It's two weeks into the New Year, and perhaps the passion you had for your annual resolution has fallen as flat as that leftover Champagne. We're not pointing fingers - we're guilty parties, too. So, instead of searching for short-term promises or making grand announcements about how long we will plank, how much dough we'll save, or which vices we'll quit in 2014, we're taking a much more calculated approach. And, we've got experts on our side.
First, we won't suggest taking on every single aspect of our lives that needs improvement in one year. Instead, we're going after three specific areas: career, closet, and diet and wellness. With expert tips from three ladies in the know, we've broken down 15 year-changing steps that are totally achievable. Read on, take notes, and don't feel so bad if you officially ditch that resolution for changes that really stick.
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Refinery29ORGANIZE: Your Career
THE EXPERT: Tara Sophia Mohr, founder of Playing Big and author of Playing Big: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Brilliance in a World that Needs Women's Voices, to be released in fall '14.
EXPERIMENT WITH WHAT YOU LOVE
We all have days when we wake up and groan all the way to the office. But, if you're fortunate enough to love your job, you'll understand that it's just a case of the Mondays. For everyone else, this may be the year you're ready to settle down with a career you truly adore - and, no, finding The One is not all that easy. "Go slow, and experiment. Don't make a career change based on an idea about what you think you'll love," Mohr says. "Make your move based on real experience."
Now's the time to test the waters in industries you think you may enjoy. Volunteer to work pro bono, or pick up a light gig on the side in a field you dig to see if it's something you want to make the switch to. If you have a dream of being an entrepreneur, "launch it on the side while working your current job," Mohr advises, "and see if you really like it." Either way, you deserve to find a field that fuels you, so don't skip the time to find out.
BUILD A NETWORK
Perhaps this is the year you break into a new career, or maybe you're hoping to take your current one to the next level. Either way, when it comes to getting ahead, there's often no replacement for solid, grade-A advice. We're talking the kind that comes from an unbiased, knowledgeable source who has likely been in your shoes before. But, before you go out seeking a mentor, Mohr says to take a step back. Well, sort of.
"It's time for women to invent a new model of professional alliances - one that is less hierarchical than traditional mentorship," our expert tells us. Instead, look for guidance from peers, from those who work in positions higher and lower than yours, and essentially "develop a network of supportive relationships." In this case, Mohr assures us that if we can create a supportive structure for ourselves - one "that involve[s] mutual teaching and learning and two-way advising and helping" - then we'll find ourselves with a system of experts who we'll be able to turn to when we're seeking feedback.
DON'T SELL YOURSELF SHORT
The year 2014 is for putting all your cards on the table. When it comes to applying for a new company or position, be wary of your worst enemy. Yes, that would be you.
"Watch out for apologetic phrases, disclaimers, or hedges that make you come across as less qualified and confident than you are," Mohr warns about cover-letter and résumé language.
But, if you're going for a new position, the most poignant advice Mohr offers is to apply. "Research shows that women tend not to apply for jobs unless they meet all or most of the qualifications, whereas men apply when they meet as many as half of the qualifications." We can't guarantee you'll be hired, but we promise you won't regret going all in.
STAY CALM TO BE CALM
Our careers - even the most enjoyable ones - will inevitably stress us out this year, but Mohr has us convinced we have it all under control. She suggests that when faced with a difficult work situation such as a big presentation or a formal conversation (you know the kind) with your boss, the best way to remain calm is to not work yourself up over getting anxious in the first place. "Don't get stressed about being nervous!" she says. "Instead, see the nerves as giving you an extra boost of alertness and energy to meet the challenge of the day."
Whether many eyes are on you or just one (very intimidating) pair, Mohr's tips will help keep you on your game - and this year, you're finally going to implement them. "Take deep breaths, listen to calming music, or look at relaxing nature imagery; exercise; have a phone conversation with a good friend who makes you laugh and can help you put the whole thing in perspective; and stay away from too much caffeine." Regain just a little bit of composure, and keep your cool in any work situation. Seriously, you got this.
We've already mentioned careers that fuel us, but - love your job or not - sometimes the energy is just not there. Even if your dream career change is not in the cards this year, Mohr says we can all still perk up at the office. "Identify three kinds of work that give you energy," she suggests. Look for the tasks that cater to your strengths and play to your interests, and then test out ways to make them a bigger part of your job. If you can make it work, you'll be more eager and excited to complete tasks.
Second, she says, the trick for tapping into your energy may lie in taking on more - not less - work. "Write that novel during evenings and weekends. Volunteer on the behalf of a cause you are passionate about once a week," she says. "Doing what you are passionate about - even for a few hours a week - will give you more energy during your day job."
Refinery29ORGANIZE: Your Style
THE EXPERT: Cher Coulter, celebrity stylist for actresses such as Kate Bosworth, Elizabeth Olsen, Nicole Richie, Kirsten Dunst, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and co-designer of JewelMint.
If you're pulling a 180 with your wardrobe this year, start at the very beginning: the closet. While Coulter may be the expert on dressing celebrities, she also notes that there's really nothing better than a well-kept home base. First, what you store is just as important as what you keep on display, she explains. If you live in a city with defined seasons, be sure to stow away your unseasonal clothes when they're not in use. "Get some of those zip-tight packages that expand, put [your clothes] in there, put in a couple of Bounce sheets, and put them under your bed. Just get them out of your way."
In addition, be conscious of how you're actually storing the clothes that are currently in use. "When you're getting dressed, closet-wise, you'll want to see absolutely everything," Coulter says. "There's nothing worse than things being stored and forgotten about." Still, be sure you're not displaying things at the expense of your hard-earned wardrobe. "I think my one pet peeve is putting a sweater on a hanger," she admits. "Fold it over the hanger, or stack them in a cupboard." And, finally, clean clean clean - no, we don't mean laundry - especially when it comes to shoes. If you want to be able to see your soles, be sure you're up for dusting. "When it comes to care, it's just giving [your shoes] a dust and boots a bit of polish. It's annoying as hell, but there's no way around it."
TAKE IT TO THE STREET
When it comes to turning your style around, sometimes it means just trying something new. And, for 2014, Coulter makes one strong recommendation: "The biggest trend I see coming through is street wear, like skate clothes." While we're not necessarily suggesting that you sport Supreme to business meetings and sweatshirts to formal affairs, slipping into the street-inspired trend this year can feel both fresh and nostalgic at once. "I went into Vans the other day and bought the classic, black T-shirt with [the brand] written on the front in white, and mixed it in with designer pieces. But, it doesn't even have to be designer, just more fashion-forward pieces."
Try mixing the classic, casual, slouchy trend with more structured and feminines styles "to balance out the fact that you're wearing something really street with something directional," Coulter suggests. "That's good ingredients for a cool outfit."
SHOP LIKE A STYLIST
Part of curating a master closet is not only knowing what to buy but how to buy as well. "We can all walk into a store and think, 'Wow, that's pretty,' but for everything you buy printed, buy something plain." This is the motto Coulter lives by. "If you bought a printed skirt, you should buy a plain top, just so you balance it out." Of course, being the pattern, print, and color clashers we are, it may be hard to adhere strictly to this rule, but, in general, Coulter has a very valid point: Shop with an outfit in mind.
"Everyone has their taste," she says. "We have a tendency to go toward what we already like. I've got loads of Victoriana shirts or Victoriana-looking dresses. It's not necessarily what I need more of. So, before you go out shopping, you should spend 20 minutes in your closet and think, 'Well, I love this skirt, but I've never worn it because I don't have the right top,' or look at what you need."
Overall, the celeb stylist advises us to have fun because - yes - impulsive, nonlogical purchases happen. "Keep the receipt. If you haven't worn it in 30 days - and the tag's on it - take it back."
SKIP BODY-CON, RIDE THE WAVE
Our social schedules may be packed, and we're typically the first ones on the dance floor, but when it comes to going-out gear, we're far from the body-con-wearing type. Thankfully, keeping your look party-appropriate this year is made a bit easier with an of-the-moment phenom Coulter swears by. "A major trend I love is ruffles; in Dries Van Noten, we saw these elaborate, gold-foil ruffles spilling out from the waist, and it was also at Isabel Marant."
Instead of opting for hardware embellishments or sparkles galore, try relying on a trend that provides major volume. "Whether it's just a ruffle on the bottom of your skirt or you're going to put it over your shoulder, I think it's a really good way to find your inner craft person," our expert adds about the DIY-friendly trend. "You can go into a haberdashery place and buy [the trim]; it's almost what you buy at an upholstery store to go on curtains. Just play with it." We say that's pretty spot-on advice should ruffles prove to be so 2014 next year.
SUBTLETY IS KEY (JUST ASK HR)
We'll admit, some of the most adventurous fashion trends tend to exclude individuals whose 9-to-5 jobs strictly require suiting. Palazzo pants, super-sheer knits, and crop tops don't exactly have a place in the corporate world. But, this year, we refuse to be bored to tears by our Monday-through-Friday outfits. "It's just those subtle details that will make it look incredible," Coulter suggests for corporate gear. "Look at what's on trend. Maybe it's trendy to wear your shirt buttoned to the top with a little necklace underneath the collar. Look at the cut of pants. If a baggy pant is in, you could go for a low-slung menswear trouser and wear it with a silky shirt."
In her opinion, working women may want to keep an eye out for designers whose tailoring game is on-point. Her recommendations include Martin Margiela and Céline - fashions well worth the splurge, of course - and we're firm believers that there are more entry-level-salary ways to score the look as well.
Refinery29ORGANIZE: Your Wellness
THE EXPERT: Theresa Kinsella, nutritional therapist, registered dietitian, speaker, educator, and intuitive-eating expert.
FOCUS ON YOUR FOOD
When it comes to making over our health and diet regimens, Kinsella's one piece of bad-habit-breaking advice is simple: stop multitasking. At this point - at least for those who have been following The Anti-Diet Project - perhaps we're all a bit wiser when it comes to intuitive eating, and, Kinsella suggests, we all can benefit from paying attention to what's in our dish. Diets or eating restrictions aside, she says, "research shows that when people eat distracted, they tend to eat faster and eat more during the distracted meal."
In addition, for those who eat while pre-occupied with other tasks - like watching TV, working, or socializing - "they often can't recall the number of foods they ate." So, this year, we're taking our time - at least one meal per day, our expert suggests. "For that meal, sit without the TV on, and eat in a way that you can fully enjoy the eating experience." Commit to flipping your autopilot switch to "off" and checking in on how your meal is truly making you feel and how much you really need to be satisfied. It may surprise you.
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SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY
Maybe 2014 is when you finally become a regular at your gym and 6 a.m. wake-up calls for cycling become the norm. Or, more likely - and just as beneficial - this could be the year when you use every opportunity to live an active lifestyle. Thankfully, as Kinsella explains, the possibilities to incorporate more activity are many, especially for those of us who probably spend more time at work than we do anywhere else.
"If you can walk to work or part of the way to work, do it. Look into purchasing a standing desk…[or] try to stand up during long phone calls or scheduling a meeting with a co-worker over a walk," she suggests. By prioritizing movement, she says, we can change our habits of just sitting at a desk (on a subway, at a restaurant, theater, couch, etc.) all day long and create that more active lifestyle.
Furthermore, she says, we can transform the way we think about our workout time as well. "Often, people think they have to go to the gym for an entire hour, but they might not have a full hour in their day. Don't get stuck in all-or-nothing thinking. Twenty minutes is way better than nothing." Of course, if you need a little extra push to shake you from your sedentary state, Kinsella recommends looking into a piece of wearable tech. A qualitative device like this could serve as a healthy reminder to fit in those few additional paces per day. "Even that trip to the mailbox becomes important to getting those extra 150 steps in," Kinsella notes.
In the challenge of revamping our eating and healthy-lifestyle habits, there always seems to be a sneaky saboteur: our social calendars. Even tiny cocktail parties or passed appetizers at a work-related event can toss our healthy choices out the window. And, thankfully, no, Kinsella doesn't advise you to just be a homebody.
"Be discerning," she explains. When social calendars are full and hors d'oeuvres and Champagne are everywhere, simply "aim to eat it in a way you can fully enjoy it," she says. Also, "defend yourself from obligatory eating." Don't worry about offending the host - he/she's supposed to want you to feel comfortable - just listen to your internal cue, and party on.
GO BACK TO BED
Kinsella has some non-negotiable tips about the most basic essentials for maintaining and (hopefully) improving our overall wellness this year. "The gynecologist is the don't-miss appointment," she explains, for example, and "Make sure that [the doctor takes] your blood pressure when you're there and all of your vital information." But, at the core of our health and fitness regimens - whatever they may be this year - is sleep.
"It's key because it affects hormones that make us feel hungry and full. When people don't get enough sleep, they're hungrier," Kinsella says. She also adds, "Research shows that the amount of sleep someone gets can even predict whether or not they'll work out." In short, it all begins in bed. "Start with a good foundation. Trying to have a regular exercise routine and eating well without adequate sleep is like trying to swim with handcuffs. If your sleep routine is erratic, address that first."
PUT FUN FIRST
Again, if you've been following The Anti-Diet Project, you may already be aware that maintaining a fulfilling diet and wellness routine is not about sucking the fun out of our days. In fact, we'll argue that it's the opposite. And, considering how completely over we may feel about crash or fad diets of the past, Kinsella suggests that the key to being consistent this year is to "add pleasure!" Plain and simple: If it's not fun, maybe you shouldn't do it.
"It's not sustainable," our expert advises. "Find fun activities that you are going to look forward to going to. This may take some willingness to experiment and try something new, but the benefits will be worth it." Turn fitness, cooking, and other self-care behaviors into something you enjoy and look forward to - if you can figure out a system that works for you, you'll have changed your life well beyond the next 12 months.