WhileI have found a career path I genuinely love and want to stick to, at the end of the day, work is just that…work. It’s not the epicentre of my life as it once was. I no longer attach my self-worth or self-esteem, to the role or company I work for, and I’ve redefined what it means to be successful in a way that contributes to my overall well-being. Personally speaking, if I can practice the below points on a regular basis, I would consider myself as successful:
· Spending time with who I want
· Saying and doing what feels right
· Learning something worth pursuing
· Being of service to others
· Taking care of my health
On pleasing others
I’ve officially left the people pleasing business. Every time I’m given a choice between disappointing someone else and disappointing myself, my duty is to disappoint that someone else, especially the ones who love you the most. This may sound harsh but made complete sense once I realised that pleasing others at my own expense, results in bottling up negative emotions and thoughts that will one day explode and hurt those around you, even if that wasn’t my intention.
I no longer hold my parents to a pedestal, because it’s not fair to me and to them to portray them as these immortal heroes. I recognised that they are humans still trying to figure life out for themselves, and not to take everything they say as the only truth. Their values and beliefs have been influenced by their childhood, the people and situations they were exposed to, and so it’s important to identify and define your values, so that they work for you. Just because they are elders doesn’t mean they are unequivocally right or always know what they are saying or doing.
This doesn’t mean I don’t respect, admire and love them. I’ll always be there for them emotionally, and will listen to their opinions and concerns, but will do what I think is best for me based on my values and my gut instinct. So, I’ve gained more clarity and peace of mind, and can have a healthier relationship with them, because I finally know where I stand and where they stand.
For example, moving back home and living with my mother, hasn’t been easy as we are quite different in the way that we think, behave and approach various life situations.On the flip side, this has taught me to be patient and to actively try and understand what is her childhood background, her values, ethics and reasoning, that makes her hold such strong position in any given situation. This, in turn, gives me perspective and I feel less inclined to convince her or entertain an argument with her.
“What are my core values that keep me from going astray in life, and is every decision I make based on those or on some underlying fear?”
This is a question I continuously ask myself because I realised this internal tension whenever I do or say something that isn’t aligned with my values, and is driven by fear or something else. So, here are the values that I value and try to live by:
Truth seeking – always trying to get at the real truth about people and nature
Acceptance – accept all of quirks and desires without shame or apology
Authenticity – maintain my dignity and integrity even in environments and situations that are undignified.
Appreciation – appreciate the basics of life what it means to be alive, with awe, pleasure and wonder, however stale these experiences may have become to others.
Curiosity – be open to exploration and discovering the unknown.
Creativity – bring my creative spirit in everything I touch and do.
Equanimity – take life’s inevitable ups and downs with grace and equanimity.
Service (humanitarianism)– genuine desire to help fellow humans.
Buddha once said “to live is to suffer”. I first heard this from Stratis, my current manager and good friend, who has had a huge positive impact on my life in various ways, including helping me realise how I’ve been pursuing happiness in life the wrong way. I used to think that if I achieved this, changed that, my internal suffering would end and I would be happy, but the thing about happiness is that it’s a very short-lived feeling. Unfortunately, our human brain was designed, by natural selection, to be perpetually dissatisfied in order to survive and carry our genes into the next generation, no matter the cost to our human and emotional development. So, even though today (a lot of us) have our basic needs (food, shelter, love) met, we still seem to chase what we are deprived of. This narrows our worldview of reality to what we don’t have, causing us to have outsized reactions to the world that aren’t actually in line with reality.
Rather than trying so hard to be “happy”, perhaps we can create conditions in our lives that help minimise our eternal suffering by consciously practicing gratefulness and self-awareness. I personally strive to do this by meditating daily, and intentionally choosing to respond to the day in the best possible version of myself by being present and attentive to others, and doing things with grace.
So while I have my moments of sadness, anger, frustration, and that’s ok, particularly when things aren’t going the way I want to, I try to reduce the time and power I give these emotional states of mind, and bring myself back to a more calm and content state by reminding myself that this too shall pass. It's surprisingly easier accepting things for how they are rather than fighting to change them.
How do you choose your friends or who you spend time with? It’s an important question to ask yourself, because as they say, you are the sum of the people you surround yourself with. And despite this, I used to underestimate the importance of cultivating and nurturing high-quality friendships. Leaving the UK, gave me the opportunity to access who these people actually are, and eventually realised that I was giving my time to those that instead of lifting my up through their living presence, were instead bringing me down.
So, what I look for is someone who notices the things that I enjoy and have resonance with. Because when you hang out with someone, they are going to point things out in any given situation or environment. And so will the insights they uncover, the reflections they offer, the responses they give to something I shared, resonate with me? That’s a sign of a person I have resonance with. That’s a friend. And it’s a way better indicator than choosing someone based on how well we get along or have common interests.
Because you don’t see the world as it is, you see it as you are and so do they. So the things they notice, directly mirrors their fundamental nature, their character. And if you hang out with the right friends, they will expand your world in ways you enjoy. So choose your friends very carefully.
I realised that connection is more important that compatibility and I’ll tell you why. But let me first define what compatibility, chemistry and connection mean.
Compatibility – refers to the traits that make two people compatible. For example, you and your partner might like to explore new places, cultures, food etc., people watch, be outdoors, go dancing, watch movies and so forth.
Chemistry – where two people know how to get along and flow with each other. Chemistry doesn’t necessarily require compatibility. Take your colleagues for example, you can learn how to work well together, but that dynamic is very fluid, meaning chemistry can come and it can go.
Connection – unlike chemistry, connection doesn’t come and go. Its either there or it isn’t. You can’t create or destroy it. You can run from it or try to reject it, but it’s still there. And its why it’s the strongest and most important of all three.And with connection, chemistry follows.
What makes a relationship truly great, is a deep and genuine connection that was there from the very start. So, it's possible to fall in love very quickly and I think that’s where a lot of people get love wrong, thinking it takes time. When in fact they haven’t fallen in love, they simply learned to tolerate each other and are less likely to walk away because of the time and effort they put in to this ‘investment’. That’s not real love.
Don’t rush or chase love. When you are busy living your live to its fullest, that is according to your values, mission and purpose, the right person will eventually present themselves.
Also, don’t worry so much whether you’re compatible (e.g. like the same things, come from similar background, live in the same city, families live nearby), cause all you’re doing is choosing someone based off of your logical deduction that this makes sense.
All you two need, is to really enjoy each other’s company, it’s the glue that will keep you two together through life’s ups and downs. And if you have connection it’s inevitable that you will have chemistry and similar interests.
Even if you two have different interests, when there’s a connection you don’t view these differences as a negative thing. Instead, you view them as if they’re introducing you to a new, different side of the world, which creates a more balanced and well-rounded relationship.
You want someone who elevates you and wants to be better for you and your dreams, and of course vice versa. And realising that both parties are responsible for both the joy and hardship they bring to the relationship and hence when one is down, stressed, worried or overwhelmed its ok to briefly feel that way, but eventually both need to get back to their collective vision.
I hope my lessons and experiences can help you better tune in your inner voice, however hard that may be at times, and to live every day of your life in a way that best suits your beliefs, values and purpose.