Leap Year

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10 ways to win at new beginnings.

Way back in 2016, I read The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell and absolutely loved it. So when I found out that Helen Russell had a new book out, I had to get my hands on it. Leap Year is all about decision making, resiliency, and embracing change. When I read this, I was living at home in Los Angeles for the summer and denying the fact that I needed a change.

I knew – and had known for a long time – that I did not want to live in L.A. Yet, time and again I gave it another shot, hoping that maybe (just maybe!) I would fall in love with the City of Stars (and yes, I tried watching LaLaLand).

I was being so resistant to change – completely disregarding what I knew to be true: I do not want to live in LA.

Let me say it again: I do not want to live in L.A.

I DO NOT WANT TO LIVE IN LA.

It has taken 25 years, but I finally have accepted this part of myself. And a good portion of that is because I read this book at the right time.

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Helen Russell recounts her decision-making journey in Leap Year. Funny enough, Russell was deciding if she should relocate her family back home in England to be nearer her ailing mother or continue her new life in Denmark. Needless to say, I related.

[For those of you new to FromBrownEyes: 1) Welcome! We are happy to have you! 2) I have been working through the decision of moving to Scandinavia vs relocating near my parents in Los Angeles to better help with my father’s Parkinson’s Disease.]

Through the course of the book, Russell shares her research and personal experiences in a hilarious and informative way. At some points you will say, “Shit, I do that” and at others you will say, “Shit, I should do that.” Chances are you will learn something, so I really hope you read it.

But if all you do is read this blog, then I am going to provide you with Russell’s top 10 tips.

10 Ways to Win at New Beginnings:

  1. Feel small – Change often feels insurmountable, but that often is never the case. Russell recommends getting some perspective, maybe by hiking, to better realize that we are tiny in comparison to the world around us and nothing we do is going to cause it to end. I do my fair share of hiking and think it provides a great way to reflect. And what I find time and time again is that nothing in life is permanent. Change is coming one way or another, so why not be on the deciding side?
  2. Employ a #nofantasyfilter – When scrolling through Instagram, you often see #nofilter to prove that the sunset Lilly captured in Thailand is in fact as perfect as it looks. But it becomes pretty easy to get caught up in the fantasy of social media, where we are only exposed to the aspects of someone’s life that they want us to see. As Russell puts it, “life isn’t a Pinterest board. We don’t all need to be performing all the time and no one has all their shit together.” So next time you are feeling down and out about how your life compares to Becky with the Good Hair’s Facebook, add a #nofantasyfilter and remove that rose-colored lens.
  3. Get out more – Everything is better with fresh air in your lungs. I get outside and walk every day. And I find that my walk is most productive mentally when I leave my headphones at home and keep my cell in my pocket. I pay attention to where my mind wanders, as it often uncovers what is most important to me at the time.
  4. Log off – If #2 still isn’t working for you, think about deleting your social media all together. Russell cites a Danish study where participants reported higher levels of life satisfaction, concentration, and decisiveness after just one week without Facebook. With results like that, why not give it a try?! As Russell puts it, there is no substitute to life, so the best change to make is to stop scrolling and start living.
  5. Look after yourself –  Change is hard. Whether you want to lose weight, start saving money, or find a new job, self-care keeps us sane. Downloading a meditation app, meeting with a nutritionist, or making your home a little more hygge, might be just what you need to help the change train leave the station.
  6. Value your values – Russell puts this very simply: work out what you stand for and do something about it. A great way to learn your values is through an Interrelationship Diagram (I’ll have a ‘How To’ down below). This was one of the most helpful things about the book, IMO. Depending on what you are trying to change, it might involve a lot steps (like making a career pivot). The Interrelationship Diagram can help you find some focus to your change.
  7. Be nicer – Basically to everyone. Because change can (and should) feel uncomfortable, it is easy to take it out on other people. But you never know who is going to help you along your change journey. Being more considerate isn’t always easy but it is always worth it.
  8. Do something just for the heck of it – This can help with change in two ways: 1) It allows for a mental break from what you have been fixating on. I’d recommend signing up for a salsa class. 2) It gives you a little taste of how fun, easy, and energizing change can be!
  9. Think baby steps – Changes work best when we start small. Start by doing something only for 1 minute each day. This works for exercising, learning a new language, or applying for graduate schools. Because it is human nature to adapt, we become accustomed to this new variable, and soon a minute becomes much, much more.
  10. It is OK not to be OK – Change isn’t always going to come easy, and it cannot be forced on another. You might need to ask for help and you might need to grant yourself more time. I’d bet that whatever type of change you are seeking is rooted in the desire to make your life better, and that starts with accepting your self, feelings, and progress.

So, are you ready to make the leap?

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How do you win at new beginnings? Let us know below.

Ready to tackle the Interrelationship Diagram? Here are the steps:

  1. Take a piece of paper and write out your goal. Mine was, “I want to guide and focus my career search by discovering what is important to me.”
  2. On the paper write out different things that you believe answer the question. So, I listed things that I believe are important to me in relation to my career. This included location (near both a city and mountains), having weekends off, and getting interesting assignments.
  3. Start with one of the phrases and plot its cause-effect relationship to all of the other words. For example, Interesting Assignments has an arrow going to (a cause) Career Development but not to Open, Collaborative Office. Sustainability Mission has an arrow going to Interesting Assignments (an effect) but not to Travel / Time Off. This allows you to see the interrelationship between the things that are important to you.
  4. Highlight the phrases that have the most arrows coming out of it. These are your drivers, the things that get you the most bang for your buck. Mine were Location, Interesting Assignments, and Sustainability Mission.
  5. Highlight (in a different color, which I did not do below) the phrases that have the most arrows pointing to them. These are your outcomes, the things that you value most. Mine were Fulfillment, Time & Space to Write, Feeling Valued, and Development.
  6. Done! Now I have a better idea about how to tackle my job search. By focusing on jobs that are in my preferred locations, have varied assignments, and have a sustainable mission, will most increase my chances of feeling fulfilled, valued, and mentored. The Interrelationship Diagram also helps reveal what isn’t that important to you. For me, money, creativity, and weekends off weren’t as important as I originally thought.

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