It’s a brand new year. An ideal opportunity to set new goals and plan ahead for exciting new projects.
But if last year was a challenging, or even distressing one for you, you might feel yourself teetering towards a new turning point in your life.
Almost like coming to a crossroads.
I actually think it’s a little scary when you reach a crossroads in your life. Unchartered territory stretched out before you.
Which path will you take?
There’s that fleeting moment, or two, when you run through little scenarios in your mind.
When you worry about taking the wrong path.
Worry about screwing it all up.
Not being able to make things right again afterwards.
And then having to explain it all away, when you’ve got egg on your face and feel a complete and utter idiot.
All so emotionally draining.
I remember that feeling only too well, back in 2005.
I was a couple of months into my maternity leave, having just had my second child, when one day I picked up a call from a colleague.
Had I heard the news? We were all in for the chop!
The whole department – considered a boutique and surplus to requirements – was going to be disbanded.
I went from looking forward to ‘a little time off’ to bond with my new born, secure in the knowledge that I’d return to my cushy little marketing job, to wondering where on earth I’d filed the latest copy of my resumé.
Where would I find work now? Would I have to take a pay cut? How would I afford the nursery fees?
Sudden and unexpected change, can be momentarily disorienting.
But as scary as it can be, you can start embracing change and even learn to enjoy it.
Small steps in the right direction
I think it’s important to realise that when you venture out into a new direction, the answers don’t have to come to you all at once.
“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” Old Chinese Proverb
I love that proverb.
To me, the ‘right direction’ doesn’t necessarily mean a definite destination point. It can simply mean the right decision for you at that moment in time.
There doesn’t even have to be a right or wrong answer, you can enjoy the process of learning, uncovering and discovering along the way.
When I finally decided that redundancy could be a blessing in disguise and to give self-employment a go, I identified what I thought were my most transferrable skills at the time – writing, presentation design, marketing, people skills, to name just a few.
But for a long time afterwards, I honestly didn’t know what to do with them or how best to use them – much less make money with them.
It was a process of taking lots of little steps and following my inkling – testing things out, giving it a go, poking around forums, asking questions, networking, learning new skills on the fly, adapting them, honing them.
I’ve ended up with a business that bears little resemblance to the one I started out with.
But that’s okay.
I’ve learnt so much along the way, and able to serve others far better because of it.
When you tell yourself you’ll take it one small step at a time, there’s no pressure to ‘succeed’.
Make that first step a trip to your local bookshop to treat yourself to a beautiful journal.
The second step, an afternoon to yourself where you can explore your thoughts and jot down some ideas. Not plans. Just ideas. Dig out some magazines, newspaper cuttings, watch a movie – anything that helps to lift your mood and inspire you.
Give yourself time. You’ll get there.
Don’t write off mistakes as a #fail
We’re made to feel uncomfortable with the idea of failure, and so we try to avoid making mistakes at all costs.
But Tim Harford, in his new book ‘Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with a Failure”, argues a strong case for leveraging trial and error to better equip us for success.
In fact, he believes that we need failure in order to succeed.
“Accepting trial and error means accepting error. It means taking problems in our stride when a decision doesn’t work out, whether through luck or misjudgment. And that is not something human brains seem to be able to do without a struggle.”
There are well document examples of the world’s most successful people who have failed, at times more than once.
So failure needn’t be something to be ashamed of at all.
It’s what you choose to do afterwards – or perhaps in spite of it – that counts.
It could lead to something remarkable.
Draw upon others for help and support
It’s not a sign of weakness if you recognise that you need support with where you want to be in life.
There are many situations in everyday life where we readily accept that we need an expert’s help or opinion – from the mundane (a plumber) to something far more serious (our GP).
Yet when it comes to a crisis in our personal life, our place of employment or our business, we battle alone valiantly, because we feel we should be able to cope.
Who can you call upon for help, to support you, to gee you up when you feel you’re flagging, to hold you accountable when you want to achieve something specific.
Whether it’s a friend, mentor or coach, it can be so reassuring to know that you have someone there by your side, who wants you to be the very best you can be.
Make the most out of this year before you.
It CAN be your year.
It can be a wonderful year.
Mary Cummings is an entrepreneur, business mentor, coach and founder of Mary Cummings Services dedicated to helping people create work that they love – whether it’s starting a business from scratch or monetising a hobby – her aim is to help them do it successfully and profitably.