The ‘no B.S.’ happiness plan
Sarah Knight’s unconventional method of changing your life is just what 2017 needs. Try it to make this year’s resolutions stick
No-nonsense tips from Sarah Knight
THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT. THIS YEAR YOU’LL MAKE SOME CHANGES. THIS YEAR YOU’LL FINISH WHAT YOU START.
Hell, this year, you’ll actually get started in the first place.
Why? Because this year you’re going to get your shit together. Not your physical shit – cupboards organised, floors waxed, desk tidied (though these can happen, too) – but your mental shit. The junk that clutters up your mind and makes it impossible to set your body into action, let alone sustain it.
Avoidance. Anxiety. Poor time management. You need to gather that stuff into a metaphorical pile and sweep it out the damn door. Trust me, mental clutter is the root of all your troubles – whether physical, financial or even romantic. And mental decluttering is the prerequisite to all the changes you want to make.
But you don’t have to take it from me. Take it from the woman who recently wrote to me: “I haven’t been the same since reading your book – in the best possible way.” Or the person who thanked me for “the simple truths you put before those of us who have so much mental clutter it’s created an inescapable maze of shit”.
These folks (and a few hundred thousand more) read my first book, The Life-changing Magic Of Not Giving A F**k, and they email me every day to confirm that their lives have in fact been changed for the better by its advice: stop spending so much time, energy and money on people you don’t like and things you don’t really want to do.
They picked up the book because my message was liberating, it cost much less than a therapy session, and I’m not one of those gurus who’s trying to make you feel warm and fuzzy about the cold hard facts of life. I say what you’ve all been thinking, and give you permission and a blueprint to act on it. I’m more of an ‘anti-guru’, and I like it that way.
Getting your shit together – the subject of my new book – is a little different. It’s about organising what you have left (in the form of time, energy and money) and deploying those resources as efficiently as possible on things you must do and people you must deal with, even if you don’t really give a fuck about them.
In other words, yes, you must draw a paycheque in order to live your life. But you do not have to get it from a business, boss or client that makes you miserable. Instead, get your shit together and get cracking on that
“Channelling MISERY is a lot more PRODUCTIVE than wallowing in it”
CV. And yes, you may need to placate a few family members at times, or muddle through a mandatory event here and there, but you can do it all smarter, quicker and better than ever before.
Giving fewer fucks and getting my shit together was how I saved up enough money to quit my corporate job and go freelance in 2015, sell my home in New York City, build a new one in the Dominican Republic, and then move there in 2016. It’s how I wrote two books in two years, and it’s also how I manage my anxiety, prioritise my errands and stay on top of my social life. The key is proper motivation.
Other gurus want you to be the richest, thinnest, tidiest, most joyful version of you that you can be. I say: get motivated by getting angry. I call it ‘the power of negative thinking’.
It works like this: instead of focusing on what you aren’t – exceptionally thin, rich or tidy, for example – and aspiring to be it, why don’t you focus on what you are – for example, unhealthily overweight, broke and messy – and commit to eliminating it?
It’s not the late-night 31st-december prosecco high you should be chasing, with visions of Kate Upton’s body or Richard Branson’s bank account dancing in your bubble-addled brain. It’s the nauseous, bloated, morning-after reality check that’ll give you a good swift kick in the arse to declutter your house or make a dent in your debt.
I was a high-achieving, highfunctioning, high-stress human to-do list for 30-plus years. And I didn’t find my way out of that trap by manifesting goodness from the universe or aiming so high that I was destined to fall short. I did it all one small, manageable step at a time.
It’s the present-day ‘annoy’ where you’ll find the motivation that really keeps you on track. I traffic less in aspiration, more in desperation. Seriously, looking at last year’s credit card bills with a gin-soured stomach is a great way to associate ‘overspending’ with ‘feeling like crap’. That’s the power of negative thinking, and it really does work.
It worked for my friend Lisa when being broke month after month became her motivation for finally asking for the pay rise that she deserved – and getting it. It worked for someone else I know who left her boyfriend of five years, instead of spending another single hour feeling unloved and inadequate.
Channelling misery is a lot more productive than wallowing in it. Stop complaining about your job and start looking for another one. Get mad at your credit card bill, and then get even. Focus on the negative in your life to find your way toward the positive.
TAKE IT STEP BY STEP
While writing my new book, I conducted a survey to find out which parts of their lives people need the most help managing. I got responses such as:
Overwhelmingly, people identified the ‘annoy’ in their lives – the mess, the debt, the despair. All they have to do is harness its power to turn everything around. And honestly? It’s much easier than you might think. Getting your shit together takes just three steps: 1. Strategise:
Make a plan to achieve your goal, and break it into small, manageable chunks. 2. Focus: Schedule time to complete each chunk. 3. Commit:
Tackle them one at a time. For me, it was out with annoy – in the form of conference calls and cold weather – and in with the joy of autonomy and backyard palm trees. Out with too much to do and too little time, in with realistic goals and small, manageable steps towards achieving them. And out with all that mental clutter: the worry, guilt and misplaced sense of obligation that overshadow your ability to finish what you need to do and get started on what you want to do.
Stop spending time, energy and money on things you can’t control, and allocate it only to things you can. You’ll never alter your boss’s infuriating management style, so if you don’t like it, get a new boss. I couldn’t change the climate of the northeastern US, so I changed where I lived. Sure, moving to a foreign country was a big goal, but it was made up of a dozen (okay, three dozen) smaller, easier goals, such as googling daily temperatures to help narrow the field of where to live. When you look at it that way, there’s no reason why you should be crying into your Bloody Mary on New Year’s Day, overwhelmed by the prospect of identifying what you want out of life and going after it. Take a big bite of that celery stick and get to work. (See, you’re healthier already!)
My change started with being too damn cold. For you, maybe it’s being too broke, or fed up with a job you hate, or an apartment or a relationship you’ve outgrown.
This year, put that frustration into action. Motivate.
Set a goal. Strategise, focus and commit. Whether you’re aiming for big life changes or small, daily victories, if you get your shit together, you can make them happen. Sarah Knight is the author of international bestseller The Life-changing Magic Of Not Giving A F**k, and Get Your Sh*t Together
(Quercus, £12.99 each)
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