In this guest post, Rebecca Brown shares how one can achieve work-life balance and prevent burnout as a freelancer.Read More
Bucket lists are something of a double-edged sword for me. They can be a huge source of pressure for me … or they can be liberating. Here’s my attempt at creating a more holistic list.Read More
I went through massive changes last year. As a result, it has been a challenge to achieve any kind of work/life balance.Read More
I am one of those annoying creatures that bounce out of bed in the morning with a smile on my face. But I’ve not always been this way.Read More
I've been more and more aware of what hormonal fluctuations can do to a female, and it's really fascinating. Did you know these hormonal fluctuations can cause bloating, gut issues, back pain, joint pain?
Early 2017, I started to track everything: from the food I ate and the symptoms I have.Read More
For the longest time I thought I was so "unlucky". I haven't found a man I wanted to spend my life with. I wasn't married. I didn't have children. But now, I consider my singlehood a great blessing.Read More
Can you believe it'll be 2018 soon? I can't even imagine writing the numbers down: 2018.
2017 has been a calmer, more settled year for me. Happiness, I realise, isn't always the result of massive changes - instead, small things, habits or actions can improve your life a whole lot. Here are the things that have made me a happier person in 2017:Read More
I've had a weight problem all my life. I never ever, ever thought I'd ever get a handle on my weight. I could never understand why I balooned so much. I ate and exercised the same like the thin folks. In fact, I would work out six times a week, doing RPM (spinning classes) and the weight would not budge.
Around 2012, I began researching aggressively about why weight loss wasn't happening for me despite implementing all the 'right advice'. At that time I was at my worst -- nearly 95kg in weight and I was tired all the time.
What I discovered was this: All the diet advice out there was wrong. I realised that weight loss was all about the hormones, and what we eat influences our hormones to a huge degree.
Following the Paleo diet helped me shed significant amounts of flab, but not enought to get me out of the chubby zone.
Truth was, I liked food too much to control my carbs 100% or eliminate wheat from my life, so my weight would yo yo depending on how strict I was. I briefly was a svelte 65kg in 2012, but gained almost 15kg by the time I returned to Malaysia in 2015. I wasn't as bad as I was in 2012, but I was by no means in my best shape. By 2016, I more or less resigned myself to forever having to watch what I eat.
How I ate
But in Sept 2016 I started experimenting with Intermittent Fasting. Now, I didn't do this to lose weight. I mostly wanted to prevent diabetes, which haunts my family, and I heard that it was a great way to do it. The idea was to eat in a small window of time instead of throughout the day (say 12-14 hours like many Malaysians would!).
Initially, it was tough. I was ravenous by 10am. But over time, my body seemed to get used to it and I only got hungry by 1pm. I didn't change my diet at all, however. I just changed the time I ate.
I was pleasantly surprised when my waist started shrinking. In fact, I would steadily lose an inch a month, a feat that was startling to me as I didn't really change what I ate.
The only thing I changed was to stop my midnight binges at McDonalds. I made my last meal at 8pm, and only starting to eat around noon or 1pm. I didn't purposely set out to eat at 1pm either - it was just my current schedule.
However, I think I didn't do IF properly in the early days. For one, I didn't feed my body the nutrients it needed but instead binged on cakes and sugar-laden deserts on my "feeding" day (a day where I purposely overate). It's important to eat nutrient-rich food during IF because since you eat in a compressed window, you have less opportunities to eat food. You could easily end up starving your body, and if you give it empty calories, well ... it won't be happy. Also, I carried I didn't listen to my body. I sometimes forced myself to fast until 4pm to 5pm. Doing this was not beneficial - not for my sanity, not for my body.
I wasn't sure if this sparked a storm in my body or not, or was this a pre-existing condition, but around December I suddenly started having digestion issues. In January I decided to really get serious with nutrition and began what my colleague describe as the "no wheat, no sugar, no soy, no joy diet" - mostly to get rid of the joint pain. (It's really not as terrible as it sounds, though initially I thought the same lol.)
My joint pain improved a lot, but it took some tinkering to eat in a way that would not upset my way-too-sensitive tummy. And because my tummy was so sensitive to nearly everything, I found myself eating rather unadventurous foods. I ate a lot of rice porridge, for one. Yes, my diet wasn't low carb high fat (couldn't digest loads of fat well), or even strict paleo. I suppose it was Perfect Health-ish (developed by Paul Jaminet). (In fact, I became really comfortable with Perfect Health way of eating during this time and am now eating this way.)
So, needless to say, from January to June, I wasn't focused on weight loss at all. I was more concerned with getting rid of pain and to get my digestive health back. I wasn't tracking my weight, nor was I really taking a look at the mirror, believe it or not. So when I started getting compliments and questions about my "huge weight loss" I was frankly baffled and a bit freaked out. (Am I sick?) When I finally weighed myself, I discovered that I had lost 15kg-17kg since September last year and I didn't even realise it!
But you know, I think when you cut out all the harmful stuff and add the good stuff into your diet, and you implement IF correctly, weight loss will happen. It should!
What I do now
I no longer do 'radical' IF now. I start eating at 12pm, and end my meals at 8pm. If I feel hungry earlier I eat. If I am still hungry at 10pm, I eat. I just listen to my body now. My only rule is not to eat four hours before bed time. My tummy hates it. (Goodbye McD midnight binges!)
All in all, I'm grateful that I was able to lose the weight I thought I'd never be able to lose. I now know exactly what to do to control my weight. How ironic that all this happened when I stopped expecting it to happen!
We're spoiled by the availability of cheap food in Malaysia. There's food served at every street corner, so it's really easy for the busy, overworked urbanite to abandon the home kitchen and eat at the local economy rice restaurant instead.
I was that person. I visited the economy rice store ("chap fun" in Cantonese) across the street. For RM5-6, I'd get a plate of white rice, vegetables and protein. Healthy, I thought. (Nope, not always.) On a more indulgent day I would visit the numerous restaurants in my area and eat Thai, Vietnamese, Western or Indian food. I definitely won't starve where I live!
All that came to a screeching halt when I started developing gut issues late last year. After much research and consultations with a naturopath and a functional medicine doctor, I realised that I had to stop triggering my gut with foods such as dairy, soy, preservatives, gluten/wheat, sugar, recycled oils and vegetable oils.
At first I thought I could still eat out and eat clean. I just have to be very careful and selective, right? Nope. It became a game of Russian Roulette instead.
That chap fun I took for lunch could've been slathered with recycled vegetable oil. That bowl of yummy pho probably had a tablespoon or two of MSG. And the crispy sweet potato fries I loved so much were probably dusted with flour before being placed in a vat of vegetable oil. Worse, maybe the person who prepared the meal didn't wash his hands after visiting the loo...
Because I didn't know what was in my food, I would sometimes be down with an aching tummy for days. Nausea and bloating was a constant companion.
So, in April,I had to concede defeat: I will start cooking all my meals.
I fell into a deep funk. I cannot stress how much I hate cooking: I would Netflix something on my iPad while cooking to distract myself from the task!
Also, eating out wasn't just convenient for me. Being a foodie, dining at restaurants was a source of joy and socialisation for me.
I grudgingly began. The meals I cooked was worse than gagh. An excellent chef, I was not.
I fell into a deeper funk, thinking that I was now condemned to a lifetime of joyless, bland, food.
But over time, I not only embraced my new lifestyle, but am sometimes even excited to cook!
Here's how I transformed from a cooking-phobic person to an amateur cook:
I found a "partner in crime"
The thing that helped me turn around the most was when my best friend Marlene told me that she, too, was cooking all her meals. Only, she was really loving it! Why? Because it saved her a tonne of money and her health improved so much doing so. She also had a sense of accomplishment each time she cooked.
Her joy and happiness was infectious. (Also, knowing that I wasn't the only weird one cheered me up. Believe me, I get so many strange looks from Malaysians when I tell them I cook all my meals.)
Now, we exchange photos of what we cook for the day. Cooking my meals has become a fun, social affair, imagine that!
Changed my mindset
I have to admit, the idea of saving money was very appealing to me. Shockingly, I can eat an RM50 lunch without batting an eyelid. Now, RM50 buys me supplies for a week's worth of food.
I went on a Youtube recipe hunting binge and bookmarked favourite recipes. Have a look.
Meal prep in advance
This was the one that did it for me! Initially, cooking was such a tedious affair for me because I had to cook two or three times a day. All that cleaning up I had to do was driving me insane. Then I discovered the magic of once-a-week cook-ups.
So, on my off day, I'd set aside two to three hours to cook meals for the entire week. It saves me time and it certainly saves me all that washing up which I loathe. At the end of each session, I'd have five-six boxes of read-to-freeze meals each week.
I only cook my dinners, however. I do very light cooking for lunch.
Remind yourself that it's for your health and well-being
After just two weeks of eating meals I prepared for myself, I noticed a marked improvement in my gut health. I no longer had stomach pains, and if I do it's almost always because I took something I didn't prepare for myself. Plus, I lost weight (yay!), and my skin cleared up. I'm still healing, but I'm on the right direction at last.
Stop being a perfectionist about this
I'm Type A, a perfectionist to the core. I had to remind myself that it's not the end of the world if my meals are awful or if I strayed and eat out only to suffer the consequences later. I'm only human, and one slip up is not going to set me back to zero. The point is to keep on going forward.
While I may not be a happy chef yet, I can definitely say that this "cooking most of my meals" thing is here to stay. I actually feel so much better health wise, and it's actually fun to come up with a meal plan for the week and to strategise how to cook a week's worth of food in two hours. (What can I say, I can never stop being Type A, even in the kitchen...)
So, do you cook most of your meals? Do share tips and strategies, and how you came to do this.
I've sometimes written about my health issues - my month of hell as I battled a particularly vicious flare of eczema, how fatigue often makes it hard for me to create, and make my dreams seem almost impossible to reach.
In 2016, I made a concerted effort to battle the brain fog, weight fluctuations and fatigue I keep having, and I did it by the skill I have: Research. I pored over books, blogs and podcasts constantly and by the end of last year, I've made significant progress, having discovered the wonders of intermittent fasting, the importance of a nutrient density diet, juicing and finally making that connection between gluten and the shifting joint and muscular pains in my body. That helped me kick my constant flirtation with gluten and dairy to the curb.
Yet, my journey actually began in 2010-2011 when I started having mysterious symptoms: alarming weight gain, hair loss, chronic fatigue, sharp pain on my scalp, eczema, dry skin, boils, dizzy spells for a month, and the corker: sudden onset of anxiety.
I hate to say this, but perhaps I'm just unlucky, but I didn't have the best of experience with doctors. I took tests that came back normal. Some blamed me for my symptoms ("you're not trying hard enough" - when I told one about my inability to lose weight), most slapped me with meds that only masked the symptoms and that at times made things worse. How quickly was I given Xanax and anti-depressants (I couldn't sleep for a week - yay)!
So, I used my skill as a researcher to find out WTF is going on with me. And after 5-7 years of intense research, everything has come together at last. I realise that nutrition is so intricately linked with health, and like Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."
I realise now that I've always been intolerant to gluten and dairy since childhood. When I found out that I wasn't breastfed but fed formula, it made a lot of sense. My gut microbiome was compromised from day 1.
When I was a kid, I had tummy pains and diarrhoea every other day - and usually after eating something. I was so used to the pain that it was 'normal'. We discovered that I was lactose intolerant when I was nine when a doctor prescribed me milk for my tummy upsets. Well, guess what happened??
Removing milk was no biggie for me as it caused me such distress, but the tummy pains continued, albeit with less frequency and intensity.
It's only when I became a diet detective and started monitoring how I reacted to food that I realised, to my horror and deep sadness, that each time I ate anything with wheat, my tummy would suffer.
Later, in my thirties, my knuckles would turn red and swell up.
I totally forgot about the joint pain symptom until recently when I read that it's a common symptom of gluten intolerance!
A few months ago I began suffering strange back pain.
Strange because it was more of a bone-deep ache, and strange because it would disappear and come back inexplicably. And strange because my knee seemed to ache at the same time, and my thigh muscles! How is it that I can be completely pain-free one moment and then in deep ache the next?? And how odd that I always have tummy upsets at the same time?
So I've been on a very restricted diet recently, and it was more or less an Autoimmune Protocol and I've felt swell. No joint pain or tummy pain. And I thought, well, perhaps I shall reintroduce wheat to see if the joint pain came back. Then, I'll have proof that yes, my back pain and leg muscle pain is caused by gluten.
So on Christmas day, I munched on some seaweed snacks covered with a generous wheat batter and waited.
Tummy reacted almost immediately ... bloating, pain, nausea ... and the joint pain came on the 30th Dec.
Ouuuuuch. In came the ice packs at night.
Well. What more evidence do I need, really?
Friends always wondered why I keep eating wheat despite knowing I'm sensitive to it. I guess it's called bull-headedness. I wanted to be like everyone else and am stubbornly clinging to old ways. (I mean, I got away with it for decades!)
So, I'm sad that I can't be 80/20 gluten-free anymore. And I think I need to be on AIP from now on. At least strictly for a few months until my body heals.
A part of me is annoyed that I'm not like everyone else, but I thank God that my body reacts quickly to food I don't agree with. It makes it easier to pinpoint what food causes what trouble.
Anyhow, even if you don't have symptoms like me, please don't think that you can munch on gluten like mad. It's honestly destructive and your body may be damaged by it without you knowing it. (That's why I say I'm lucky that my body reacts quickly.)
So, please, get rid of gluten. Your future you will thank you!
After reading numerous benefits of standing while working, I decided to start experimenting with standing desks for a month. Here’s what I learned.Read More
What is it about shame that it makes us so nervous?
Recently I came across Brene Brown, which I only got to know because Elizabeth Gilbert mentioned her in her book Big Magic. And this is when I discovered that she was a "shame researcher". I thought, "How odd", and filed it away in my brain cells under "curiosities".
Never did I know that she'd play an important part of my spiritual and emotional journey months later.
CLOUD OF CONFUSION
For the longest time I've felt terribly oppressed by a cauldron of emotions. I had no name for my misery, neither did I know the cause. It would seem as if my entire life sucked, though I could see with my rational eye that that is certainly untrue. As painful as it was, I listened to what the voices in my head were telling me: "You suck", "You're a failure" and the most damning of all - "other people do life better than you do."
And perhaps as a result of this attentiveness, or random brain cells finally making connections, or God nudging my spirit, as I sat down one day listening to my Inner Bitch, another voice, more tender, more gentle, more loving, said: "You are feeling shame."
It's as if the clouds parted and the sun finally started shining in my mind again. Understanding - an aha moment.
OWN YOUR SHAME
"Didn't you know?" you may ask.
Christine Caine, the author of the Christianity Today article Why Childhoold Shame is so hard to get rid of said: "...when we’re bound by shame, we might not even realize that our reactions are shame-based."
For me, once I knew what my feelings were, or where my turmoil was coming from, it felt as if a cloud of confusion was lifted.
Then came anger. As I reflected on what shame was, I realised that I've been marinating in that emotion for decades, and at first I was angry at those who used shame like a weapon. Why did they do it?
This is when Brene Brown reentered my life. Curious about what she said about shame, I first viewed her popular Ted videos and then read her book: I Thought it was Just Me (but it isn't).
In the book, she deconstructed shame, down to its moving parts. Somehow, reading about shame like it was a creature in a lab became a fascinating activity instead of a dreaded one. It helped me put a distance between this often powerful emotion; it went from an incomprehensible monster to a scientific curiosity.
It was from this book that I discovered was all about power; recognising how shame works pulled me from its power, and best of all, Brene taught us how to form the weapon to fight it:
"If we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive," she said.
And so I did share my stories with trusted friends, a dear couple who had brought me much comfort in my life by being the non-judgemental ears that I needed. That's always why I shared my journey of faith in My Shifting Faith blog series. Stories are powerful. Stories are weapons against shame.
It's time shame is spoken, instead of hidden like dirty rags molding in a basement.
Sometimes I look at my Twitter and Facebook feed and get depressed. I look at the books being put out by my writer friends and the prizes being won by my colleagues and fellow creatives and I feel more than a twinge of frustration and despair. I wonder where their well of energy comes from, I wonder how they beat the obstacles - inside and outside of them - and think that I'll never catch up with them.
My health has not been the greatest the last few months. I'm tired all the time, my digestive system is unpredictable and I seem to be picking up every bug lying around. Creative work goes by the wayside when all you can do is recover from the latest physical setback.
Back in the day, I would drive myself even harder myself when I'm like this. And if I don't reach impossible heights of productivity, I berate myself for being inefficient.
I'm kinder to myself now. I tell myself that I'm doing the best I can with the number of spoons I'm given and that it's okay, no, it's necessary to put myself first even if people demand that I meet their needs first - or else.
A lot of times, when you decide to slow down, you get pushback from people who are used to you being a workhorse. I sure did when I decided to work a normal 8 hours a day instead of my usual 12 to 14. But I tell myself this: Who gets to live with the consequences if I neglect myself? Yours truly.
I also tell myself that it's okay not to meet shiny penny goals. I also ask myself: Truly, what are you trying to prove, driving yourself to the brink of exhaustion to collect those shiny pennies?
Still, sometimes, let's be realistic. Giving up your shiny pennies can cost you a lot. Often, it's a choice between one desirable thing and another. Sad as it is - we can't have everything. For example, when I left Australia for Malaysia, I was me putting myself first, but I was also leaving behind a very big shiny penny: the coveted Australian life.
Yes, I'd finish my second 120k-word novel later than I thought.
But that's okay.
Because my health, my well being, is far more important.
Photo by Benjamin Combe
I was having coffee with my friend the other day when I told him that I have this burning desire to sign up for figure-drawing classes. He took one look me and said: "Don't take up anything before running it by me first!"
It's actually a good idea. He had recently seen me stressed out of my mind trying to juggle work, studies, and banking and legal matters. It would seem that I need someone else to tell me that a new project or hobby is the last thing I needed!
Being an ENFP, I have a tendency to hop from one shiny project to another. I often end up frazzled, over-busy, exhausted and burned out.
My relationships suffered too.
The other day, my mom complained that she hardly sees me anymore. Our occasional breakfasts and morning walks was sacrificed to the altar of my studies.
This was no way to live.
Time is a precious resource, and I think I need to learn to say NO a bit more. So, before taking on that extra project, here are some questions to ask:
1. Do you have unfinished projects?
If your schedule is already choked up with obligations, having another on heaped on your already full plate is a bad idea. Read my previous post about Harvard's formula to find out if you're over-committed.
2. How many hours does this project demand?
Determine how many hours this new project will require and consider if you can take it on without harming the execution of your other projects. You will lose your credibility if you can't commit 100% to a work project, so if your new project interferes with previous commitments, say no.
3. Does this project contribute to your goals or is it a distraction?
For example, your idea of taking that knitting class will probably not contribute to your dream of publishing a sci-fi novel. So, if I'm already overloaded, I may pass on that class. For now.
4. Do you have margin?
Margin is extra, unscheduled time that you can use if emergencies crop up. Your schedule needs breathing room too; a schedule without one would ensure that you'll feel frazzled and rushed. (My month of hell is a big testament to that.) Schedule margin in your diary. Make them "do not touch" blocks of time. But what if there are no emergencies? Well, you can use the time to do whatever you want, such as take a walk in the park of watching a movie! How awesome is that?
5. What are you sacrificing if you take this on?
Let's say your side project would require you sacrificing weekends with your family for a year. Is this a sacrifice you are willing to me? Is there another way to reschedule family commitments?
How about you? What are the questions you ask yourself before you take on a project or a hobby? What do you do to make sure that you're not sacrificing the quality of your life by taking on too much?
Photo by AnnieAnniePancake
— Elizabeth Tai (@liztai) September 14, 2015
Okay, maybe I'm being overdramatic, but things are very blah in Malaysia right now. A thick blanket of choking ash from Indonesia has covered cities like Kuala Lumpur and Subang Jaya (where I live). The sky is literally grey and there is no fresh air at all. In fact, the pollution is at such unhealthy levels that school has been called off today (thank goodness. Wish we workers had the same privilege!).
And if that's not bad enough, there is a rally planned tomorrow with distinctly racist overtones. Ironically, it's on Malaysia Day, a day where we're supposed to celebrate my country's founding.
On the personal front, after just a few days of relatively good health, I get slammed by a cold, and then discovered yet another health problem that will probably take months to heal. I'm starting to feel the bite of my mortality and age more than usual, and it's leaving me cold.
In the midst of all this, my dreams seem very far away. How does one pursue one's dreams when there are so many fires to put out?
And I wonder how people like Michelle Cushatt do it. I mean, how do you pick yourself up after having to face cancer twice?
How do you continue speaking positively in people's lives day after day when you can't even figure out your own?
I had a conversation with a dear friend the other day about my many fears and she reminded me that I cannot wait for life to get perfect or even the way I want it to be before I embrace my calling.
We have to do what we can in the midst of the chaos and insanity. Write 50 words instead of 500. Read a paragraph instead of a chapter. Just a little bit will get us there.
Meanwhile, I'll take my eyes off the storm and focus on something higher than it all: That life is more than our ambitions and goals, that life is more mysterious than we think. That, although the way or destination isn't clear to me right now, I'm open to discover it bit by bit.
What do you do when you have a dream but haven't got life figured out?
You had an inner confidence that seeped into the way you moved, talked and presented yourself. Naturally, I was intimidated by you, mistaking your confidence and poise for haughtiness. But I was quickly proved wrong after we ended up at the same desk.
I realised that you were a kind and gentle woman; you had a way of making anyone feel calm when the world seemed to be falling apart. And I sure needed that during those crazy deadline days where it seemed as if my story would never turn out right for print.
Yet, during those years, I didn't take the opportunity to get to know you better. I was still intimidated, I suppose. And yes, more than a little absorbed with the dramas in my life.
And then I moved to Australia.
A friend later told me that you had told her that you would've liked to know me better.
When I returned in May, I made a promise to myself that I will do just that - get to know you better. .
But life caught me by the neck as usual. And it was nearly a month before we bumped into each other.
I still remember the day where you stopped your car just as I was crossing the street to the restaurant opposite the office.
You had flung the door open and said, "Liz Tai! Welcome back!" And threw me a big smile.
I was so moved by that smile. You made me feel so welcomed and appreciated!
"We must catch up with each other soon," you had said.
"We must!" I said.
I thought I had all the time in the world.
But last week, a friend in Hong Kong sent me a message nobody would like to receive.
"I'm so sorry for your loss, Liz. Sorry to hear about Reena."
And I thought, No. this must be some other Reena. Not the Reena I know.
But it was.
On that day, you left us without warning.
I had to fight back tears when I saw you on Friday. Others couldn't.
You left such an impact on the people you were with. Even me, a person who was a little more than an acquaintance. You made me feel special enough to feel like I was more than that.
In July, my life was hell.
In a way, it was a long time coming.
Three months before, I moved back to Malaysia after three years of living in Australia. The decision wasn't easy to make. In fact, I had spent sleepless nights since July 2014 wrestling with the idea.
Adelaide was quiet, peaceful and gorgeous. But I was terribly homesick and felt that my dreams were struggling to be realised there. In the end, I took the leap. I wanted to return to steadier, more familiar grounds in order to seek clarity and direction.
I came back way too fast. Not a great idea. But once I returned, it felt right. I enjoyed being with my friends and family again. Better, I was offered a job before I even hopped into a plane back to KL in May. I felt lucky. Blessed.
But life speeded up very quickly after that. Too quickly.
My new job's hours were unconventional: I work 4pm to midnight. Always a fussy sleeper, my sleep was affected. At best, I was sleeping five to six hours a day.
Then I had to settle several very messy financial issues. I had to zip from lawyer to bank to insurance company. And if that wasn't enough, I was also studying part-time; an intense course that demanded at least 10 to 15 hours weekly.
In July, my body said: "Enough. If you don't want to stop. I will".
Boy, did it! Rashes erupted on my body in places I wouldn't t wish upon my greatest enemy. My ears even turned red!
If things were hard before, it became utterly impossible with this illness. I could barely cope with my studies because the constant itch and pain cut my sleep short. All my attention went to finding a solution to my problem, which seemed to puzzle even the specialists. I stopped writing my novel. Swimming was something I took pleasure in. And even that was taken away because my body was reacting to everything.
It was hell.
Three rounds of antibiotics, five visits to specialists and a few hundred spent on ointments and creams later, a dermatologist narrowed the cause down to eczema and a bad reaction to antibiotics .
Eczema is often stress-related, what do you know!
At first, my reaction to all this was, "This is so unfair! Why me? Why now?" But in the end, I realised that a series choices ended me where I was. Fortunately, I'm almost recovered now. The nightmare that was July taught me these lessons:
Make Health a priority
Often, we pursue our dreams at the expense of our health. But when you're ill, you can't pursue what's important to your soul.
You're not Supergirl
In hindsight, I could have deferred my course as I had so much on my plate. But I was reluctant to lose the money I had invested in the course. I basically prioritised money over my wellbeing.
Money isn't everything
So what if you lose a few dollars? Sometimes you need to make yourself a priority, not your piggy bank.
It's time to be selfish
I also realised that I often make my decisions based on other people's well-being. It's time to be selfish and put myself in the No.1 spot.
It is time to change
I now consider it a gift that I fell sick. My body was warning me that I wasn't doing something right. It was time to reevaluate and make some serious changes.
What about you? Have you reached a breaking point where you realised that things had to change?
Photo by Eutah
So, you hate your job. Your career is going nowhere. You sit in your cubicle and think: "There's got to be more to life than this!"
I was there. And I thought the solution to my career woes was to switch careers. And I thought I had a tried and tested method to do so.
When I was a teenager, like a million other teens, I didn't know what I wanted to do when I "grew up". So, I tried to discover that by taking jobs in various industries I was interested in. I started working when I was 16. By the time I was 20, I had already worked as a customer service person, telemarketer, accounts clerk, copywriter and freelance journalist.
Copywriting and journalism was a tie, but in the end I chose journalism because I liked the idea of learning and experiencing new things every day.
I decided to follow the same method when I decided to switch careers. I chose what I thought was a great path for me, but two years into the experiment I had to conclude that this career path was not for me.
Trust me, the trial and error method is expensive and time consuming.
There's a better way: Find out what your strengths are and choose a career path based on that. Translation: Do what you're good at!
The VIA survey
The free VIA survey was developed by Dr. Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness and Flourish, and Dr. Christopher Peterson, author of A Primer in Positive Psychology. It aims to help you discover your character strengths.
My top 5 Character strengths are:
Spirituality: You have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme. Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you.
Love Of Learning: You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.
Social Intelligence: You are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease.
Humor: You like to laugh and tease. Bringing smiles to other people is important to you. You try to see the light side of all situations.
Leadership: You excel at the tasks of leadership: encouraging a group to get things done and preserving harmony within the group by making everyone feel included. You do a good job organizing activities and seeing that they happen.
Tim Rath of Strengthsfinders 2.0 fame offers a paid one. I bought the e-book, and was e-mailed a special access code. It took me nearly half an hour to complete the Clifton Strengthsfinder but it was worth it.
Learner: People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
Communication: People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.
Restorative: People who are especially talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
Empathy: People who are especially talented in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.
Adaptability: People who are especially talented in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.
Interestingly, the VIA test and Strengthsfinder test has almost the same results. It's no wonder why journalism was such a good fit for me. Because "Learning" is my primary strength, I loved absorbing massive amounts of information on new topics and thanks to my "Communications" strength, I could translate what I learned into an easy-to-digest, pleasing format. A match made in heaven!
Once you've completed the tests ask yourself these questions:
- Does my current job allow me to use my strengths?
- If no, is there a way to allow me to do so? Perhaps you can transfer to another department or create a part-time business to fulfil that need?
- If you're in a role that you think doesn't allow you to use your strengths, what job do you think fit you better?
- What is the strategy you'd use to get that dream job?
Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, who wrote the bestselling Now, Discover Your Strengths, believe than in order to be happy at you job and to get ahead, you'd have to
focus on your strengths, not improve on your weaknesses
It makes sense - why swim against the tide when you can run?
You can listen to the interview in its entirety at the 891 Book Club Archives.
It was an interesting experience, being on a radio show. Especially if you're the one being interviewed! I'll tell you the truth - my heart was pounding when they asked me questions about the book because I read the book over two years ago and had to refresh my memory about the details.
(The interview happened because 891 Afternoons presenter Sonya Feldhoff came across my post about my visit to the set of Life of Pi when I was a journalist.)
The ABC radio offices is quite polished, and it was fascinating to watch the studio operate. On one side is the presenter and guests with their mikes and earphones, on the other are these people operating switchboards and computers.
Outside the glass-encased studio is a regular office where I assume the journalists work. Ah, how I missed that world!
I was ushered into the glass-encased studio, asked to put on the headphones and sit in front of the mike. I felt as if I was going to sit for an exam!
Still, my bestie in Malaysia said she could see me via the web telecast of the show and said I was just fine. Well, you be the judge!
You can listen to the interview at the 891 Bookclub archives here:
This is what this episode is about according to the 891 Bookclub website:
It was a special thrill in our 891 Book Club to welcome one of the authors whose book we are focussing on this month. Karen Lord from the Caribbean was in the studio to personally discuss her book "Redemption in Indigo", which has been described as a modern day fairytale.
And it was interesting to hear her describe how she fleshed out the fool in her book, a character rarely afforded such attention.
Our other book in the spotlight is now a much loved modern classic.
I must be one of the few book lovers who somehow missed reading "Life of Pi" in the first few years after it won the Mann Booker Prize but it's been wonderful to finally catch up on it for our 891 Book Club.
Timely too, with Ang Lee winning the Best Director Oscar this week for his movie version of "Life of PI". I managed to track down and welcome to the studio Elizabeth Tai, a freelance writer, who has not only reviewed the book before but visited the movie set in Taiwan to interview Ang Lee.