HAPPY new year! The new decade has ushered in lots of chatter about making changes and new habits – but it can be overwhelming, not knowing where to start.

Most of us already have a lot on our plates, and usually not a lot of money or time to spare. It’s a familiar, frustrating January tale to suddenly commit to lots of changes and then end up burnt out in a pile of guilt by the 31st.

Here’s a suggestion of something to consider that would definitely improve your world and someone else’s. It’s also free, and unlike other January vows, doesn’t require you to give up tasty things. In fact, it will build on your existing skills, teach you new ones and leave you with a feeling of satisfaction you can’t readily find elsewhere. This big idea is dead simple: become a mentor.

Mentoring is an incredibly powerful tool that helps both the mentor and mentee. It works because everyone – everyone! – has experience to share. And everyone has still got more to learn.

entoring is a way of reaching out to someone else and making their life that wee bit easier. It can be structured, like working with young people in Glasgow’s schools through the project MCR Pathways, or it can be through a workplace scheme, or through volunteering with a different age group. There are many variations, but at the core is a commitment to meeting regularly over a period of time with one other person, to get to know them, listen to them and support them.

It’s almost impossible to overestimate the impact a mentoring relationship can have. Throughout my life, older women who have been my youth worker, my boss or my friend have stepped into that role for me. As a result, ways round problems were uncovered through discussion, opportunities were chased and some significant wisdom imparted – often just by watching and learning.

Maybe this used to happen all the time in traditional apprenticeships; new workplaces could use some of the lessons from the past.

As a community worker before becoming a local councillor, I learned that bringing people together in small groups makes magic happen. So now I host a mentoring circle for young women. Time is too tight to meet them individually, but it is possible to hold space once a month to bring the group together and let them support each other.

We talk about politics, families, sex, jobs, college, mental health, flatmates; they share their hopes and fears and realise they’re not alone. There is so much joy in seeing them make connections and grow in confidence, and everyone learns from each other.

As a councillor there’s often a long time of working, waiting and hoping before you see results, so it’s wonderful to have one evening every month where there’s immediate impact.

So if you’re thinking about the year ahead, have a think about how you might share your skills and experience. Could you become a mentor in 2020?