There is little doubt that 2020 has not been the year that anyone expected, or wished for, when the clocks chimed midnight on 31 December 2019. So much of our everyday existence is unrecognisable from a year ago, and while we won’t see an immediate return to the old normal, if ever in some cases, with the vaccine roll out there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon to start planning to make 2021 a much better year!

Get organised

January is traditionally the time for change, so it’s a good time to rethink your life and what you want from it. Start thinking about what aspects of your life you might want to alter. It doesn’t need to be a standard resolutions list – think about ambitions not yet realised, areas of your life where you want to make a change.

Be realistic; you don’t want to give yourself goals that are overwhelming. Smaller goals are easier to manage, and taking small steps can actually be a manageable way to a bigger achievement. The regular success and pride in reaching these will spur you on to complete more of your goals.

On the other hand, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we never know what’s around the corner. So take a moment to think about what you want: is it time to take that leap?

Grab opportunities

Opportunities have been a bit thin on the ground this year for many of us, so don’t let any good ones pass you by in 2021.

Maybe it’s something you would have shaken your head at before, but now is the time to focus on yourself, and do things for you. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and make the most of life.

So whether it’s starting yoga, learning Italian, taking up woodwork, starting a small business, or just creating a family photo album from those years of memories stuck in that shoebox, pick a goal and go for it.

Embrace the new you

You might find that you enjoy pottery after years of dismissing it, or you could be surprised to discover that morning jogs are pleasurable. Make this year one that you’ll remember for the new things you’ll learn and the experiences you’ll gain.

Embrace the changes. Negative things that happen externally have less of an impact if we feel content within ourselves. Stay active, eat healthily, make time for your friends, and do your best to ensure you enjoy the way you spend your days.

Five things you can do to make 2021 a great year

1. Learn something new

Nothing keeps the brain in good working order better than using it regularly. Could now be the time to flex those clever muscles and do something completely different? The University of the Third Age (U3A) is an excellent way to learn; classes and activities are led by other U3A members who have specific skills and want to share them with others. The choice is endless and reflects local interests: from cookery to creative writing, philosophy to films, maths to mindfulness. The decisions about what to do are made by local members, and there is a real social gain to be had, too.

2. Get fit(ter)

Along the same ‘use it or lose it’ lines, it’s never too late to improve your fitness. Depending on where you are on the scale, this could be committing to a daily walk to build up cardiovascular strength and mobility, to yoga or weight training. As we age, the focus is far more on keeping muscles toned and flexed than burning fat. There are so many classes online now, you can exercise in the comfort of your own front room. 

3. Organise your finances

Kicking off the year with a good look at your finances is always a refreshing feeling. Check those memberships, things you’re paying for on standing order and so on – do you need them all? And have you planned for life’s road bumps? From insurance to Powers of Attorney, make time to get everything in order.

Also, consider the benefit of giving money while you’re still here – can you help family with financial burdens? Leaving money in your Will is lovely, but maybe you would like to share the fun while you can, and watch them grow. If you’re thinking about money in retirement and how you can make the best of it, have a look at our OpenLearn course about financial planning.

4. Plan for a trip of a lifetime

The pandemic has made many people realise just how tenuous our freedom really is. So if you’ve always wanted to drink rum in Havana or see lions in Africa, or even walk the Beacons or stand at Land’s End, this might be the time to try to make some plans. Watch some travel programmes, do some research online and see what inspires you and what your budget will stretch to. Life is short, and travel is rich in experience. You only get one go at life! Don’t miss out.

5. Give something back

Aside from the whole ‘be kind’ movement, and some of the heart-warming stories we’ve all heard about neighbours helping neighbours during lockdown, something wonderful happens when you help someone else. If you’d like to do more, perhaps you could support locally as a volunteer, or offer time for a cause? Our communities have proved themselves stronger than ever in 2020 – giving your energy to something worthwhile in 2021 will keep that baton moving.

Really make 2021 count!

There are so many things we have all missed this last year – and the new year won’t be an easy start. But committing to doing things that make you happy, even on a small scale, will help to rebuild from what has been almost everyone’s ‘annus horribilis’. Spend time with friends, make time for yourself, learn new skills, or brush up on old ones – whatever you choose, make your 2021 a year to remember, for all the right reasons!


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