Just Do It

I’m sorry for being quiet on here of late – there was LFW, and then a crazily busy week, and then a couple of really exciting things happened which I’ll tell you about soon. But in the meantime, I felt like writing a post on something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. For those of you hoping the title means this post is about sex, you’ll be tragically mistaken. What I’m actually going to discuss is the extraordinary amount of people I know who aren’t happy with their lives, or who want to do something else, but just don’t do anything about it. They talk endlessly about their dreams, how much they hate their job/boss/colleagues,  constantly use the phrase ‘when I get my new job/my new place to live/some money/some free time’ etc but they never seem to move on.

Look, I’m not going to get all dewy-eyed and ‘Climb Every Mountain!’ about this, but really, now. Young people today, eh?! Obviously the job climate isn’t conducive to just leaving your job and pursuing your dreams, I understand that. But what’s wrong with putting a little bit of hard graft in during your spare time? We live in 2012, so much can be done remotely. I’m a bit sick of people telling me how ‘busy’ they are, when they actually clock off work before 6 and have whole weekends free.  See, right there! That’s heaps of time!

I suppose what I’m trying to get at here is the people who constantly blame circumstance or other people for not being able to do the things they want. I’m not being idealistic: of course, you’ll come up against problems. But you also need to look to yourself. I often have quite a few nice opportunities I like to pass on to friends or Twitter chums, purely because I think that if you can help someone get some valuable experience, you can get them to meet some potential contacts, and ultimately they can actually try out the thing they’re always saying they want to do. I had someone actually ask me to be involved with one of the days of London Fashion Week, only to cancel on me the very morning we were supposed to be working together, due to ‘busyness’. Look around. We’re ALL busy.

Maybe the reason I’m coming down so hard on all of this is because I used to be a dreamer. I’m still frequently quite shocked and proud of myself that I’ve done the things I said I was going to do. When I was younger, I was very much of the ‘talk about it LOADS then actually probably don’t do it’ school. I was full of ideas, some insane, and some which I actually could have done if I’d worked through it. These days, I’ve worked really hard to be reliable, trustworthy, and to actually finish the ideas I’ve started.

I’m not saying ‘go and quit your job this very morning and live your dreams! Sparkles and rainbows!’ No no no. I’m saying, hang on to your job, do things in your spare time. Yes, you do have spare time, by the way. If you keep saying you want to be a writer, start a blog. If you want to be a photographer…take some photos! Too many people think that there is a dream job that they’ll walk into and everything will be fine, and then they grow despondent when it doesn’t come along. You’ve got to work hard first, put in the extra effort and hours, and ultimately don’t turn down opportunities. Think about what you can do RIGHT NOW to start making your dreams happen. I bet you there are lots of things.

I’ve made a list of ideas that you can start with. Don’t expect things to happen overnight. Just over a year ago, I left my job in advertising with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do next. I’ve worked hard, put my heart into what I’ve done, and now things are really paying off (touch wood). More than anything, I’m very happy. I’ll be telling you more about what I’m up to very soon, but for now, here are some tips on pursuing your dreams, even if you’re currently working in a job you don’t want to be in:

1. Start with a list. Write down any abstract ideas about what you want to do, who you want to be, and any ideas you might have had. Don’t worry about making them too grounded in reality at this stage, the important point is to let your mind be a bit creative. Jot down any ideas that come into your head at first. Wait a day or two, then start to shape them into workable plans. Lists are your friends.

2. Don’t be afraid of hard work. This is a biggie. Not to get all ‘in my day!’ about it, but I see far too many other young people who just expect things to magically come to them, without any effort. This will not, I repeat, NOT happen. So best get cracking, ok?

3. Take every opportunity you think might help. As with the point above, you’ve got to put in the hard graft before things start happening for you. If you’re really serious about following your dreams, then yes, take every opportunity possible.

4. Engage with people. This is a huge one. Get to know as many people as possible – you never know who might be able to help you out. Be friendly, be interested, and be professional. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of people you admire and who might be doing the kind of job you want to do.

5. Be reliable. This is a huge one. I’m self-employed, so if I don’t get my work done on time for my clients, they can just walk away. Or walk away, refuse to work with me ever again, and I’ll start to get a reputation for being rubbish. But it’s not just with clients – learn to be reliable in every part of your life.

6. Keep positive. Things will go wrong on this journey. There have been times in the past year that I’ve been exhausted, stressed and unsure of where I’m going. I’ve kept going, and things have often sorted themselves out. Have faith. If it really isn’t working, you can always step away from it.

7. Manage expectations. In other words, don’t make promises you can’t fulfil, just to keep someone happy. Many times, I’ve been tempted to just say something I know I can’t do, just to avoid disappointing someone. Well, you’re only going to disappoint them more if you promise something and don’t come through. Be honest about what you can achieve and in what kind of time frame, and trust me, it’ll be much better than empty promises.

8. Be grateful, be gracious. Nobody owes you anything just for being you, ok? I am so thankful for all the amazing opportunities I’ve been given, and all the chances people have taken on me. I will never stop being grateful for that, no matter if I’m a multi-millionaire one day. Thank people for those opportunities and for having faith in you.  

9. Ultimately, just go for it. What have you got to lose? 

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Ten Things That Made My Life Better Last Week

Not the catchiest of titles, really, is it? But I thought because I’d spent the whole week being a complete and utter whingebag, feeling sorry for myself, and weeping in the corner because I felt too exhausted to move (still found the energy to cry though! Sweet as a nut!) I should get back to my cheery self with this post. Combined, all the below things made me feel about a million times better, so if you find yourself in a sticky spot, these are the things you need:

WARNING: Some of the below are a bit embarrassing.

  1. Friends: No, definitely not the TV show, which I hate with an intensity that almost scares me. My actual proper friends. People have been AMAZING this week, and I think you know who you are. People have gone out of their way to try and make me feel chirpier, and I really appreciate it. I didn’t need reminding about how brilliant my friends are, but I’ve been reminded anyway. Thank you all ever so much for picking up the pieces and seeing me through.
  2. Ukulele: Whenever life gets a bit rubs, I get my ukulele out. I find it very calming. Even though the one song I uploaded to Soundcloud was super duper depressing, I’ve secretly been playing Human League, Bellowhead, Ween, and also ‘Call Me Maybe’, which has its very own entry.
  3. Biscuits: Obviously. Don’t think I really need to explain this one too much, but biscuits and cakes were definitely a big saviour of the week.
  4. Adam & Joe: Should be prescribed on the NHS. Download their radio shows – I get them orft the interweb, which means I get full shows, so three hours of hilarious goodness. Their voices are weirdly reassuring, the content of the shows is absolutely top notch, and the music is 6Music brilliance. Definitely listen. It really does make things right with the world.
  5. Horrible Histories: Balm for the soul. Well, if it’s your kind of thing. I used to love the books as a child, and now that I’m a bit more grown up, I very much like the array of hot men in the show. Hot men who occasionally dress up as highwaymen and stuff. But let’s keep it clean! Great show, don’t let the CBBC aspect put you off. Yes, the comedy can be a little…elemental, but regular sketches include Historical Apprentice, Historical Masterchef, a movie pitch sketch featuring the League of Gentlemen chaps, and absolutely corking songs parodying all sorts of genres. Give it a try!
  6. Call Me Maybe: When life is sitting heavily on your shoulders, I strongly recommend meaningless pop songs. Shallow can be so good.
  7. Justin Timberlake’s ‘Justified’: It’s pretty obvious by now that music has played a big part in cheering me up. Justified came out when I was about 13/14, so perfect for that early teen phase where music just sticks in your head and means a huge amount. Such a great album, and it really made me happy to hear again the other day.
  8. Country walks: I live in the countryside, but I often don’t really notice it. I was lucky that some friends decided to sort me out this weekend. Saturday morning, I went for a lovely wander around the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells, and to an antiques fair in a church hall. I can’t begin to describe how reassuring I find that sort of thing. The musty smell, the dust particles swirling about in the light coming through the latticed windows, those particular blue cups and saucers than every church or town hall has. Sunday I went for a long walk across the fields in my home town with chums, children and dogs. You can see in the above photos the pair of lambs who decided to come over and say hi. When I got back from the walk, it felt like the weight of the world had lifted from my shoulders (please excuse the cliché.)
  9. Exercise: When I was feeling weak and pathetic, doing Pilates really helped me feel stronger and a bit more in charge of my poor, sad body. I attempted Tracy Anderson, but she’s the queen of the following aerobic sequences: jumpy jumpy turn turn twist star jump twist pirouette leap. Not marv when you’re a bit dizzy anyway. So I did Cassey Ho’s pilates sessions – look for ‘Blogilates’ on YouTube. And I lost 4lbs in a week! *Air punch*
  10. Pets: Finally, I recommend that you find a pet and spend some time with it. I have none, so I managed to chill with a cat on Saturday, two lovely dogs on Sunday, and also the lambs. It’s very soothing, and really helps to take your mind off things.

Kind, decent and thoughtful

Morning lovely readers!

So guess what? I’ve got my voice back! It’s very exciting. I’ve never lost it before, and let me tell you that it was absolutely horrible. I felt like I was trapped in my own body. I LOVE talking. I talk loads. My energy also completely sapped away, so I was just lying pathetically on the sofa like some sort of Victorian invalid maiden thing, wimping about the house and feeling sorry for myself. Suddenly everything seemed like a huge effort, and I actually ended up feeling so miserable and maudlin that I began to question everything in my life. Which was, you know…heaps of fun.

I’ve blogged a little lately about looking for a job, and it really hit home this weekend. I was trapped in the house for about 4 days, and I felt unbelievably lonely. Working from home is amazing in so many respects, but nothing measures up to actually being with other people; not for me, anyway. I love interacting with people. I miss having girly chats while making cups of coffee, and I miss flirting over the photocopier. I even miss the blooming photocopier, for goodness sake! So I started thinking about that, then I got all lonely and sad, and then I missed my friends and the fact I was too ill to see anyone, and THEN I got all sad about being single, because I really wanted someone to hold my hand.

It’s not really typical of me to feel down about things. Usually if something bad happens I bounce back extremely quickly – like the job rejection I got last week, I’d almost completely forgotten about it an hour later. I don’t have a great capacity for sadness (or maybe just a bad memory?!), but when I do get down, I get really quite blue. As a twenty something, things seem to be in flux. Career trajectory, relationships, friendships, appearance…nothing seems settled, as I’m sure is the case for many people. Usually I like it, but at the moment, I’ve had enough, and I’d like some stability please.

The fates conspired this week to remind me of a past relationship. I actually blogged about it before, around Christmas-time, which was when it ended. Suddenly I’ve been reminded of it lately, and it’s knocked me for six. I’ve been so lucky with relationships. Every boyfriend I’ve had has been interesting, kind, and cared about me. I’ve learnt something from each and every one, and I’m pleased to say that I’m a better person today because of them. All apart from one, that is. The last one. Gosh, that was a silly relationship. I’m writing this because I want to try and impart some wisdom about the whole thing, and I hope it might mean something to one of you.

I’ll tell you this now: if a relationship is hard work, then get out. Seriously. We’re in our twenties, there’s no need to enter into a difficult, troublesome relationship. Every other relationship I’d had before this had been so easy – just a matter of liking each other, then being together. The one thing that rang true for me in Caitlin Moran’s book was about a relationship which she said was a kind of ‘penance’. This was mine, my ‘punishment’ for years of easy, lovely romances. It wasn’t abusive, it wasn’t out and out horrible, it just messed me around so badly that my self confidence was completely shattered, and my nerves exhausted.

Around Christmas, about a week or so before I finally took steps to end it, I had a chat with my Uncle Chris – he of the ruby rings in chocolate puddings – and he gave me advice. He said: ‘Millie, it shouldn’t be difficult. It should be easy. If he cared about you he would just show it. He’d do things like bringing you your favourite sandwich, because he knew you liked it’. I listened, because Uncle Chris is a wise chap. I’d like to give you all that bit of wisdom. What’s the point in putting up with something that’s making you unhappy? Don’t be scared of being single. There is no reward for working hard at a relationship. Don’t settle for crumbs of affection when you should have…well, a whole sandwich, to go back to Uncle Chris’s advice.

It makes me sad to realise that I’m still suffering a bit from that relationship. After it ended, I didn’t cry once. I felt amazing. Maybe I should have cried – I’ve been holding on to a lot of pain, and I hadn’t even realised until the last week or so. I think it’s about time for me to let go, and to start caring for myself again. If you feel like me, I want you to do the same. Trust in your instinct; don’t stick with something you know isn’t right. As I’ve found, you can work unbelievably hard at something, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing to work at. Have courage.

All I’ve ever hoped for is someone decent, kind and thoughtful. And I’ve been lucky enough to experience that in large amounts, so I know it exists. I hope you all do too, even if you’ve had a bad experience or two. I look to my family, and I see so much love, so much respect. I blogged the other weekend about how moving I found it seeing my aunt and uncle so in love and supportive of each other after 40 years of marriage. Don’t be cynical, and don’t let anyone treat you in a way that you know isn’t right. ‘Respect’ sounds like an old fashioned concept, but it’s absolutely essential for any relationship to work, in my opinion.

Be decent, and people will treat you decently. And if they don’t, they’re definitely not worthy of your time. Keep your chin up, feel happy in yourself, and never let anyone bring you down. I did, but I refuse to let it happen for a minute longer. I’ve learnt enough about myself to know my own value, and I know that I deserve to be treated very well, and so do you, I promise. Don’t be afraid of change or the unknown, and don’t be afraid of being on your own. Let go of baggage, because what good is it clinging to bad memories? Only you can change the way you feel. Be proud of yourself and get to know your own worth, because it’ll make it a lot easier in future.

So there we go, a bit of an odd post for me, but I wanted to say it. I know I might have fairly old fashioned values, but I’m proud of that. Please, women – and men, too – care for yourself, and care for others. Ditch the bad eggs. Life is much too short to be with someone who doesn’t bring you your favourite sandwich, just because.

“Just be yourself”

Oh, what a horrible and utterly useless piece of advice that is, isn’t it? How ghastly, when preparing for a job interview or a date, to hear those words, that hackneyed and mostly meaningless phrase: ‘just be yourself’.

I used to hate hearing that. Be myself?! Be MYSELF? That’s TERRIBLE advice. How do I do that, exactly? Surely only the most idiotic and un-socially skilled amongst us only have one self. I’ve met very few people who have one ‘self’, and persist in maintaining that self through every walk of life. That’s one step away from being that person who goes ‘I’m just ME. I’m ME, alright? And if you don’t like it or you can’t handle it, then I DON’T CARE, because I’M ME’.

Ultimately, none of it made sense to me. I didn’t feel I had an essential self to fall back on. I was too locked in to various layers of social norms to trust in myself. I had manufactured myself too careful, as I’m sure we all do. Starting young, when you learn to behave differently in front of your friends than you to in front of teachers or parents, you begin to develop an extremely complex system of behaviour. Changes may be subtle: a slight lowering of the voice to imply seriousness (my friends at school knew and could imitate very well my ‘about to get told off by a teacher’ voice), or they may be extreme, a whole different way of dressing, or a different set of language.

But what is the self? Is there one, essential self? And these various guises are just that – a charade? Or does our ‘self’ exist in all the different incarnations we choose to perpetrate? I struggled with my ‘self’ largely because I am terribly easily influenced, and a magnificent imitator. I adapt very quickly to surroundings. My voice will change, I will speak on a variety of different topics, and I will dress differently. Every single person I know has a slightly different version of me presented to them. I’m sure this is the case for many of you.

This behaviour was particularly heightened in me because of my early experience with drama. I tended to blur into characters. I’d read a book or a play and – consciously or otherwise – mimic expressions, voice, looks. I didn’t necessarily do it to blend in, more to experiment with my identity. I believe that your teenage years should be built around trying out different identities. How can you ever be sure about something until you’ve given it a chance? My teens and university years were fantastic for entering this dressing room of identities.

I don’t mean to say that I swung wildly from one personality to another – I’m not deranged; but I did play around. I played at doing different things, being different things. It’s known as the self-schema: the projection of a different personality dependent on the situation you’re in. I played at being shallow, and rather enjoyed it. I was terribly, terribly serious during a lot of my teenage years, and it was nice to feel different. To feel free. And yet I struggled at times, because I’d…and bear with me on this one, but…I’d let my ‘self’ go. If you see what I mean. In the endless churning of being with different people, dating different boys, having different friends, I suddenly realised I didn’t actually have a clue who I was anymore.

I distinctly remember waking up one day and realising I had no idea what music I liked. One of my ex-chaps was hugely into clubby, dancey stuff, and I’d just listen to that. He used to ask me, persistently and slightly bemusedly: ‘but what do YOU like? What do YOU listen to?’ And I couldn’t answer. I didn’t even know. I’d learnt an awful lot at university, but I also managed to unlearn things as well. I believe it was all essential, though. I needed to let go. I needed to unpick everything I knew and rebuild it.

What I did was this. I developed a self. I began (again, mostly subconsciously) to cherry-pick the parts of my various selves that made the most sense to me. I made sure I read a lot, listened to a lot of music, and thought a lot too. I kept the blonde hair and more fun-loving side from my ‘vacuous years’, and combined it with the knowledge and intelligence from my teenage years. University was absolutely indispensible in the development of my ‘self’. These days, I am unbelievably comfortable with who I am. As I touched on my article about fashion, I’ve realised that interests don’t have to mutually exclusive.

It’s been a turning point. For the first time in my life, I know who I am, and I know what I want to be. I feel happy. I feel calm. I trust in myself. I am no longer covering up parts of my identity and projecting others. I’m no longer afraid to show my intellect, or in fact to justify myself for, say, thinking Barbie is ace. If it makes me happy, I do it, or read it, or listen to it, and I don’t really worry too much about what anyone thinks. That said, I will still NEVER be the person who says ‘I’m me, and if you don’t like it, screw you’, because I think that’s wildly impolite and bordering on sociopathic. No need to be unpleasant to people.

So the advice I have is this. Don’t just be yourself. Develop a self. Cultivate yourself. Have interests, and be interesting. Experiment. Don’t just languish away, never knowing whether you might secretly LOVE death metal, or roller-blading, or….knitting. Try EVERYTHING. Take every opportunity. Talk to people – so much of my own identity has been cemented by some amazing friends. Have a diverse group of friends and you can’t go wrong. Keep an open mind, keep learning things, and never just ‘settle’. The world is an unbelievably exciting place, don’t you want to get the most out of it that you can?

A note on not giving up, Part Two

Things started to look up in January. I can recall having just one moment where I experienced the highly unoriginal sentiment ‘life’s too short’, for the first time. I’d trekked into work, suffered a 40 minute bus journey where I’d stood up all the way, surrounded by screaming children, terrifying looking chavs, and people who looked like they’d given up on life. I then jumped on a train for the remainder of my journey, which was delayed Every. Single. Day. I got into work, late, for a day of being screamed at over the phone by people I’d never met. And then I realised. Life’s too short to make a daily three hour round trip to a job in a call centre that made me miserable. Life is TOO SHORT to not be doing what I want, and to not even try.

And from then on, it just sort of clicked in. I began to engage more with life. I moved on from the call centre, heard back from the job I wanted in advertising, and I began to blog more. I started setting myself blogging challenges, focussed around doing things for other people, or trying something new. I enrolled in Race for Life and started running. I started organising events and trying to see a lot more of my friends. Slowly but surely, things started to change.

The main difference was actually something incredibly easy to do. I mentioned it in my post on New Year’s Resolutions: just say yes. I began to say yes to things, to different opportunities, to invitations, and suddenly my world opened up. Instead of just planning things and never doing them, I made it my mission to just get up and do it. My friend India and I talked about going to Latitude festival. In previous years, I’d only have talked about it, ultimately being put off by the idea of not having a bath for four days, and I’d never have gone. Instead, we saved up, booked tickets, and it was one of the best things I did all year.

I made it a policy to try new things. I’d never run to fundraise before, and entering Race for Life was a fantastic experience. In previous years, it’d always been that thing that I ‘really ought to do’. It was always on my To Do list. I would say things like ‘yes, I really wanted to enter Race for Life this year, but I just didn’t get round to it’. In 2011, I got round to things. I sat down, enrolled myself (it took less than fifteen minutes), and set up a fundraising page. I found that the more I ‘just did’, the more things I wanted to do. I’d set up a precedent now, and I wasn’t going to let myself down.

The other wonderful thing I found was that one thing inevitably lead to another. Through Twitter, I found out about a fashion festival happening on the Pantiles. The woman organising it runs her own online fashion magazine, www.LadyMPresents.co.uk, and I volunteered myself to be in it. Not only did I have the insanely fun experience of walking in the fashion show, but because Lady M herself liked my (somewhat bizarre) outfits, she wanted to write a feature on me. Fast forward a month, and instead of writing a feature, she wanted me to write my own column. Then suddenly, I was going to London Fashion Week to cover some of the shows. I’m now a regular contributor, and it’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. I’d always dreamt of going to London Fashion Week, but never thought I’d get the chance. While I’m on the subject, I must thank Lady M for her unbelievable support – she’s a dream editor, and she’s made this past year so special.

I also started paying attention to my strengths and weaknesses, and applied my ‘life’s too short’ philosophy countless other times. The job I thought I’d wanted turned out to be incredibly wrong for me. I left with the goal of pursuing more creative pastimes, and so it was that a few months on, I began to design and make my own jewellery. Thanks to the support of friends and the extremely helpful videos you can find on YouTube, I’ve managed to design and build my own website (also thanks to Mikey for getting me out of a sticky spot), and I’ve never been happier.

Things have continued to happen – I became an ambassador for the Teenage Cancer Trust, which you’ll be hearing a lot more about in the New Year, and I’ve just got another ‘post’ doing PR, communications and general Girl Friday-ing for a fantastic local artist. A year which started with me working in a call centre is ending a million miles away. I’m excited about life again, I’m enjoying myself, and I’ve never worked so hard in my life.

But, look. This blog isn’t about showing off about my endeavours (well, not completely, anyway.) I wanted to use my own example as a tool, to show you that you shouldn’t give up. I know I wasn’t exactly in the gutter before, but I had no idea what I wanted from life. I was just coasting by, not really engaging with anything, feeling miserable. If you saw yourself in this blog, then don’t worry. Things can and will change. Just remember the following:

  1. Don’t ignore opportunities – you never know what they could lead to.
  2. Say yes to everything
  3. …Within reason – don’t be a doormat…
  4. Be an interesting person – cultivate your own interests. The arts, sports, books. Whatever it is, tap into your interest and find a way to pursue it. In many cases, you can do that for free.
  5. Use social media – Twitter and blogging, you never know what you’ll come across.
  6. Just get out – what good is sitting along in your room? Simply getting out and doing something can work wonders.
  7. Don’t give up – if you don’t feel things are going right for you at the moment, keep going. If you have the right attitude, you can make things happen.

Thanks for reading, chaps. It’s been a pretty self-involved post, and I apologise for that. But if you get your own blog, you too can be marvellously self-obsessed.

Lots of love and a Happy New Year,

Amelia xx

Resolutions

I’ll start with a confession. I love New Year’s Resolutions. I start thinking about them back in November, and by the time this post-Christmas week rolls around, I’m absolutely dying for the New Year to start. Perhaps it’s also because my birthday is quite early in the year, in January, so it feels like a really fresh start.

In 2010, I couldn’t wait to shake off the old year, and it wasn’t just me. I remember sitting around with friends, and discussing how and why 2010 had been such a thoroughly appalling year all round. We deigned that 2011 was going to be ‘the year of getting what you deserve’ (for better or worse, I suppose!) Anywho, it really did work out that way. I finally got moving career wise, but more than anything, I actually managed to keep some semblance of my New Year’s Resolutions.

Despite my aforementioned lusting about them, I have frequently started out the year hepped up on lists and promises, running full force at a variety of ridiculous new hobbies, and burning myself out by March. Come March, my beautifully written, hopeful lists have crumbled to dust, my workout gear is rapidly getting eaten up by moths, and I’m teetering on bankruptcy due to all the ludicrous implements I’ve had to invest in for my new hobbies.

Back to the point. Last year was actually infinitely better, for just one good reason. I didn’t set myself ‘negative resolutions’. What I mean by that is, I didn’t have a single resolution that went along the lines of ‘Never, and I mean NEVER, eat biscuits’. They were all positive things, like ‘go to a music festival’. At the end of 2011, I found that I’d managed to keep a regular blog, throw a Royal Wedding party, go to my first concert (lame, but I’d always thought I’d rather just buy the CD and spend money on a proper night out…), go to my first festival (ALRIGHT, so I’m pathetic!), get my first ‘grown-up’ job, walk in a catwalk show, go to London Fashion Week, run Race For Life, become a regular contributor to an online fashion magazine, start my own business and become an ambassador for an amazing charity, amongst other things.

It worked because I started looking outwards. I also set myself goals about trying to think more about other people. One of the first challenges I set myself was making a copy of a jacket I owned that my little second cousin had taken a shine too, and that was probably one of my favourite things of the last year. I made it back in January, but she still wears it now! Too often, our Resolutions are all selfish, and often unreasonable: get thinner, get whiter teeth, go for a five hour run every morning, go from being single to married in twelve months, buy an amazing car, etc. I didn’t do any of those last year, I just set myself challenges, the most important of which was the following: to take every opportunity I could see.

If you keep your eyes open, you can change your life without even putting in a huge amount of effort. I’m a huge advocate of Twitter, and many of the positive things that have happened in the past year have been because I spotted an opportunity on Twitter, and took it. I even found my most recent job through The Mighty Twit. Do you know what? Life is just too short to keep holding yourself back. It’s a cliché, it’s all a cliché, but thinking like this worked for me. If you are holding yourself back, why? What are you scared of? Have no regrets, take every chance, just GO FOR IT.

I know it’s all sounding terribly naff and self-helpy. But 2011 has been a completely fantastic, different year for me than 2010, and so much of that has been due to my more positive state of mind. The world is absolutely full of possibilities, and you owe it to yourself to at least try. Whatever it is that’s holding you back, be it the fact that you only eat Super Noodles, or that you hate public transport, or that you’re in a rubbish relationship, just fix it and move on. Once you’re cleared the clutter from your life, you can focus on starting to achieve whatever it is you’ve always wanted.

Here are my suggestions for when you’re drawing up your Resolutions:

  1. Make it achievable – you’ve got to walk the line between aspiration and practicality. Keep it something that’s in your capabilities, for now. Remember, there’s always next year!
  2. Keep it positive – as I said, stick to challenges as opposed to huge lifestyle changes that you’ll never maintain.
  3. The more you try, the more good will come your way – things tend to feed into each other. You might be surprised as to what happens when you start making small changes.
  4. Put it on paper – if you’re writing a list, make it attractive, and put it on your wall, not just languishing in some mouldy old notebook.
  5. Don’t keep looking inwards – by all means, if you want to lose weight, go for it. But make sure you keep things balanced.
  6. Just say yes – the easiest way to make a change is to just start saying yes. Whether it’s event invitations, or giving someone a helping hand, just saying yes puts you on a good path. Keep it within reason though, don’t be the person who can’t ever say ‘no’…
  7. Pace yourself – trying to tick off everything on your list by the end of January is insanity. Try setting a new challenge at the beginning of each month, and you’ll keep your year interesting.
  8. Don’t join the gym…yet – ah, the classic resolution. Seriously, don’t kick off your year by outlaying huge amounts to the local fitness emporium. If you really are looking to shape up, start out by getting free workouts from YouTube. If, two months down the line, you want more, THEN join the gym.
  9. Small changes can be the most effective – if you don’t fancy a huge overhaul, keep it small. I’m taking this tip from one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever known: every time we’d go out to eat, he’d always have something different to eat. In fact, he would generally always try something new. Stop sticking to what you know. Adrian, I’m sending you a link to this post, because I want you to know I still remember your unique approach to life!
  10. Keep a blog – and finally, write it down. A blog is the perfect way to keep a record of what you’re up to. When you’re flagging, you can look back over the year and see all the different things you’ve done. I can’t recommend it enough.

So there we are, ladles and jellyspoons. I hope I’ve given you a bit of food for thought. Don’t be daunted by the new year, and don’t make the same mistakes you did last time. Be excited by life, be inspired, and be positive. You won’t have any regrets, I promise.

Whether you make the biggest change of your life in 2012, or you keep it small, good luck. You can do it!

Lots of love,

Amelia xx