Monday, January 4, 2010



It is that time of the year again when most of us make a pact with ourselves to become better individuals.

Daily Nation
December 31 2009

There is something about new beginnings that motivates us to change for the better. As we usher in a New Year, it only makes sense to reflect on your life and make adjustments where you feel there is a need for improvement. To get you going, we suggest 15 areas that you can start working on. There is no better time like the present, so get to work right away.

1 Write a Will

Most of us never think of this one, and when it does cross our minds, we quickly dismiss it because we live in a society that is still shrouded in superstition – we just don’t like thinking or talking about death, probably fearing that it might just come knocking earlier than scheduled.

But superstition has no place in modern society and a wise individual knows that drafting that Will is the best gift that he or she can give their loved ones. You have heard or read about the nasty public cases that play out when someone dies – it is usually an embarrassing mess of spouses, relatives and children left behind fighting over money and property. The fact is that this can happen to you too if you don’t plan ahead.

To avoid such unwanted scrutiny and to ensure that your children enjoy peace of mind should something happen to you, start the year by drafting this important document and rest assured that everything you have worked for goes to those that deserve it. Most companies will also be asking their employees to update their ‘beneficiary’ records, therefore make a point of visiting your human resources department as soon as possible and make the necessary changes.

2 Take charge of your health

A year ago, doctors sounded the alarm over an upsurge of so-called lifestyle diseases among Kenyans – these include obesity, diabetes and hypertension. A couple of years ago, these illnesses were associated with the older generation, but this is no longer the case, thanks to poor eating habits coupled with sedentary lifestyles.

This year, make a firm resolution to cut your intake of fast foods; these foods are not called junk for nothing — we’re talking chips, sausages, burgers, pizza — you know where your weakness lies. Doctors also warn against taking too much Nyama choma, which most Kenyans consider the ultimate delicacy.

If you have to eat these foods, doctors advise taking them in moderation; therefore if they are part of your daily menu you can be sure that you are courting a lifestyle disease. But eating healthy is not enough. Switch off the television, get up from that couch and exercise those muscles.

If you cannot join a gym, jog or take a regular walk around your neighbourhood or make a habit of getting off the matatu a stage away and walk the rest of the way home. Those who have tried it and experienced the benefits will also tell you that taking the stairs rather than the lift does your body a lot of good.

Good health translates to better productivity in all areas of your life – you will become a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend, a better sibling and a better worker – oh, and you will have less hospital bills to worry about.

3 Spend more time with family

No doubt, work is important, but most of us make the mistake of spending too much time working at the expense of family. Think about it, counting official working hours alone, you spend most of your time at work, yet you still go ahead and work late, putting in even more extra hours. This means that you are left with insufficient time to bond with your spouse, children and extended family.

Most successful individuals will tell you that their success is largely due to a happy and fulfilling family life. They know that without the support of family, they wouldn’t be as accomplished as they are. But support is earned, and they do earn it. These people might be early risers who get to the office hours before other employees and are probably the last to leave the office; but their weekends are often dedicated to their families while you continue slaving in the hope of landing that coveted promotion.

Successful individuals appreciate how important it is to take a break, and so they take leave from work at least three times a year, preferably during school holidays so that the whole family can spend time together. You work hard to ensure that your family is comfortable and well-provided for, but at the end of the day, it is not enough to just provide material support — they need emotional support as well, and you cannot provide this if you are absent.
4 Invest in yourself

A new year is always the best time to start afresh – you feel more invigorated and more inspired to make profound changes in your life. Think about it, you tend to give so much to those around you that you are left with little or no time to focus on yourself. If you are a parent, most of your money is spent on school fees, books, clothes, toys, trips, and food for your children. At the end of the month, you have nothing left to spare for yourself.

Make a solemn vow to spend more on ‘you’ this year – learn a new skill, take a course to improve your work credentials, enrol in a fun activity such as cookery if cooking is your thing and if you’re an outdoor person, join a group of like-minded nature enthusiasts.

If you cannot think of anyone who would be interested in such an activity, join Nature Kenya, a non-profit conservation society which is over 100 years old. Every third Sunday of the month, nature enthusiasts meet at the Kenya National Museums of Kenya at 9 am and decide where to go birding and sightseeing. Visit for more information.

If you enjoy reading, promise to buy yourself at least one book every month. The most you’re likely to spend is Sh1,000 – you probably waste more than this on frivolous items, so you might as well get something that will add value to your life.

5 Put unhealthy relationships behind you

Toxic relationships – haven’t we all had them at some point in our lives. They are the ones that drain you emotionally, spiritually, physically and in some cases, financially. These relationships ensure that your life is a constant slide of endless drama.

This is the perfect time to do away with such relationships. We are referring to that parasitic friendship where a long time friend just keeps taking from you and never gives back. She expects you to be there for her but whenever you need a helping hand she is never available. She cannot keep a secret and you know that beneath the smile, is an alligator waiting for you to slip. She is reluctant to celebrate your successes and seems happier when you’re going through a difficult patch.

And pray what are you still doing hanging onto that abusive relationship? Anyone who uses you as a punching bag, verbally and emotionally abuses you does not love you. It does not matter how many times he or she tells you that they love you after hitting, abusing or disrespecting you. You also have no business with someone who does not keep his word or a selfish person whose needs always come first.

6 Change your look

Change makes most of us uncomfortable probably because the familiar is predictable and therefore safer. Most people prefer routine because there are no surprises lurking around the corner. But change might just be what you need to inject some excitement into your life. This year, throw caution to the wind and make some much-needed changes in your life – get a different hairstyle, add some life into your wardrobe by giving away your old clothes and getting more colourful outfits, wear heels once in a while, try out new activities and make some new friends.

Here are some bad habits to kick this year

7 Throw away the death stick

There is always room for self-improvement – smoking might look cool and sophisticated on the outside, but it is a different story altogether on the inside. Make a resolution to banish the death stick from your life for good and notice how cleaner and fresher the air you breathe in will feel.

8 Stop procrastinating
DAILY NATIONMagazinesSaturday Magazine

Become a better you this year

It is that time of the year again when most of us make a pact with ourselves to become better individuals.

By CAROLINE NJUNG'EPosted Thursday, December 31 2009 at 14:08
Isn’t this an annoying one? You know you will have to do it at some point, but you keep pushing it to the back of the to-do list. Postponing what has to be done only piles unnecessary pressure in your life and most of the time, results in a poorly executed job. Starting this year, make a resolution to give yourself enough time to do what has to be done. You will be more effective, relaxed and will start deriving pleasure and joy from what you do.

9 Start keeping your word

How do you rate your credibility? A trustworthy, dependable person is one that keeps his or her word. Don’t promise to do something for someone if deep down, you know you cannot or will not do it. There is nothing wrong with saying ‘No’ once in a while, so don’t promise your children a weekend out if you know you will be working, or promise a friend to help out with cooking when you know you will be out of town on that day.

10 Let go of the past

You would be surprised at the number of people who live in the past. Many people spend the better part of their present lives mourning about the injustices that they suffered during childhood to the extent that their adult life passes them by.

Such people are a pain to be around because they are eternal whiners who blame everybody but themselves about their ill-fortune. Such individuals are likely to blame their relatives for their being jobless, “They’re rich and influential, so why can’t they get me a job?” they complain.

Others blame their poor performance in school on their father abandoning the family when they were young, while others dismiss all men as batterers and incapable of being faithful just because a past boyfriend often hit them and cheated on them.

If any of these just described you, then it is time that you left the past where it belongs – in the past, and started focusing on the present. The fact is that unless you let go of past hurts and disappointment, you will never make any progress in your life.

Nothing good is borne out of blaming your failure or less than satisfactory life on others. It is time to take control of your life and begin on a clean slate. You owe it to yourself.

11 Down with the negativity

Ever heard of kill joys? They rarely have anything good to say about anyone or anything and gloom and doom trails them wherever they go. If people often make a point of avoiding you, be still for a moment and ask yourself why. It might be that they cannot stand your negativity.

12 Start to listen more and talk less

You will be surprised at how much you can get to learn when you start listening to others more, rather than trying to push your point across all the time. If you want to make a contribution, patiently hear the other person out before pitching in. This year, aim to be a better communicator – it will make others want to talk to you and listen to you more.

13 Take charge of your money

The simplest way to do this is to start by working with a budget. List down what you need to buy and stick to it when you walk into a supermarket or clothing store. If you didn’t remember to jot it down in the first place, then you do not really need it.
If you’re in financial disarray, you are probably a spendthrift and buy items that end up in the bin or which lie forgotten at some corner for years. If your weakness is buying clothes and shoes, going through your wardrobe and pile of shoes will give you an idea of just how much of your hard-earned money has gone to waste. This might just be the motivation you need to start being more responsible with money.

14 Kick the addiction

If others have done it, so can you – it could be an addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, sex, television – you know your poison. If you cannot get through the day without munching through a huge bar of chocolate, or if you spend hours in front of the television, or cannot go home from work without passing through the local bar or smoking one last cigarette, you might want to re-evaluate this habit. Start by cutting back gradually until you get to the point where you can do without it.

15 Work on your language

We have all been guilty of it at some point – we break the rules of language everyday with expressions such as “Me I can’t do that,” or “I was like – you can’t be serious!” Making a habit of talking this way might cost you a prospective job or a lucrative deal if you express yourself like this during a job interview, a presentation before prospective clients or during a departmental meeting.

If you are also one of those individuals who unconsciously use swear or curse words, a new year might be the best time to start using more refined language, bearing in mind that people are likely to judge you from how you speak. May the new year bring with it good tidings for all.