My personal guide to living (your best life)

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon a quote from Roald Dahl, concerning the importance of being an enthusiast in life, and chasing your interests at full speed. He advised to embrace your interests with both arms, hug them, love them and above all become passionate about them.

Try something every week that scares you, whether it be a new flavour of Nespresso pod (typical me) or wearing a piece of clothing somewhat outside of your comfort zone. I try to surround myself with the dreamers, the believers, the inspirers, and most importantly, my home team; the people who see the best in me when at times I may not be able to see it myself.

My life is in no way perfect (nobody’s is, not even Beyoncé’s…) but I like to think of myself as someone who will always try to see the good in a situation, and aspire to find a solution to every problem (unless it concerns the printer in work, we just don’t get along).

 

Buy the over-priced coffee

Yes, many will say £2.60 is a lot for a single cup of coffee, but if spending that on the way to work every morning allows you to kick start your day with a happy attitude then you do you. It’s your money, and you have every right to spend it in however way you feel fit. You could even go for a short walk while drinking your coffee, ticking two things off the self-care checklist.

I seem to have established a reputation in my workplace for ‘refusing to use the kettle’ as they put it; I don’t believe anything can beat a good Soy Latte (yes I’m one of those people) from Caffe Nero. However, there’s worse things in the world that I could be spending my money on, and I genuinely feel my work day goes a lot better post-Nero. This could well have reached the placebo effect stage, but I’m quite content with my routine and don’t plan on rebranding my coffee-addict-self anytime soon.

NB15

 

Choose your company wisely

Whether you have kids yourself, you’re an auntie/uncle, or a close friend is a parent, fit in time for children when at all possible (unless you’re one of those people who simply cannot figure out how to get along with small children, that’s ok, you can be excused from this step). I cannot emphasise enough just how helpful a couple of hours with a child can be when you’re feeling down or stressed.

I have two little cousins, four and five years old, who I absolutely adore and would go as far as branding my favourite people in the world. There is no doubt that even 10 minutes with them will completely brighten my day. The happiness and innocence expressed by children is absolutely incredible, and will be sure to add a little sparkle to your outlook. Children remind me of little rays of light, brightening the world around them one laugh at a time (when they’re not crying over the shape of their toast of course). View the world through the eyes of a toddler sometime, it’s pretty amazing.

 

Quit Competing

Not meant in the literal sense of course – if you are a devoted member of a competitive sports team or dance school, give it your all and take home the gold. (This type of competition is great – I was a competitive dancer for the majority of my childhood and I can honestly say these were the best days of my life and the experiences, friendships and achievements have shaped me as a person set to tackle adulthood.)

In a workplace, educational, or social context, remember that your only competition should be the person you were yesterday. Why compete with those around you when you can simply be the best version of yourself; originality is key, and in itself is an advantage. If striving for a promotion, for example, put full focus into a clear demonstration of why you are fit for the role, rather than worrying about a fellow candidate’s attempt to succeed.

The popular saying ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ is quite important for a multitude of reasons. Work on building your friends and colleagues up, don’t waste your own valuable time trying to plan the approach to an aimless goal of making yourself better than those around you. Life requires a bit of (healthy) competition, but knowing where to draw the line is the vital piece in the puzzle. Supporting others’ successes won’t ever dampen your own.

NB22

 

“No” is a recognised word in the English language

…and it’s totally OK to use it. Nothing in life is more important than your mental health, happiness and overall well-being. If you don’t want to do something for whatever reason (honestly believe me, a 2-hour social event doesn’t warrant an excuse complete with references and bibliography), never feel guilty about politely declining.

A true friend or family member will never take it personally (unless you’ve committed to being someone’s bridesmaid, you might have to follow that one through). You don’t need to lie, make up silly excuses, or over-explain yourself; honesty is the best policy. Spend less time worrying about what others think, the best day of your life will be the one on which you decide that your life is your own.

 

Go to Disneyland

I’m serious, I went to Disneyland Paris last September with my bestfriend, and it was the best 5 days EVER. We went on all the rides, ate Mickey Mouse shaped macaroons costing €5 each (totally justifiable because they were Mickey Mouse shaped) and relived our entire childhood. Ok so, realistically you can go anywhere in the world, it doesn’t have to be Disneyland (although I would highly recommend). Travel outside of your home country, see what the world has to offer, sample new food and enjoy new experiences. Take in unfamiliar cultures and enjoy warmer climates. Travel is education for living.

Take photos! Anyone who knows me at all will be aware of my profound love for capturing life through my camera lens; I am in no way a professional by any means, I use my iPhone, and the same 3 filters that I have grown to love will re-appear with every picture I post. I have always loved the idea of capturing memories. My Dad was a keen videographer, confirmed by the endless clips of trips to the park and lengthy insights into 2-year-old Nora’s early music career. He knew he was making memories, but not that those memories would be so invaluable to his family in just a matter of months’ time. My Dad passed away suddenly in June 2000, two days before a family holiday and just two months before I started Nursery School. These videos are all I will ever need, and have inspired me to continue documenting the moments in life that are worth reliving.

NB16

Eat the chocolate

Personally, I am an avid gym-goer and have been for a couple of years now. I work-out a couple of times a week, eat healthily and take care of my body (apart from consistently continuing to consume dairy when I am, in fact, intolerant).

An unhealthy relationship with food and body-image is where it goes wrong. Love your body for what it is, and if it tells you it would like a treat on a Friday night, then allow it exactly that. After all, your body has sat through your 9-5 week, it has attended your lectures, carried the weekly shop home from Sainsburys, and called into Starbucks for the office coffee run; give it a little weekend pick me up, it’s what it deserves. Eating a bar of chocolate will not ruin your fitness regime, a glass of wine won’t lead to a disappearing act from your calf-muscle, and the dress you have planned to wear out next weekend will still fit. My mum once told me to enjoy ‘everything in moderation’ and I pretty much live by that. If you don’t enjoy the finer things in life, nobody else is going to do it for you. I guarantee Simone Biles has a share bar of Dairy Milk in her kitchen cupboard.

 

Finally, just be nice to people

Inner battles are not always publicised through Facebook status’, sometimes it can be the people who seem the happiest who are struggling the most behind the scenes. Be a positive presence, a friendly smile, a listening ear. Just knowing that someone is in your corner can have a massive influence on the mind. Try not to take everything in life so personally (I am soooo guilty of this), and do not listen to that little voice in your head who drops by from time to time to tell you that you aren’t good enough.

In whatever way you choose to spend your days, take time to ensure you are living for YOU. Stop dreaming about success and go out and build it. The secret to having it all is believing that you already do, what comes next is simply dependent on your choice to ‘just do you’. The world will continue to spin, and Mondays are (unfortunately) here to stay. Trust your instinct, remember who you are, and the game will change.  You don’t need to wait until ‘next week’ to start living your best life.

P.S. Buy the £2.60 coffee.

Nora xx

 

Nora Brennan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – @noraellenb / Twitter – @noraellenb / LinkedIn- Nora Ellen Brennan.

 

 

The High-Street Hustle

Success within a changeable industry

 

As reports of huge retailers filing for bankruptcy or closing a multitude of stores grow increasingly regular as the weeks fly by, it’s pretty hard not to think about what the future really holds for the High Street as we know it. As an Assistant Manager of a popular Belfast Retail Store (and frequent over-spender), I for one have struggled to keep up with the changes in Belfast City Centre over the last year with so many stores moving premises, rebranding, or ceasing trade entirely.

The world has gone online, and it’s more and more obvious by the day just how much of an impact the digital age is having on our High Streets. A recent report by The Office for National Statistics published in August 2018 states how online spending has “continued to increase to reach a new record proportion of all retailing at 18.2%.” With no doubt a strain is evident, what is the secret to achieving a steady turnover in a world dominated by Amazon Prime?

 

Brick and Mortar

The key to maintaining success in this increasingly competitive high street market is to focus on customer perception. Why may a customer choose to head into the City Centre for a bit of shopping on a Saturday afternoon, rather than snuggling up on the sofa with their iPad and a nice cuppa, scrolling through ASOS for hours on end.

The answer? Communication. That all important customer interaction is what keeps people coming back. This is something that you will not get online, and for many tends to categorise shopping as an enjoyable pastime rather than a necessity. How many times have you found yourself engaging in conversation with a Sales Assistant (usually surrounding a completely random topic), and left the store with a smile on your face. Equally, a less enjoyable encounter may reduce the likelihood you will rush back to that store.

NB2

 

Carrier bag 5p, Experience Priceless

Belief in your brand is vital. Customers do not want to be sold a product, but a lifestyle. Present your belief in the item, the company, and most importantly your genuine interest in the people who are giving you a reason to switch on the lights.

If you’ve ever worked in retail, you have undoubtedly heard the infamous comment that a particular item is cheaper online. Fast fashion is rapidly available, but isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For this particular group of individuals, the price point will not be the pinnacle when contemplating a purchase (although I’m pretty sure there is a good percentage of Belfast’s population who’d happily switch to the online market just to get out of having to pay 5p for a carrier bag). A friendly, positive attitude and a soft-sell, non-scripted approach is best-practice. A customer should never feel as though you are pushing an item in exchange for an additional cocktail on Saturday night. Let’s just say Disneyland would not hire me pre-morning coffee, but the secret is simple… buy the Latte, pop on that retail smile and put your best self on the floor.

 

I can’t, but we can

The team. The word itself says it all. There is no ‘I’ in team, and the foundations for the successful running of a Retail Store will always come down to those representing the brand. A customer doesn’t know the Managing Director, they don’t know who runs the Warehouse or who manages Payroll (and probably don’t particularly care either). All they are interested in is the product, and respectively the individual selling it to them. A company can have an incredible hierarchical back-bone, but in most cases the customer will not see beyond the Sales Assistant.

Your team members are your forefront, the lead on your reputation, and act as the focal pull to the potential customer. Training is vital, and can make or break a retailer. Build a strong, dependable, enthusiastic team that will do all necessary to avoid providing a customer with reason to grow disengaged with the service implemented in-store.

Buy now or cry later

Visual Merchandising is your best friend. Creating a visual atmosphere that draws people in will change your life (well maybe not your life but your footfall counts at least). You may be surprised by how many people prefer to see an item in person before purchasing. The opportunity to touch it, feel it, and try it on… (spoiler alert: you’ll also save yourself the bother of repackaging an unwanted item and carting it to the Post Office).

I personally find myself more likely to develop an attachment to an item that I have held in my hand, as opposed to the multitude of items on my Topshop ‘online WishList’. We have the ability to view short catwalk snippets, and even spin online images 360 degrees to view the item from all angles, but is this really the same as viewing the item in person and physically touching it? A glimpse at how the item looks partnered with your style, how it feels, does it look the same as advertised… (pretty much all of the guess-work involved in an online haul).

NB7

 

Sink or Swim

I am sure Brexit alongside other factors will bring more ups and downs to our Economy, our High-Street and our Retailers. This is a bridge we will cross when we come to it. The present is our priority, and we are more than capable of continuing to thrive (and even grow). Do we give in to the online market? Or do we present an experience that will make the customer want to return to the store. Online retailers are here to stay, but I believe in the importance of brick and mortar and believe that many others do too. Know your competition, monitor KPIs, set targets and aim to exceed them. Provide unmatchable customer service and respect the sales team (they are the face of your brand). Sell an experience over a product, reiterate the importance of a consistent Brand Identity and implement Consumer-led Strategy. Take every chance you have to thrive.

To remain competitive and relevant in a constantly evolving industry may be a challenge, but remind yourself that impossible is only an opinion. If your work isn’t fun, you’re not playing for the right team.

Nora xx

 

Nora Brennan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – @noraellenb / Twitter – @noraellenb / LinkedIn- Nora Ellen Brennan.