I’ve waited a whole month to start writing this blog post. Unlike my usual rash self, I’ve been very patient in wanting to reflect how my January panned out. Normally, I can’t bear to give the month of gloom a second more of my thoughts and welcome February with a big warm bear hug and outlook brimming with optimism.
January 2017, however, has been different. A close family member who experienced an extremely tough later half of 2016 and who is in the deep process of repairing himself, kindly bought myself and Alex a copy of ‘The Life Plan’ by Australian life coach Shannon Kennedy. He explained it’s really shaped his view about the life he was living and the life he wants to achieve. And of course, the tricky part in between of how one can achieve such life.
So as you know, myself and Alex broke all retail rules between Christmas and New Year and closed our store for a blissful 13 days. Naturally, this allowed a good few lazy days of long lie-ins, afternoon (and evening) cheese boards, winter walks, watching pretty much EVERTHING on Netflix and making our way through a stack of Christmas books.
One quiet mid-week afternoon, feeling a little housey, I took myself off to my favourite coffee shop armed with The Life Plan, diary, notebook and an assortment of pens. I actually ended up finishing the entire book (as well as running up a substantial coffee bill) so to say it is a page turner would be a bit of an understatement ! However this isn’t a book just for reading, each chapter has tasks and exercises to complete and just like some ongoing family tree each part is connected. So over this last month, I’ve dedicated two mornings per week when it’s wonderfully silent before anyone else is up in my house, to sit contently for an hour or so and go through each section in meticulous detail.
There’s not enough time or words in a blog post to cover everything I have learnt these last 4 weeks and of course what I take from this book will be entirely different from what another person may feel. It would also be kind of wrong to spoil all of Shannon’s hard work, buy a copy for yourself it’s very easy to follow and the imagery she has used to accompany each section is beautifully styled and so inspirational.
So to summarise, I’ve decided to talk about realising what my 3 life values are and how I’m trying to incorporate them into my daily life. Essentially these 3 values will influence every decision I make, how I spend my time and most importantly live the life I want to.
- To spend more quality time with my family and friends.
- To improve my health both physically and mentally.
- To feel a sense of daily achievement.
The changes I’ve aimed to make …
To spend more quality time with my family and friends.
Christmas was a good time to declutter my dining room . It’s the first room you walk into when your enter my house and therefore the most untidy - coats slung on the back of chairs, a forever pile of washing drying on the clothes horse and radiator, keys, loose change, receipts and the odd MAC lipstick scattered on the dinning table plus about 15 cardboard boxes of Object stock that has somehow over-flowed from the shop. It was not a room I wanted to spend any time in. This year, Alex and I hosted Christmas dinner (successfully I might add) and completely blitzed the space real for our guests. Once I could see how lovely this room actually was, I vowed to start treating it with some more love and respect and enjoying home cooked at the table instead of lazy lap dinners. I’ve also banned phones, laptops and TV from meal times so we can engage in talking without any distractions. Why should good conversation be saved for outside of your four walls ?
January as we all know certainly pinches at your purse strings and pay day seems light years away ! Me and my friends made a pact over Christmas to spend our time better together that didn’t always end up peering down the hole of another empty wine bottle. Emphasis on the NOT ALWAYS. So we’ve all put together a list of different activities we’d like to do that aren’t too costly, offer versatility and newness. We’ve ticked a few of these off the list in January already and can’t wait to cross off the others later in the year.
- Do the underground tour of Manchester.
- Experience a pop up supper club in a strangers home or make-shift restaurant.
- Sign up to a half marathon - look out for me and my bestie looking like radishes as we pound the pavements at The Great Manchester Run !
- Keep up to date with monthly exhibitions in and around the city - We saw ‘Strange and Familiar’ at Manchester Art Gallery last Saturday, it’s a fantastic insight into how foreign photographers saw Britain from 1930 to present day.
- Watch more theatre - I saw ‘Sweet Charity’ last Saturday at The Royal Exchange and it was great !
- Try a bread making class.
- Host quarterly dinner parties at each of our homes.
To improve my health both physically and mentally.
1. I’ve previously written a blog post about my inability to switch off and feeling over connected. On New Years Day, I decided to delete my personal Facebook account from my phone, turn off my Instagram notifications and remove my business email from my iPad and mobile. I’ve really made up my mind that I work damn hard at what I do and therefore the time when I’m not working is extremely precious, so why should I wasting it repeatedly checking my email and nosing at someone’s cat who I used to go to school with ?
2. I’ve been saying for months that I wanted to take up a hobby as a creative outlet that had no connection to my work life. My very thoughtful and open-eared husband, kindly surprised me this Christmas with a 6 week ceramics course at Clay studio in Hulme, Manchester. He purposely booked me on the Thursday morning session, so Thursday could be my day off and I could have 8 whole hours to spend exactly how wanted. Now, 3 weeks into the clay course it’s quite obvious to me and the extremely patient course tutor that I am entirely hopeless at making and what I will end up producing will look like it has been made a small child ! But that isn’t the point. For those 2 hours, I take great pleasure in I aimlessly massaging squishy clumps of clay into “organic” shaped objects and talk to the group members about what they’ve been up to all week. There’s not a flashing iPhone screen in sight and it’s bloody marvellous !
3. Now, I wouldn’t say I have the appetite of a horse, I do tend to more of a grazer. I can’t open the fridge to get the milk out for a cuppa with gnawing the corner of the cheddar (sometimes without a knife) - please do not judge me. And because of my nibbling habits that I have no intention of giving up, I have to sweat. So this January I quit my gym. I’m fully aware that follow on sentence makes absolutely no sense, so reader please bare with me. I’ve been a gym member for around 6 years and for probably 5 years and 11 months of that time, I’ve absolutely dreaded going. I’ve still attended, squatted through gritted teeth, swore my way through spin and I still have no idea how the majority of gym machines work. Something needed to change, so around October time I attended a few drop in classes at One Yoga studio in Chorlton, trying and testing lots of different types of yogas before I found a practice I enjoyed. Before I went to specialist yoga studio, I made the naive presumption that yoga was a gentle form of excercise with lots of calm breathing and I probably wouldn’t form a bead of sweat. How wrong I was ! Since December, I’ve invested in fortnightly Astanga 1-2-1 sessions that have really boosted my confidence (I’ve NEVER been au fait with headstands, I’m still not but slowly getting there), vastly improved my technique and most of all I’ve mastered the ujjayi breath ! I’ve joined as a member and have committed to 2/3 classes per week too.
To feel a sense of daily achievement.
Perhaps my biggest aim of 2017, to celebrate the small things, however small they may be. Here’s some of my mini fist-punching moments from January.
- Filing my tax return 2 weeks earlier than due date instead of leaving it to the night before, exhausting myself and being in a foul mood for the next few days that follow.
- Quite possibly the most mundane sentence I’ve ever wrote but ironing my clothes the night before work.
3. Running 5km without stopping for walk breaks.
4. Achieving perfect poached eggs on toast.
5. Not over-committing myself to social plans, weekly I’m trying to have a evening for seeing friends, a date night with my husband and an evening completely to myself.
6. Publishing one blog per month.
7. Again, another mundane sentence, apologies reader but cleaning my kitchen after cooking food and not waking up to a pile of dirty dishes really is a wonderful thing for my sanity.
8. Staying for the meditation part at the end of my yoga classes and thinking of nothing for 5 whole minutes. Usually, I'd rush off, whisper an apology for nearly treading on someone's head and desperately not try to make a sound whilst putting away my mat and blocks.
And finally, whilst this blog post might read like my January has been complete paradise, of course it hasn’t. Sometimes things are just out of your control and in just a few minutes you can feel your temper go from zero to 50 and before you know it, you’ve lost hours feeling stressed, over-whelmed and exhausted. Thinking back to reading the The Life Plan, 3 standout quotes have become my mantra throughout January when I’ve been faced with a difficult situation that’s sprung out of nowhere.
The Magic Words
Will this decision matter in 5 years time ?
Note to self, think before exploding.
We are only as busy with the things we say yes to.
Note to self, do not spread my time thinly.
Simplicity represents clarity, presence and freedom from effort.
Note to self, living simply isn’t as easy at it seems, persevere, prioritise and think about what really matters.
I can’t say I’ve been entirely calm with each stressful scenario January has thrown my way but I do know I haven’t wasted ALL my time and energy feeling annoyed and emotional. I hope your January hasn’t been all that bleak and if it has, please do give The Life Plan a try. I promise it’s worth ten times more than any glass of wine, miracle moisturiser or expensive handbag because your own happiness starts before any of those things.