The new year is a time of new beginnings and good intentions, but often we equate new with big.
It is important to explore and learn new things throughout our life, says Jason Adams, a Keller licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor, but it doesn’t have to be a huge, monumental change. His website home page (www.jasonadamsonline.com) features the Confucius saying “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
“Ongoing learning and new experiences have lots of benefits. It exercises our brain and creates positive emotions. It can be as simple as trying new foods. I often ask my clients, ‘What is something you always wanted to do and what prevented you from doing it?’ Find something you really enjoy and expand on that,” Adams suggests.
Carol Hunsberger is a communications professor at Tarrant County College Northwest and leads retreats to help people achieve their dreams. Her action plan: “Dream what you want to be at the end of 2017 and work backward. For many people the order is goal, dream and mission. But it should be just the reverse. The mission provides the purpose and direction. Keep it small and be realistic. A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
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Losing weight is a popular goal, but Hunsberger says a person’s mission might be to become as healthy as possible so at the end of the year the individual can participate in sports or exercise, play with and watch grandchildren grow or travel. It’s not about a size or weight achievement, but having good blood pressure, avoiding diabetes, etc.
“We often dream too big. We think the bigger the dream, the bigger the payoff. But small things do wonderful things for our self-esteem and provide the biggest ripple,” Hunsberger explains.
So what stops us from learning new things or taking steps to achieve our dreams? Fear of failure is No. 1. That’s why it is important to start small. Other fears: of being laughed at, being unworthy or fear of disappointment.
“We are comfortable doing what we know. Predictability and routine give us safety and stability, but if we stop learning, we are not using our brain. If we continuously expose ourselves to new things, it is easier to deal with hard times or a difficult event,” Adams explains.
“While there are many opportunities for learning online, taking classes or becoming part of a group holds you accountable,” says Adams. Hunsberger calls it the “affinity need” — the need for human contact.
One place to start is Groupon. There are opportunities galore and if you don’t use it, you waste money and you have a deadline. Adams often refers his clients to the website meetup.com, which offers a wide variety of interest groups. Also, check out local clubs and associations that reflect your interest. They welcome the novice and may offer classes or knowledge sharing.
Getting fit or losing weight is probably the No. 1 New Year’s resolution and one most frequently broken. Mike Mashburn, manager of The Keller Pointe recreation center, agrees with getting a buddy to hold you accountable or hire one of its personal trainers. “If you pay, you are more likely to show up.” While there are many group classes, Zumba, Pilates, cycling, yoga, as well as cardiac equipment, another fun way to get your exercise is the tread wall and tire flip. Get the whole family involved in martial arts classes or activities in the indoor and outdoor pools.
Whether we would like to reconnect with the clarinet we played in high school or have a lifelong dream to play the piano, “you are never too old to learn or pick up where you left off,” says Clay Collins, co-owner of TRAK Academy in Keller. TRAK has students from 5 years on up and last year welcomed a student in her 60s who had never played the piano, but wanted to accompany her son who was a trained guitarist. They played together in a recent recital. Collins has a mother and daughter who take lessons together each week. “Nothing should hold you back. Each person has a reason and motivation. There is a reason why it is important to you and don’t allow fear to take over.”
Sher Dunaway, 79, of Arlington is the poster child for continuous learning. She has a master’s degree in anthropology/sociology as well as degrees in art history, interior design and photography. Fittingly, she retired from the University of Texas at Arlington as its director of continuing education. But then she taught classes at Texas Christian University and Tarrant County College.
When she retired for good, she became a Tarrant County Master Gardener, the education arm of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. She joined its Speakers Bureau and now has a repertoire of nearly 50 presentations. She is a frequent speaker at the Keller and Southlake garden clubs and will be giving a series of talks next summer at the Colleyville Library.
Dunaway says she was a shy child, but always loved to learn. “I love the challenge. If I don’t have a talk to work on I get restless. I have started some research on gardens at the White House. I don’t really think about age, I just love what I do.”
After retiring from a career in senior care and as a school secretary, Vivian Borgeson, 68, of Keller wanted to keep active. “I thought about what I was skilled at and enjoyed doing. I came up with crochet lessons. I am patient and have taught friends in the past. I find it a great source of relaxation.” She did some research and informal polling to gather information on setting up classes.
All ages and genders can learn crochet, and the handmade scarves, baby blankets, sweaters, etc., are always welcome gifts. “It is an old art that is popular again. It means a lot to people to receive a hand-made gift,” says Borgeson. For information on crochet lessons, call 817-421-5588.
Jamie Bryant of Keller had her own home child-care business for 18 years before becoming a senior health-care executive for 10 years. She resigned a year ago thinking there had to be more to life than 14-hour workdays. She also felt a call to full-time ministry — whatever that might be. She had always enjoyed writing and 14 years ago produced a self-published book of family short stories. Her first attempt was a women’s devotional book based on her years of journaling. Feedback was mixed. She found an online publishing company with an inexpensive kit that got her started with her first children’s book, “Monkey in the Mailbox.” With her background in marketing and area critique groups, that book enjoyed web success and she has signed on for nine children’s Christian books based on the fruits of the spirit. She has written four of them, with two now available.
“I am loving every minute of it,” she says, but adds, like the title of her blog, you have to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. She has sought aid from all over like a Linked-In referral to help set up her website (www.jamiebryantbooks.com), using children’s drawings as her artwork and connecting with the many writers’ groups in the area that willingly teach, critique and share their expertise like book formatting.
And don’t be afraid to ask. Because she asked, she was able to get her books and a book signing at Gateway Church campuses and has had interactive book readings at local preschools.
“I am living my dream, although I am still on the investment side. I may have to get a real job, but I feel I am leaving a legacy for my nine grandchildren. When they laugh at my stories, I’m so glad I didn’t wait.”