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Saturday, 1 January 2011

A Dozen Steps to a Good Start in 2011

Are you planning a new start in 2011?  Are you fed up with the way your life went in 2010?
It’s the easiest thing in the world to make resolutions, but do yours ever stick? 
It is possible to change your life for the better and to feel like you’ve made progress.  You can have a new you, but perhaps not in the way you might first imagine.
A session with a counsellor may help you a great deal with this as many people who see one have had their lives greatly improved by doing so.
I have put together a dozen steps to help you make 2011 more happy and fulfilling.
1.      To change, you have to accept the way you are today. You have to know and accept your limitations. Change can't be your partner’s idea, or your family’s suggestion.   Your motivation has to be behind it.
The famous counsellor Carl Rogers, whose ideas I use in my sessions said, “when I can accept myself just as I am, then I can begin to change.”  Many people have a continuous fight within themselves – for instance whether to eat more of a favourite food or start a diet.  Until they accept that they have found this hard in the past and will in the future, they will hold themselves back.  It is reasonable for each of us to work on ourselves and improve certain things, it is unreasonable for us to expect to change our personalities.  Big lifestyle changes may take years if indeed they are doable or wise at all.
This brings us nicely onto my second point...
2.      Set clear and realistic goals about what you want from 2011.  It’s unwise to decide that you are going to land the perfect job or partner, but it is reasonable to say that you are going to work towards it steadily and allow it to happen.  We all know that setting unrealistic resolutions results in feelings of failure.  Don’t do that this time!

Perhaps the initial goals could be more considered and counselling can help a great deal with that.  Part of a counsellor’s role is to act as either a guide or a facilitator in your struggles through life. Perhaps your perfect job is the one you are in already, or could be with a few small changes. As regards relationships, Tom Robbins said that “we waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love.”  If your present partner is a good one for you then why not seek to love him or her more?  A good partner will certainly give you the love back.

3.      Don’t try to change too many things at once.  Two or three (realistic) goals are better than ten, as you are more likely to achieve them.

4.      Be positive and have an optimistic outlook.  Dispel negativity from your life.  If there is someone who continually makes you feel bad about yourself cut down or stop the time you spend with them.
Anger needn’t be negative and can be a driving force, but needs to be channelled correctly. Counsellors can show you how to express your anger in such a way that something good comes of it.
5.      Set out to enjoy the year.  If you know that there are aspects of it that will you find hard then accept that, but turn your attention to what is likely to be good.  If you cannot see many good things on the horizon, then build them up slowly one day at a time. Expect and set out to have fun, peace and joy and then you are more likely to have it.
6.      Consider your physical health.  A healthy body will very often lead to a more contented  life.  What is your weak spot physically?  Do you avoid exercise or burn out on too much?  Do you binge eat or drink?  Is your diet unhealthy?  Do you want to quit smoking? 
It will be enough in one year to set one realistic aim about physical health.  Any more than that will likely lead to problems later.  Whatever you decide on as a goal, set about it at a gentle pace.  If you go at it like a bull at a gate, you will almost certainly fail.  In any case with most of the above matters, it may be enough to make improvements rather than 180 degree turns.  For instance if you currently drink 50 units of alcohol a week, attempting to stop completely is going to prove next to impossible, but to gradually reduce it to 20 is doable and very beneficial.
7.      Invest in quality relationships.  If there are people whose company you really enjoy – for whatever reason, then try to spend more time with them in 2011.  Life is short and we should make the most of it.  If someone brings you peace or joy, show appreciation for this and spend more time with them.  Relationships, not work, are the key to happiness, so work at them.  At the end of your life you will remember the golden moments you shared with special people, so aim to have many of them in 2011!
If your present friends aren’t up to much, then consider where you may meet better ones.  Do not expect them to come to you, you have to be proactive.
8.      Find a new challenge.  This might not be a radical departure, it might be doing something we already do slightly differently. It is never good to stay in our comfort zone.  Once we stop wanting to do new things or to do the things we love better then we may as well expect life to start going downhill.  The best option amongst many is not always obvious, but a counsellor can help clarify your thought processes.
9.      Don’t focus entirely on yourself this year, How about making a goal that is for the benefit of others?  It is well known that one of the best ways to improve our own sense of well-being is to help other people.  Especially if you are already well paid, why not consider giving some time or money to help others who could benefit in some way from your help?
10.  Don’t expect the whole year to go perfectly.  There will be setbacks.  That’s life.  Whatever the hardships are don’t focus on them.  Try to keep thankful for the good things that are in your life. The writer Goethe summed this philosophy up well when he said, “enjoy when you can, and endure when you must.”
11.  Plan your finances carefully.  Although money won’t make you happy, having some control over it will help you feel more relaxed about life.  If your finances are already in a mess, then be realistic about how you can start to change this.  If like most of us, they could be better, then ask whether you need to increases your income or cut your outgoings.  It is always vital to put a little money away for emergencies and some away for holidays.  Plan a nice break for yourself and make sure that you have it.  Looking forward to it will give you a sense of purpose in difficult days of the year.

12.  Finally, get started now. Procrastinating will not help as inertia just multiplies. Start in a small way and remember that the journey of a thousand mile starts with a single step.

David is a fully qualified and BACP registered Person Centred Counsellor.  You can book a session with him by ringing 01509 556623 or emailing him at

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