By Ferg McLean
Good advice isn't always easy to swallow, nor is it easy to act upon. I can personally attest to this as it is something I have struggled to implement this past year. The hope and excitement of my relocation from London to Melbourne in 2013 was, unfortunately, short lived. The sudden illness and subsequent loss of my father last year was heart-wrenching and saw me constantly back & forth between London & Melbourne. Apart from the company of my fiancé, I hadn’t had the chance to make many friends of my own here in Australia. By the end of 2014 I found myself in a pit of sorrow; I became a shadow of my former self, too sad and tired to leave the house.
However, of all the advice I received, there was one piece that despite my initial groan and rolling of the eyes, turned out to be worth its weight in gold. My fiancé finally managed to snap me out of my self-indulgent wallowing, with a tough love approach: “You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and get out there! Try new things". I knew he was right but the thought of ‘getting out there’ on my own was terrifying.
You see the idea of joining a new class, of walking into a room (assuming I would find the building, let alone the room) and being greeted by a sea of unfamiliar faces staring at me, made me shudder. Instantly I would rattle off a list of excuses as to why I couldn’t possibly go.
Frustration at this notion of frailty I had embodied soon followed. I became angry at whom I had become; it was a vicious cycle. But the seed of change had been planted – I now wanted to try new things, in spite of my fears.
So how did I do it? I tricked myself.
Sounds ridiculous, I know. But you see the mind loves routine, it feels safe there; it has very little work to do as you go about your day, doing the same things; you are functioning on autopilot. After hearing this advice almost every day I knew it was time to do something about it. I decided to shake it up a little - to be impulsive. What started with spontaneous small changes to my daily routine became the catalyst for change that I needed to climb out of that hole.
If you ever find yourself wanting to make changes but don’t know where to start, here are some of my tips and ideas that worked for me:
- Try a new coffee shop for your morning latte. Whilst you wait for your coffee, look for the café notice board or at any flyers/leaflets usually left near the counter. You never know what might catch your eye.
- On your way back from the supermarket/bank/work etc. if you pass a shop you have never been into before, pull over and take a look! Ok this is not necessarily purse friendly but it could be the start of a new hobby or interest.
- Start saying hello to strangers – wave to your neighbour or say hi to the old man that walks his dog past your house every morning; it could be the start of a life-long friendship. Plus you never know when you might need a cup of sugar!
- Find out if there is a local community centre near you that facilitates classes or events. This is how I found a local circus training class for women only and I tell you, it saved my life. Being local to me meant I couldn’t tell myself it was too far away and talk myself out of going.
- Join an online community in an area of your interest – such as Blog Society! If you have an event or a place you want to check out but have no one to go with, throw yourself out there and ask online to see if anyone else is interested in going with you.
- If you like books, ask your local bookstore if they have a book club – at least you know your way to the bookshop and it won’t be so daunting. And on that note of finding places….
- When going somewhere new, go for a ‘recce tour’ or exploratory trip first: Go to the place to familiarise yourself with its location and scope out how to get into the building - it’s embarrassing and off-putting when you can’t get in through a door because of some obscure buzzer system! Watch other people going in and out – in a non-creepy way preferably. Then when it is time to go back there for your class or appointment, you will feel so much more confident.
- Volunteer for the day – you’ll meet lots of new people that are just as nervous as you! Look online for volunteering opportunities or try your local community centre that might need support and participation in local events.
- Finally, continue to spontaneously break your routine as much as possible – Get lost on purpose and find a new route home, drive to a new town to have your Saturday Brunch or find a course/seminar that interests you and book it in! It’s harder to pull out of something when you have a booking in place.
The key is not to think about it too much; otherwise you will talk yourself out of going. Once you have tried just one of these things on the list above, you will instantly feel empowered and confident to push your boundaries further. Remember: start small and work your way up. But if you are feeling daring and impulsive act quickly and throw yourself right in at the deep end. Either way you are doing something to make a change and to that I say Bravo!