New Year “What Ifs” Part 2

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This is the second post in a three part series where I suggest various “what ifs” for the new year instead of typical advice about making resolutions.

Read Part 1

Part 2 contains some bigger, more challenging ideas about what you could possibly do during 2013 – and it just so happens that the first three are things which I did during 2012, so this is partly an annual review for me also.

What if.. you ditched the day job?

I’ve now been self-employed for 11 months. Honestly, I still feel a bit like I’m driving on a unfamiliar country road at night with only headlights to show the way (an analogy I read recently but can’t remember where!), but I do feel like I’m getting gradually closer to my goal of getting paid to do meaningful work that I’m passionate about.

I’m so grateful that I received enough redundancy/severance pay to keep me going whilst I tried out various ways of making cash as a freelancer. I’m not sure I would have lasted this long otherwise.

If you’re thinking of doing the same, please be prepared, be ready and don’t expect it to be easy. Was it worth it? Yes. But don’t expect miracles in the first year unless you have a very good client base and business plan. Allow time for emotional and physical recovery, especially if you’ve had a tough time of it at your job or been unhappy in your work for several years. And allow time for celebration and enjoyment too!

Below is a summary of Season 1 of the Ditch the Day Job Diaries, in case you missed it. To access all 14 episodes, you can subscribe to the newsletter.

What if.. you gave up drinking?

As regular readers will know, I gave up drinking on 1st October 2012 in order to raise money for Charity:Water and to experience a ‘Year of Clarity’. I was delighted to raise more than double my original target thanks to some extremely generous friends, family and readers of this blog. A massive thank you again if you were one of the people who contributed!

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy a drink, getting drunk is great fun, but for me it was beginning to have more downsides than upsides, and I wanted to see how things would be without it.

It’s now been 3 months, and whilst my social life has been pretty quiet because I’ve felt less inclined to go out,  I’m enjoying the novelty of being sober. I won’t pretend I feel great every day, but it has meant I’ve done more exercise and been a little more organised (though I still have a long way to go!). New Year’s Eve was the only time I’ve really missed having a wee drink.

What if.. you took up meditation?

I’ve now done 48 days of meditation using the Headspace programme and I’m really seeing the benefits in terms of how much more ‘clear-minded’ and generally better it makes me feel – I highly recommend it. This is something I don’t think I could have done if I was still drinking regularly.

What if.. you gave yourself until February to put your New Year’s goals into action?

December is a busy month, and the New Year can creep up on us, meaning we barely have time to catch a breath before the 1st of January, never mind deciding how we’re going to live for the next 12 months. During this podcast I recorded with Fabian Kruse of the Friendly Anarchist, he suggests waiting until the beginning of February before even trying to start a new schedule.

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That suits me this year especially, because I left my job at the beginning of February 2012, so my first year of freelancing isn’t strictly over for another month. That buys me some time to catch up.

Our mutual friend Michael Nobbs over at Sustainably Creative has also decided to take this approach, and is inviting people to join him in ‘a month of reflection and planning’ during January.

Giving yourself some space and time for planning is a great way of taking the pressure off. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed right now, I’d advise you to try it, and I guarantee you will feel a sense of relief at not having to change your entire life all at once!

And you might even find, by taking the pressure off, you actually achieve more of what’s really important.

I’ll be back with the final part of this series tomorrow, in the meantime, I’d love it if you shared your achievements during 2012 in the comments.

What are you most proud of from the last 12 months and do you have any major goals for 2013?

Headspace

It’s a No-Brainer: Headspace is the Easiest Way to Start Meditating

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Meditation. What does that word mean to you?

To some it will be a bit too airy fairy, and only something for hippies or weirdos. Or you might have heard a lot about it, but are unsure how to even go about getting started.

Well if you’re willing to look past your preconceptions or fears around meditation, you might want to try Headspace’s free Take Ten programme, which offers ten guided meditations lasting ten minutes.

Headspace takes a very modern approach, using great web and mobile design to help people establish a daily meditation habit. Each day you are guided through the process by Andy Puddicombe. Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk, so he knows his stuff!

Update: I’ve now completed the full Headspace program. I speak a little bit more about it, and the differences between mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation in this podcast:

Why is Meditation Useful for Creative People?

I’m sure a lot of people reading this are attracted to the idea of taking some time out of their day in order to calm their mind. After all, with all the ideas and thoughts floating around our minds, us creative types probably need it more than most.

In fact, given the title of this blog, it’s perhaps surprising that I haven’t discussed meditation in depth before now.

The fact is that both anecdotal and scientific evidence have shown that there are widespread benefits to meditating regularly. I’m already feeling the benefits! The Headspace site has loads more info on this.

Why now?

You might want to try it now in order to help calm your mind at a busy and often stressful time of year. Or you may want to start doing it in the New Year. Thankfully, 10 minutes a day for 10 days is very manageable.

The truth is that whilst I’ve tried different meditation techniques in the past, I’ve never made it a regular habit.

And having given up drinking alcohol for what I’m calling ‘a Year of Clarity’ it made sense to try and establish a new, positive habit of meditating to take advantage of those mornings without a hangover.

Here are some of the positives and a few drawbacks of the Headspace approach. Bear in mind that the main Headspace programme takes a full year and there is a charge for it, so this free programme is obviously designed to get you to sign up to the full programme. However whilst you need to sign up with an email address, there is no charge for Take Ten itself.

Headspace phonePositives

  • Beautiful and useful design of both the website and mobile apps.
  • Very well designed apps for both iPhone and Android mean if you have a smartphone, you can access the Take Ten programme for free anywhere with a 3G connection.
  • The Take Ten programme is an extremely simple ‘taster’. Each meditation is guided so you can’t really go wrong.
  • It’s free!
  • You can set up reminders in the app so that you don’t forget to take part
  • There are videos which help you to approach the meditation including the best way to sit, and the best time to do the practice. Puddecombe suggests first thing in the morning, and I’ve found that repeating it a second time each day works really well.
I only found a few, very minor niggles about the Headspace system. Nothing’s perfect, after all and I’m sure these are things they could improve in future.

Negatives

  • You need to give your email address and you will be sent about 3 emails prompting you to sign up to the full programme. I would have preferred to only receive one email at the end, but perhaps the repetition helps people remember and you do get offered a decent discount on the normal annual fee which helps. The ‘from’ field in the email also says ‘lapsed’ which was a bit off-putting.
  • On one of the days there was some downtime on the Headspace server, meaning I couldn’t access the meditation recording on the phone app. However this does seem to be a rare occurrence as I have now signed up to the full year and done 10 more days without any problems.
  • There are videos in the app, but annoyingly they can’t be watched in landscape mode on my iPhone so they are very small. Apart from this, the app is very well designed, but this does irritate me every time a video pops up (some of the recordings have an additional video intro from Andy).

If you do sign up for the full year, you’ll get guided meditations for every single day of that year, which go through a number of different themes. The first programme once you sign up is Take Fifteen. Things do gradually become a little more complex as the days go by, but it’s manageable so far. Also by the end of the year you will have received guidance on how to meditate on your own.

Of course you could just as easily learn how to meditate from someone you know who is already doing it, or from a book, but I love the Headspace approach because it is making establishing a daily habit extremely easy and pleasurable. As the title of this review suggests, as far as I’m concerned, signing up was a no-brainer.

Here’s a good intro video if you want to find out a bit more.

Sign up here: www.getsomeheadspace.com

Let me know in the comments if you are going to try the Take Ten programme. Or, if you already meditate, let us know what benefits you’ve experienced from your practice.

If you found this post useful, you might also enjoy my free ebook ‘Refresh Your Mindset’ which is available free when you subscribe. (You can read an extract here).