Hopefully, one or two of you out there have actually had surprisingly good 2016s. It is largely being billed as one of the worst years in memory, what with all the deaths of beloved celebrities, Trump, Brexit, the ongoing civil-war re-enactment that is the Labour Party, Trump, terrorist attacks, TRUMP, atrocities in Syria, DONALD SODDING TRUMP JESUS CHRIST ALMIGHTY and so on. We’ll be seeing the consequences of Brexit and Trump next year, which is of course deeply worrying, but FEAR NOT. Despite the world looking a slightly scary place at the moment, the wheels are not going to fall off anytime soon and one can still find the time to make their personal year as strong as possible. 2017 is a new year, which means New Year’s Resolutions can be made to be immediately broken. As such, I want to humbly provide some suggestions as to what you could aim to achieve in the New Year – if your goal is something more personal to you like losing weight, quitting smoking or trying to keep your frankly alarming levels of armpit hair more in check (guilty), then best of luck to you, though you might still gain some inspiration from the below.
1) Listen More
We all know how hard it is being in your twenties at the moment – countless sympathetic voices are constantly on the radio or in the papers talking about how hard our generation has it compared to theirs. Small salaries, long working hours and unparalleled competition in the workplace means that the priorities of the Millennial appear to be about getting ahead and striving to be the best that you can be. However, getting caught up in the whirlwind of professional life can be extremely detrimental, as taking the time to learn things other than your expected tasks and actions is vital to improving yourself as an employee, a candidate for other roles, and indeed a better person.
When I first started in advertising I tried to go to at least one presentation from a client, partner, or industry leader a week to broaden my knowledge of the industry. However, as I understood my role better I realised that none of these talks were making me any better at my job, so I stopped going to them. This was such an error, as these meetings give you a much broader understanding of the industry, which you will need as you progress to become a manager or a director. Taking the time to listen to the advice and experience of your superiors or peers is vital to ensuring you develop broadly as well as within your role.
Additionally, try to seek out those people that you know are going to argue against your opinion and then argue your case back. Much of the problem with Trump and Brexit is that confirmation bias, brought about by constant, readily-available news sources (of varying degrees of truthfulness), made people feel vindicated in their decisions without ever stopping to consider the other side’s case. Even if it’s just playing devil’s advocate with yourself, always consider other opinions.
2) Be Different
In much the same way as so many of our generation don’t take the time to stop and listen to others, there is huge scope to stand out from the crowd simply by virtue of being different. Caught up in the hurly burly of metropolitan life, there are a few unspoken rules that go without saying. For example:
• Don’t give money to homeless people
• Don’t speak to strangers on the tube (or at all, actually)
• Cyclists are wankers or environmental super-monks depending on which side you’re on
• Public Transport is a free-for-all: get yourself sorted before others or you will be trampled over
• Espresso Martinis are a game-changer
There are many more. Some rules are there to serve a purpose, such as standing on the right of escalators and minding the gap. Some, however, are passed on indefinitely as a sort of conformity that people are expected to adhere to without questioning, such as speaking to strangers. Since moving back to Ascot, I have a conversation with every other dog-walker I see when I’m being walked by the dog, and have got to know some of them quite well. Now don’t get me wrong, if the person trying to talk to you is wearing a trench coat smeared in what one can only hope is mud and they’re carrying a tinnie of special brew, you’re probably not going to have that much in common. But my point is that it’s expected that as a young professional you must focus on yourself, ignore those around you and do your job.
That, however, is such a linear existence, only made bearable by the availability of technology that allows you to speak to people within your friendship group (and ergo comfort zone) constantly. I deliberately don’t look at my phone when I’m walking the dog, nor do I listen to music. Admittedly, this is partly because I would have zero idea where the dog is half the time if I couldn’t hear the snapping of nearby twigs or the distant screams of children she’s introducing herself to, but actually putting your phone away and listening and looking at the world around you makes you feel like you’re in the moment, not distracted by the humdrum of banal Facebook posts and Buzzfeed articles. Don’t be the person that ignores the world around them and lives on their phone – engage with people and your surroundings and you’ll start to feel less trapped in the rat race. Which brings me to my final resolution suggestion.
3) Do Different
Receiving texts, likes on posts or shares on Instagram releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical in your body that your body releases when you drink, smoke or gamble. You’ll notice that all three of those examples are highly addictive, so being attached to your phone is almost like an addiction. Once you put the phone down, you’ll start to embrace the real world much more and, if you do one thing this year, use your newfound freedom to do something that you would never think to normally do. Whether it’s taking up a new hobby, traveling to somewhere where the culture is entirely foreign like Japan or India or just doing some volunteer work, engage with the world around you and burst your bubble. Go out and do something that will enhance your state of mind and general happiness and your 2017 will be the building block to something amazing.
Just don’t forget to share it on social media. #findingmyself