SMALL VICTORIES – SEPTEMBER

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And with a whizz, whoosh, and a wham-bam-thank you-mam, August was gone.

I did listen to my dad when he told me on my 21st birthday that life would fly by from thereon in, but this summer has been something else, don’t you think?

Although I’m sad to say goodbye to warm nights and bare legs, I’m glad that it’s time to head back to reality. There’s something about this time of year – as holidays come to an end and leaves fall to the ground – that fills me with ambition and drive. September always feels like a second chance at a new year and a fresh start as the heat dissipates from the city. A transitional season that welcomes change and calm. 

But let’s look back for a second. Because my August Small Victories weren’t victories at all and I feel I should acknowledge that.

Although I stuck to number 1 (to write more) and number 4 (to work on working out), I didn’t travel anywhere new – aside from Beckenham – and I didn’t surround myself with beauty or explore the art world, although I blame the rain for that one. Instead, I took the time to not try for once. After a year or so of rushing things, I decided to relax, treat my soul to some chicken soup, stop forcing things and instead just enjoy life for what it was. Or is. I actively chose to embrace each day as it came. To let things go. To enjoy my friends. My family. The summer. To just be.

But now that it’s September and I am well rested from a lazy August, it’s time to start fighting for the dreams that I sometimes (regretfully) neglect. People would kill to be 26 again or get the chance to live in London, so it’s my plan to make sure I don’t take these things for granted. The regret of wasting time is not on my agenda.

So, September, what are we waiting for? Let’s have a look at our plans, shall we?

1. Graft.

I pressed the reset (panic) button this summer after a busy – and quite frightful year – with a plan to come back fighting. And I have. With a very clear goal in mind for my future and a determination to work my butt off until I get there. (As they say, ‘Dreams won’t work unless you do’.) So, although it might sound like a nightmare to some, I’ll be using every hour that I’m not at work to focus on my own projects. I might be a little tired though, so bear with me.

2. Save.

I used to be so great with money; spending a fiver a week on food and never really buying new clothes meant that I probably had more money as a student than I do now. So I’m going to save what I can for grown up things. And Topshop dresses. And grown up things.

Ahem.

3. Focus.

I knew months ago that my August calendar would be bursting with things to do. And, although I don’t regret a single house party, dinner or evening with friends, I was hoping for a quieter September.

As it happens, it’s just as busy.

But I will focus. I just need to channel a ‘Work Hard, Play Hard’ mentality, which can’t be that hard, right?

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I don’t wish to tell you about my big plans, dreams or ambitions because I see them as a little bit like wishes: if you even whisper them into someone’s ear, they won’t come true. And I can’t risk that.

One of my favourite quotes goes something like, ‘If you don’t build your dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs’. It’s my favourite because it’s something that is so easy to forget to do. So I want you to think of it as you head into work in the morning. I understand that we all have to put the hours in to survive, but make sure you fight to keep your own dreams alive beyond the 9-5. I might be exhausted as I attempt this and it might take me a while to get there, but I am confident I will achieve what I want to- with a lot of hard work and heaps of determination, of course.

And so can you.

September is a time to reach for the stars. So what are you trying to achieve this month?

Whatever it is, give it all you’ve got. Good Luck!

SMALL VICTORIES – AUGUST

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So, apparently July didn’t happen.

I genuinely feel as though I have just lost 31 days to grey skies and a whole host of Wintry dinners, in what feels like the space of about five seconds. I must say though, despite the need for long sleeves in July and what seemed like the quickest month to pass in human history, I seem to have come out at the other end of my unseasonal hibernation feeling invigorated, energised and ready for August.

But, as always, I will first let you know how I got on with last month’s Small Victories.

Firstly, my intentions to find a musical instrument and begin to learn how to play it just didn’t happen and well, let’s be honest, I can’t say I’m surprised. And I’m sure you aren’t either. However, my plight to organise my music collection did work out well and I now have six playlists which are lovingly (and somewhat unoriginally) labelled: Love, Party, Tunes, Albums, Guilty Pleasures and Pump. Albums is my favourite: it’s full to the brim with great records spanning decades and genres, from Time Flies and Caustic Love to channel ORANGE and Parachutes and I love it.

As for reading books outside of my comfort zone, I have yet to read anything completely untoward but I was gifted with ‘Very Good Lives’ by J K Rowling. A far cry from Harry Potter or The Casual Vacancy, it is a transcript of Rowling’s commencement speech that she gave to a group of Harvard graduates back in 2008. Her words focus on ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and Importance of Imagination’ which basically means that she urges us to find strength in our failures and to do what we love. Definitely one of the most perfectly timed – and equally gorgeous – presents I’ve received in a while.

As for my fourth and final promise to party and drink more gin? I think it’s safe to say I passed this one with flying colours.

Now, for this month’s Small Victories:

1. Write more.

Not just blog posts, but simply scribbles in my notebook. It’s great writing for an audience but sometimes it’s even better writing solely for yourself. You can be crudely honest and completely unabashed- very liberating.

2. Surround myself with art.

I live in London. So why is it that the only two galleries I visit on a regular basis are The Saatchi and The Tate Modern? Yes, it helps that I like modern art but, come on. The National Portrait Gallery? Amazing. The V & A? Inspired. I need to just do some research and then get off my bum and explore.

3. Travel somewhere new.

This one is actually pretty easy, seeing as I am going on holiday. The only problem is, I haven’t actually booked it yet. I want to find somewhere with the bluest sea and the whitest sands and I want to stay somewhere where I don’t have to lift a toe, let alone a finger. I want serenity and nothingness. A break from London, basically.

4. Work at working out.

I have joined the gym, which means that I feel a little less guilty about the musical instrument promise from July because I have joined an ACTUAL gym, like an ACTUAL grown up and I ACTUALLY really like it. At the moment I am just getting a feel for what I enjoy – experimenting with classes, machines and pace – but I’m hoping to work out a routine that works for me over the next month. My brother said he’s going to train me to kill. Watch this space.

So there we have it: my four goals for this month. By the 31st, I will be a muscly creative on a beach. But what about you? What are you going to achieve by the end of August?

Remember: keep it constructive, manageable and – most importantly – possible. Be kind to yourself.

Have a great month.

SMALL VICTORIES – JUNE

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“Don’t deny giving yourself credit for accomplishing something, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time.”

My friend Imani made a potato salad for a BBQ we went to in Victoria Park on Saturday. She berated herself for not using enough salt and kicked herself in the shins for forgetting to add the spring onions. She claims she can’t cook. However, the dish was delicious and the sausages she brought were bang tidy; she could’ve won an award for being her own worst enemy that day. But after feeling downbeat about some spuds for all of twenty seconds – and ever the optimist – she reminded herself of what Helen had told her about the importance of ‘Small Victories’.

As Imani’s house mate, Helen would tell her (every time she turned down the opportunity to cook something other than pasta for fear of failure) that she should take baby steps to becoming the next Nigella. What she meant by this was that Imani should forget the Foie Gras or the Soufflés for the time being, and try making simpler dishes in order to build confidence in the kitchen with each culinary triumph.

It made a lot of sense. In fact, it was some of the simplest – but best – advice I’d heard in a long time. Which is why I started thinking about how I could apply it to my own life.

When you’ve set yourself a goal that is larger than a NASA space station, the steps to achieve that target can get a little overwhelming. So I’ve decided that instead of focusing only on the one thing that will take time and is somewhat out of my control, I would focus on three or four things each month that I’d like to achieve alongside the bigger picture. Nothing major, nothing extraordinary. In fact, quite the opposite. But these are successes that I can be in control of as opposed to aiming to achieve something that is out of my hands entirely.

So, as it is the first month I’m doing this, I’m starting small. But so what? I’m a tiny human on a very small planet and sometimes the simplest things in life give us the most pleasure. Except for when it comes to man-bits, of course- sorry, I couldn’t resist.

So here they are, my four targets that will become four victories by the end of the month of June:

Number 1: Organise My Music Collection

No, I’m not talking about sifting through my dusty CD shelf that pretty much consists of Sonique and The Cure’s Greatest Hits. I am talking about making better use of my Spotify account. I am currently in the habit of adding every song I like to the same ‘Summer 2013’ playlist. If you haven’t noticed, it’s now June 2015 and I don’t always want to listen to Kasabian. And there’ll be days where Bon Iver just won’t cut it. But because they’re all lumped into one playlist, I don’t have a choice and shuffle can be torture. So now is the time to make personalised ones to suit all occasions. I’ll delete all the ones I have so far (dating back to 2010!) and start afresh, but I’ll be sure to share them on my Facebook Page, so look out for them if you’re stuck for something to listen to.

Number 2: Get Ready for Glastonbury

I am not a happy camper. Gone are the days of appreciating the wilderness and the rough and tumble of sharing a tent with three of my nearest and dearest. I don’t use public toilets at the best of times and mud is not my friend. However, I am not a diva. I almost enjoy not washing for five days and have hair that copes with all climates and, as much as I don’t like camping, I don’t wish to avoid it altogether. I just need to strike the perfect balance between Glamping and… Bear Grylls. Easily done, right? From blow up beds and She Wees, to ALL the alcohol and dry shampoo, I want to make it as pain-free as possible. So for the next three weeks, I will do all I can to prepare.

Tips and suggestions more than welcome.

Number 3: Blog Loving

I love this space on the internet that I call home, but between work, friends and boyfriends, planned blog posts can easily get swept under the carpet for a rainy day. This is something that makes me unhappy, because I love everything about being a blogger. So I have promised myself that I will post at the same time each week (on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, for those of you interested) in the hope that the routine will keep me on track.

Number 4: Become a Yogi Bear

I don’t care how much of a twat this makes me sound, but: I . LOVE . YOGA . The stretches, the poses, the breathing. The hour of calm in days jam-packed with challenges and noise. I relish it all. Not only does it do wonders for the mind and soul, but – after years of suffering like a little old lady – it has managed to cure my back ache. But, like my blog or any other extra-curricular activities planned for 2015, it gets pushed to the bottom of my ‘To Do’ List faster than a bikini wax. But I am determined to master a pose or two by the end of June.

So there we have it. My first Small Victories post. Promises that are normally saved for the privacy of my own notebook, shoved up there for all to see. I’m hoping it will make me try that little bit harder, because this time I have an audience. Scary stuff.

So think about it: what do you want to achieve by the end of the month?

Make it something manageable, constructive and – most importantly – possible.

Best of luck!