great singles are everywhere. Take the pressure off yourself. Your only goal is to be available -- and have the right dating attitude. By doing this you will naturally attract great people into your life."

 

14. Resolution Revolution

1. Set January resolutions or three-month resolutions. When you give yourself an entire year, your brain thinks of this as a really long time and tends to want to let you off the hook. 'I will eat delicious healthy food in January' is much more likely to work than, 'I will eat healthy food this year'.

2. Watch the language you use. Negative or harsh words will cause you to turn away from them while uplifting vocabulary will make you feel good about achieving them. 'I am becoming healthy by breathing only clean air' is more likely to get the result than, 'no more cigarettes' even though you know in each case that no smoking is the resolution.

3. Be specific about the activities that your resolution will entail: 'I am enjoying working on my new business for one hour a day', works better than, 'Start my new business'.

4. Link your resolution to something that is important to you. If you love dancing then losing weight or saving money can be linked to the fact that you will enjoy dancing more and will have the money to go on, say, a dance holiday.

5. Log your progress daily. Having an accountability buddy, someone who will check in with you to find out about your progress, helps.

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