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How to change your life this year (and keep it up past January 31)

The answer is easy, says Sarah Knight, author of The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A Fuck. Treat it like a colouring book

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By Sarah Knight on

I maintain that life is like an adult colouring book. You simply work your way through each little section and, eventually, the big picture materialises before you. In fact, my entire “Get your shit together” philosophy revolves around taking small, manageable steps to get where you want to be – whether it’s “to work on time” or typing “The End” on the first draft of your novel.

The biggest mistake people make – every fucking year – is saving up all those changes they want to make and trying to attack them all at once on January 1.

It never works. By February 1 (maybe Valentine’s Day, if you’re lucky), the grand plans and #newyearsresolutions meet their fate under a pile of eminently predictable excuses, most of which can be traced back to having bitten off more than you could chew in the first place.

I say, if you want to make big, lasting change, you need to look at the small picture.

Think of it like this: just as you would when staring down an intricate colouring book page featuring four unicorns frolicking in a wildflower meadow, you have to strategise. You can’t just colour in all the little spaces at once (unless you have octopus arms, which you don’t, so that’s a non-starter).

You have to pick a place to begin. Maybe the hooves.

It’s the same with whatever change you want to make or goal you want to hit this year. Let’s say you want to lose 20lb. Were you planning to just slice off a few choice bits on your hips, thighs and belly (or maybe amputate a leg), and call it a day? Of course not. You need a plan. A strategy. And, ideally, it would consist of small-enough, manageable-enough steps to get you from point A to trousers that fit without elective surgery. You’re not climbing Everest here – you’re just going for a stroll up the hill. There, now doesn’t that seem doable?

When staring down a colouring book page featuring unicorns frolicking in a wildflower meadow, you have to strategise. You can’t just colour in all the little spaces at once (unless you have octopus arms, which you don’t, so that’s a non-starter)

Your resolution could be as small as organising your wardrobe or as big as moving to Buenos Aires but, no matter what, doing it all at once will be almost certainly be overwhelming.

You have to take it one step at a time. Eventually, you have one unicorn flank and a few daffodils under your belt, and with that comes satisfaction and self-renewing motivation. It feels good to accomplish things, to see the big picture starting to come together. Why put so much pressure on 2017 when you could just tackle Monday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday and so on?

And the same principles hold true of making change inside yourself. A resolution to become “more confident” or “less of a perfectionist” might sound like a tall, open-ended order, but if you let the perceived enormity of a change keep you from even starting, you’ll never get anywhere. You cannot finish something you never start. And unicorns are just horses if you never colour in their horns.

So, this January 1, instead of diving into a major self-renovation project that’s bound to end in a mountain of candy wrappers and regret, why not commit to one small, easy, enormously helpful new behaviour? Which is: start looking at life like an adult colouring book.

Every task or challenge becomes a mosaic of teeny-tiny little tasks and challenges that don’t fill you with dread when you see them on your to-do list. Every change you want to make, every resolution you want to keep, starts out as an innocent buttercup or the playful tail of a mythical fun-beast.

Try it during this first week of January. When your boss assigns you a massive project, assign it a kicky little colouring page in your mind. Do you like circuses? Great. So, rounding up data points is like colouring in the polka dots on the clown costumes. Analysing them is filling in the surrounding fabric, and sitting down to email your findings is putting the finishing touches on the car they’re all tumbling out of.

I’m telling you, learn to look at the small picture and all will be revealed. Plus unicorns. And clowns.

Sarah Knight is the internationally bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A Fuck, and her new book, Get Your Shit Together, is published December 29, 2016 by Quercus


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