Here are a 5 lessons I learned (and relearned) in 2014.
1) Find a Purpose bigger than planet Mars
I witnessed the Thailand 2014 political crisis protest.
Tell me, what comes to your mind when I say the protest? Most probably “blood sheds, conflict, death, and unrest”? True, but there was more to it.
I saw the other side of the #bangkokshutdown. The humane side of it. I joined the protests – perhaps I was lucky, the ones that I went to were so carnival-like that it felt like a street concert. Yes, there were concerts, happy gatherings, and some took their costumes very passionately. Most of these people have their day jobs, they were likely just making ends meet too. They gathered – invested their time, money, and energy without asking anything in return.
My friend’s mum opened up her kitchen and cooked for the protesters. Everyday, she prepared food for more than 100 people. I have colleagues who rather use up their annual leaves for the protest. Whenever I spoke to them about the protest, you can see sparkles in theirs eyes. Their faces glowed up. They were proud. They were happy. They were fulfilled. Those emotions and energy were contagious.
Why? They were serving a purpose bigger than self. Now imagine that the protest is your life, what would you do? When you find that purpose for yourself, the fire in the belly will never go off.
2) Happiness is a butterfly
I experimented with project 100happydays.
I had fun. Life was a little more excited when I was out looking for “moments and stuffs” to be happy about – like when someone asked me for coaching, when I dived with manta ray for the first time, and when I made myself a very nice breakfast; and of course, read a good book. I paid more attention.
Having that said, could I be genuinely happy the whole 100 days? No, fortunately and realistically.
I remember feeling reluctant with some of the posts and when I got to the last one, I ironically breathed a sigh of relief – “over n done n still happy”. Some friends who started the experiment with me dropped off by day 30; while some resorted to posting largely pictures of coffee and latte art only. I guess, they felt the same friction. The friction of chasing happiness.
Happiness is a butterfly. The more you chase after it, the more it flies away. Perhaps, the trick is not to look and log happiness. Instead, we should learn to attract happiness. No butterfly wants to stop on a rotted flower. No happiness wants to enter a sour soul either.
Do you know what makes your soul rich and sweet? Do you know how to attract happiness? Or before that, What is happiness to you?
3) We live in a world of many worlds
I am grateful that my work brought me to the deep rural in Vietnam.
I met people who lived in a different world – Places where road was just about to be built; where the wet market they sell stuffs is in a puddle of mud; where they find joy in gathering during lunch time and feast on dog meat, interesting? I am always amazed by the thought that everyone is doing something at this very same split second. It could be me typing this very sentence now; while someone 3000 miles away is bending a broken heart; while someone else is diving with sharks; while someone else is sipping tea; and while someone else who is probably typing this exact sentences somewhere else.
We live in our own worlds in this world. We are doing something in a world matters to you and you only.
See, that’s why comparing life will never bring you happiness because everyone has their destined world to shine in. Why compare apple to watermelon? Yet, it is important to see and appreciate different worlds. Why? perspective. If everyone put their problems on a table, you probably would want to take yours back. Then, the problems we are dealing with do not seems so unbearable anymore. And know what? No one can solve your problems in your world better than you.
How to see more worlds? Read, connect, travel, and many other ways. Most importantly, see it with a filter of gratefulness.
4) Crush fear even if it means some serious head injury
This one is not easy to admit.
I have had emotional turmoils towards the second half of 2014 and it was overwhelming. I was dealing with large doses of emotional stress – largely fear triggered emotions. It started small and eventually became a downward spiral.
The stress triggered shoulder and upper back pain that wasn’t going away. I went to the chiropractor and orthopedic doctor but nothing was wrong on the X-ray. Obviously, duh! I was trying to run away from the stress with an excuse (a medical certificate). I am not proud of it. I walked out of the hospital frustrated. Then, I asked myself…
“Do I want to feel this for the rest of my life?“
“Am I only this good?”
“Is this worth consuming my life for?”
No. No. No.
I knew it – I had to deal with it in my head.
In a whatsapp chat with my boss, we talked about it.
She said, “you have to find a way to deal with the emotion. The higher you go, the lonelier you get. No one will deal with it except for yourself”
I said, “I am scared. I am avoiding because I am scared. I am scared that I am not good enough”
She said, “There is a fine line between fear and thrill. You get to decide which is which. For me, whenever I am scared, I see it as an excitement to outdo myself.”
Right. Fuck it. Fuck fear.
Here is a quick tip. The fastest way to crush fear is to face it head on. In short, don’t be a coward. Bang! Imagine you are in a boxing ring with Mr. Fear. Yes, it also means some serious head injury but fear doesn’t leave the ring unscratched either. You have won half the battle when you stepped into that ring.
Fear is one of my favourite thesis in coaching. I will write more about it – Let’s learn how to box. Bang!
5) Do stuffs, just go out and do stuffs
The hardest part in doing things is to begin.
When I got drown in stress , I realized, I became stagnant in life (and that is bad). I resorted to a “low energy and don’t give a fuck” mode. I became uninterested and rather detached. My colleagues and friends in many different occasions, asked me the same question: “why so low?”. In contrast, the high moments in 2014 were those times I was doing exciting stuffs (see the list below)
Our body has a built in fight or flight mechanism, designed since cavemen days to help us survive. Let me give you an example, why when you reduce energy intake abruptly (on diet), your body metabolism rate will drop drastically as well? That’s how our body copes subconsciously – it switches on the “low energy” state.
The body and the mind are connected. Similarly, when the mind senses surge in stress, it switches into a low energy state whereby it consolidates energy to fight – Survive and everything else is dispensable. True, if we were to be cavemen.
To break the state (and tell the mind that we are not in war), we need to break the patterns. Instead of going low, go charged; start a different routine; dress differently; start a new habit; find a new hobby and be damn good at it.
I have a friend, his name is Arvind. He runs on a nuclear fusion battery pack in him. He is always going out, doing stuffs. Every weekend is packed, with party, diving, rock climbing, and traveling.
I asked him: “how do you manage to do it?”
He said: “I don’t know man. Life is good man. You just gotta do it. One thing at a time. ”
That’s the key. Build momentum and break the patterns. Once you got that going, the rest are peanuts.
Lastly, here is a not-so-exhaustive list of stuffs I did in 2014.
- Started A donation drive for an orphanage – raised over RM 1K among small group of friends;
- Volunteered at a dog shelter in Bangkok;
- My first Skydiving – jumping off the plane at 10,000 feets and landed on my butt;
- My first livable dive in South Andaman – up close dive with manta ray and the feeling was surreal;
- My first international half marathon in Cambodia – 12 temples in one run;
- I am a
ABM now – to continue to build great brands by being truthful to the consumers;
- Started simple healthy cooking. I would wake up an hour earlier to make myself good breakfast;
- Paid off my study loan;
- Great company parties!
- Family and close friends are healthy (This is not stuff I did but I am extremely grateful for it)…
I am thankful for the lessons life has bestowed me upon in 2014.
Here on, cheers to a 2015!
Now, over to you. What lessons have you learned in 2014?
Do leave your thoughts on the comment sections below. I look forward to hear your stories!