In Honour of Life: Ten Personal Victories in 2014

Even as I keep tabs on the news hoping to hear that the missing AirAsia plane has been found, I figure it is pointless to wallow in sadness and put everything else on hold. At the very least, the silver lining from this tragedy is the reminder that life can be snuffed out anytime, anywhere. So I want to honour this gift called life by living it out thoughtfully–enough to fully enjoy the moment, and yet without disregarding the future, uncertain though it may be.

When I was 22, in university and growing in my faith as a Christian, I started pondering the purpose of life. I asked the God with whom I was cultivating a relationship and I was certain this was the answer He gave me:”We are all here to make this world a better place for one another.” That’s it–making this world a better place, even if it means only my tiny sphere of influence–my class, at home, or my neighbourhood. It didn’t necessarily mean I had to save the world or a nation. So I started my quest to discover the ‘how’ for me–and as a fan of Malaysian social activist, Datuk Paduka Marina Mahathir, I soon discovered I had a passion for issues related to women and youth. Over the years I had somehow managed to reconcile my altruistic interests with the materialistic ones–enjoying life while making a contribution and difference in my small circle of influence.¬† So every year I would set and review my goals, and update them for a new year.

And the more I do the exercise every year, the more I experience firsthand that the more specific a goal is, the more likely it is to materialize. But I also learnt that being specific can be quite challenging–because knowing what we want often takes a lot of soul searching and thinking. It’s still an exercise I look forward to doing each year, though, because as Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” So in honour of this life I have been given, here’s the list of personal victories I achieved in 2014:

1. Stepping out of my comfort zone and overcoming self-consciousness to actually ASK for help and delegate things at work–The embarassment I felt before asking for help was actually quite unfounded because it wasn’t as if the things I was initiating were for my personal gains. They could have been my goals based on which my performance would be rated, but they were still things that would benefit the company and employees, and when things are achieved, the credit is always shared.

2. Travelling to some places I had wanted to visit–including going to New Zealand on my own to join a spiritual retreat at the beautiful Taupo.

3. Stepping out of my introvert shell to reach out to more people, especially at work–I stopped having lunch at my desk and started joining my colleagues for lunch regularly. It has certainly made the workplace a lot more fun!

4. Cutting down on Facebook drastically–this is a rather big achievement because I used to feel the urge to update so many things I did, and to just mindlessly scroll down my newsfeed to go through photos of what people ate for their lunches and dinners, or to read impassioned views of the latest political events, when I already had so much other information to deal with in my head. Without Facebook, my mind is clearer and I accomplish more important things in shorter times.

5. Learning Thai and German–two items on my ‘to-do someday’ list that I finally decided not to postpone anymore. I have acquired a very basic command of both languages so far so this is something I foresee doing for many more years to come–possibly even till when I am old and wrinkled!

6. Starting this blog–another ‘to-do someday’ item I finally decided to not postpone anymore. There will never come a day when I would have ‘enough’ free time to write a blog, so I might as well just start. And am I am glad I did!

7. Running and fund raising–this was not something I consciously planned to pick up, but I decided to jump at the chance when I found out that one could run the New York City Marathon 2015 for charity–so it was my passion for travelling and charity that led to my new-found passion for running. Now I am hooked on running because there’s just something inherently fulfilling about pushing and overcoming our own limits. Training for the marathon is a test of my physical limitations, whereas fund raising challenges my emotional limits–overcoming reservations to approach people to donate and learning that rejection is not personal when the prospects choose not to give. And of course, the joy when they decide to do so!

8. Turning a deaf ear to gossip–where I used to think lending a listening ear was the right thing to do when someone tells me something, suddenly idle talk about other people’s lives started¬† to feel so draining that I found myself feeling frustrated over the loss of precious time. I would have rather invested my minutes in a siesta! So alongside minding the things I say, I also decided to become more mindful as to what I choose to hear.

9. Identifying and overcoming a negative core belief about myself–this was the core and most important personal victory in 2014, because the beliefs we hold about ourselves are the foundation on which our entire life is built. The USD 150 or so I invested in the four enlightening sessions with the psychotherapist was the best investment I have ever made in myself. Once I understood why I felt the way I did about some things, and why did some things I did, I felt almost unstoppable! The saying that if you could kick the person who gives you the most trouble in the back, you won’t be able to sit for days is so true. So in other words, the four therapy sessions helped me get me out of my way–so over the last few months of 2014 I felt like almost nothing is impossible! Where I have been running, now I feel like I am soaring.

10. Making a simple but enormously helpful change to my diet–I stopped adding sugar to my morning coffee, and stopped having rice for lunch. The result was I no longer felt sleepy by mid morning and also post lunch, and found that my mind remained sharp even in the late afternoons. This benefit alone is awesome enough for me to want to do this for the rest of my life. Life is sweeter without sugar!

So with slightly over three days left before 2014 ends, and in honour of life as a gift, even as we hope and pray for those on board the AirAsia flight, I end this post with this quote by Seneca: “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”