A Resolution for the New Year

How is your resolution after the first few weeks? I realise it’s a bit late, and that every other blogger has something to say about resolutions… but here’s my take for peace and joy.

The key to keeping a resolution is to continually restart it. We aren’t perfect so instead of “I had a piece of cake, might as well start the diet next week”, eat the cake (if you absolutely cannot say no) and begin the diet immediately after the last bite. No second helpings, either. Remind yourself why you’ve made this resolution.

Restart your resolution every 15 minutes if you need to, until it becomes your new way of living. I once set my mobile phone to chime every 30 minutes, reminding me to be present. Drove the family crazy but did the trick. That was four years ago and I still have the habit.

I think this is what many bloggers are talking about when they recommend against resolutions and aim to convince of the wisdom of tiny habit-setting. And certainly it is wise, seeing how humans are, well, human. We’re not digital so why do we think we can flip a switch come the first of every year? That’s due to another human characteristic… impatience. We want it and we want it now. So the real resolution ought to be: being okay with the slow changes and being determined and persistent enough to push through the hard times. To convince ourselves we want that result more than the easiness of our old ways.

So pick one thing you can resolve to change and stick to it over the course of the next year. Mine is to have great health, which has been my not-really-new-year resolution for the last 14 months. My daily habits for health are not perfect but are gradually becoming closer to what I want them to be.

What is your resolution for this year, and are you ready to re-declare it through the rest of 2012 and the rest of your life?

On Gratitude

I attended a Thanksgiving dinner today and was reminded how important gratitude is.

Being grateful brings humility and gladness. No matter how bad things get there is probably something we can still be grateful for.

I’m thankful for the peace I experience daily. I don’t live in a war-ridden territory, nor do I need to see my husband or brother going to fight. I know where my children are, and they are well.

I’m thankful for the basic necessities. I have uninterrupted access to clean water, shelter, heat and fresh food, as well as recreation, education and social involvement.

Every time I get over a nasty cough, I remember how grateful I am to breathe easily.

I’m amazed I can plan for my future, with some level of certainty. I am grateful for the likelihood I will live through my seventies and enjoy my children’s children.

Please add a comment – what are the things you feel gratitude for?

The decline of style and a challenge

Initially this blog was called stylish minimalist. I renamed it because style and minimalism take a back seat to peace and joy. I adhere to my style and I’m a minimalist but the bigger concerns of life occupy my resources, and I would gladly forfeit style for joy and give up minimalism for peace.

What this translates into is spending only a percent of what I did before on how I look and how I arrange my house. And using that time, money and energy to bring some peace and some joy to the lives of myself and others.

Your takeaway is a challenge: to focus on your life’s mission and to lessen how much of yourself you dole out to other pursuits.

So if your vision is for a world where every child has a great education, spend your weekend tutoring rather than redecorating your kitchen. If you want great health for senior citizens, donate a fifth of your paycheque to medical research rather than spending it on entertainment. If you want your children to be happier, unplug the TV, wake up early and spend the day with them.

It’s a version of “put your money where your mouth is,” only it also includes your time and energy. It can be as radical as downsizing your house or as simple as donating a few hours to charity.

What can you do now to make an impact towards your goals?

Taking on constructive criticism

“You must do it this way”

Might be a quote from your boss. Your partner. Parent. A friend. Whoever. This comment is going to grate.

It is so hard to take constructive criticism. It feels like a demand, even sounds like one. But as seekers of peace and joy we must not discard information based on our emotional reaction. Otherwise we miss out on a potential goldmine of information.

We need to cool down and reflect: what of this criticism is useful to me? What came from their heart? What will improve my (or my loved one’s) life? And the scariest question: Are they right?

It’s not comfortable but it’s important to take on all advice that comes our way. We need to sift through each piece of wisdom (or un-wisdom, as the case may be) and take what will work, then make it a part of our lives.

The reason this is one of the most difficult things to do, is because who we are, at our cores, who we were raised as, is something we struggle to set aside. Parents, teachers, leaders, relatives and mentors have given us their best and it’s natural to feel that it’s the best. Ever.

Even if it’s not the best one, our culture is so deeply enrooted in our egos that it is almost physically painful to lay it down and admit that it is not the ultimate and best for everyone on the planet.

But if we truly want to improve ourselves, it’s necessary to open our minds and consider how there are better ways. Better ways to live, act, think, wonder and be. Use your vision to determine if a morsel of advice will improve you. In this way, we can look outside our world and learn how to see infinite possibilities.

If you strive to be the best you can, you must take all input and apply the best of it. That’s a constructive suggestion 😉

6 ways to improve your self care

“Put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.” Airline safety announcement

Self care is not about being selfish, but ensuring we have plentiful reserves. So this is not a license to spoil or over-pamper or vacation every month. It is a quite necessary activity to fully recharge rather than fritz out completely. Caring for ourselves is not egotistic or vain. It only means ensuring that our needs are met.

It’s important because our reserves are finite, similar to a battery. Our energy is used up in our daily lives in dealing with work, children, dependents, commitments, house, possessions. If we don’t fully recharge there’s not enough energy to do it properly. Too soon, the battery needs to replaced.

The first step is to make it a priority. If it’s not a priority, it won’t stick. It’s difficult to make time in a busy life, but if self care is a high enough priority, it’ll be easier to drop something less important to make the time. Once we have the time here are six ways to take better self care.

  1. Be nourished. Poor nutrition deprives us of energy we could be getting from healthier food. Water makes all the body’s functions work better. Exercise strengthens the heart and bones, heals the blood and limbers the joints. Duration, type and intensity are individual.
  2. Be rested. We need long and uninterrupted and deep enough sleep that we are refreshed each day.
  3. Be loved and appreciated. We all need good connections and healthy relationships from which we can draw strength.
  4. Don’t be stressed. Stress damages health and appearance. It shortens lifespan and decreases life quality. Getting spirituality on track is part of this too.
  5. Receive value. We need to have something that makes us glad. It doesn’t have to be all the time, but spending time enjoying our passions revives.
  6. Give back. Ironically, giving back can refresh the spirit. Too much can be taxing so we all need to find the right balance.

If there is a gap in any of these areas, it’s time to take some care of yourself. I’ve spent two nights this week at the beach, just sitting and listening to the surf, letting my mind wander and my body relax. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Need inspiration? Please comment below with your specific example.

9 ways to experience peace and joy

Here are some facets of peace and joy. This is by no means a complete list so if you can add to it, please comment below. They’re easier said than done so I’ll add some links for more information. There’s no need to master all at once so pick one that calls to you and see how you can incorporate it into your life.

  1. Be in a calm environment. No alarms going off. No screaming neighbours. No infestations. And uncluttered room to work, play and rest.
  2. Have chores done. By keeping possessions to a minimum there is less to maintain and clean. Having a regular routine for cleaning also helps. You don’t need to be perfect to have the household mostly under control. Check out flylady for detailed how-to and regular encouraging emails.
  3. Have healthy relationships. Limit the time you spend with toxic people who just bring you down. Make room for the people who support you and love you. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Rom 12:18).
  4. Be healthy. Go for your annual physical. Eat well, exercise, get fresh air. Read up on ways to improve or eliminate your existing conditions.
  5. Get finances under control. Getting out of debt is a matter of putting cash on it instead of unnecessary stuff. Knowing where your money is and how the cash is flowing each month are the ways to keep your finances in check. It’s super unpeaceful to lie awake at night worrying.
  6. Enjoy beauty. It’s nice to enjoy nature with beautiful weather. Look at and cuddle with your loved ones and pets. Listen to great music and visit a museum. Whatever turns your key, focus your attention in the present, instead of thinking ahead, daydreaming or hanging on the past. Use your five senses to take it all in.
  7. Be prepared for an emergency. Get your emergency pack ready to go with food, water and other necessary items. Put your important papers in a fireproof, waterproof safe. Carry an emergency card with your family’s contact details and pin childrens’ inside their coats. Back up your computer files. Invest in health insurance.
  8. Enjoy memories. If a scent pulls you into my past, go with it. The more you are present, the more details you’ll be able to recall. Vivid experience makes for vivid memories.
  9. Daydream. Let your mad genius out of the box. Forget about planning and wonder… Could I live in Singapore for a year? Could I build my own movable home? Could I buy cheap acreage and live off the land? Explore a fantasy where anything is possible. You might not decide to go further with it, but some of the best ideas come from a crazy spark.

What else brings you peace and joy?

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Using procrastination to get things done

Procrastination – we see it as a negative thing, our flawed willpower in (in)action. But it is possible to use procrastination to change our lives into what we want. When changing habits for the good, it’s best to go slowly. This is one more tool to use, so give it a try.

How do you do it? By procrastinating the exact opposite.

So instead of telling yourself you’ll stop watching TV tomorrow, say, “I’ll watch TV tomorrow,” then go do something else.

Instead of “I’ll work on it eight hours tomorrow,” today say, “Tomorrow I’m going to take a little break from it, because today I’m doing it for an hour.”

You can procrastinate again the next day. But even if you go back to what you were doing, you’ve had one more day of the life you want. Check the result of procrastinating again the following day.

For me, I procrastinate spending money. I tell myself to put it off for just one more day. Sometimes I buy it the next day, sometimes I never do. Even for things I need to get, I will procrastinate buying it to make a game out of pushing it from this month’s cash flow to the next.

What’s something you would like to change and how would you procrastinate it?

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Wanting the best for the world

Three years ago I came to have a vision of peace and joy for the world. It took a few weeks of working with my coach until I distilled it down to the two most important words that sum it up for me: Peace and Joy. They’re the keys for my life and I want them for everyone.

Seventeen years ago was when my view of the world began to change. In one week I saw two movies that broke my heart and opened my eyes: The power of one and Schindler’s list. I learned about world horror and knew, at my core, I wanted the exact opposite for all people.

I know world peace is a lofty goal and I don’t think it’ll ever be possible. Human nature is imperfect so there will always be some people taking advantage of others, using any means. I would be happy enough for there to be a world without violent conflict.

Still, I struggle with the smallness of my contribution*. Right now, I write. I regularly blog about finding personal peace and joy. Talk doesn’t accomplish anything on its own so on every post I attempt to offer questions for readers to ponder and specific steps to take for improvements, in addition to chronicling my journey.

Helping others brings a personal peace. So here is your homework assignment, for you to help others. Take your time answering these questions. Take half an hour each (or more) if needed, to really answer it with the innermost you.

  • What is important to you? What delights you? The answer may include activities, people, things or places. What is it you really like about that?
  • What do you want for the world? If you could change the world for people, what would you do? What legacy do you want to leave?
  • What is the best thing that you want for yourself? Do you want the same for your fellow humans?
  • How can you work for it in your life as well as the lives of others?
  • What does your ideal life look like?
  • Imagine you’re at the end of your life and someone is writing a book or a screenplay about you. How do you want that story to go?
  • When you daydream, what parts do you want in your real life?
  • What are the words you want to live by? What are your deep desires and values?
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*My time/money/energy are spent on my immediate family. Supporting husband and children for their peace and joy is utterly important to me.

Finding “the one” (part one)

If you want a great romantic partner, you need to be a great romantic partner*

I’ve noticed a trend in women’s fiction. The male hero is one-dimensional but loyal and romantic. His interests, career and friends are secondary to his love for the heroine. Women read these books and watch the films, and develop this engrained expectation that real life will be similar.

I see women identifying with the novel’s heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, and wishing there was a real life Mr. Darcy to woo them. That’s okay… but are they anything like Miss Bennet? Or are they more like her mother, Mrs. Bennet? Or like her sister-in-law, John Dashwood’s greedy wife?

I’m talking about awareness and reality. Relationships require give and take. If he treats you like a queen, you know you’re lucky to have him. But if he asks that you treat him like a king, do you recoil in horror, thinking he wants you handcuffed to the kitchen sink, barefoot?

There is no one-sided romance where your perfect mate will make it all happen beautifully. You need to take responsibility for who you are and what you have to offer. Only then will you find a prince charming and only then will the relationship last beyond the initial fun.

Here are some questions to help you become more aware.

  1. Picture your perfect mate. What are his main characteristics? What are his hobbies, aside from treating you like a princess?
  2. Now, picture his perfect mate. What are her characteristics? What is he looking for in a woman?
  3. Are you that woman? Do you want to be?
  4. If you’re in a current relationship, are you being “the one” for your partner?

Have I simplified this too much? Please comment with further questions!

As a side note…
Most importantly, please be yourself. Faking any part of it, no matter how small, will come back to haunt you. If you find a mate who loves you for who you aren’t, what’s the point?

*I’m writing about women finding men, but this is easily applicable to men seeking women (or whichever combination appeals)

Minimalist jewellery

Minimalist jewellery means different things to everyone so let me tell you what I’m talking about: the fewest accessories we can own and use that show our styles and feel good. For me, this is a pair of dangling earrings and, once in a while, knuckles full of silver rings.

What’s the point?

There are more than one…

  • Owning jewellery of better quality. Means longer lasting jewellery, luxurious brands, timeless style and looking great.
  • Reducing the amount of jewellery we own. Means less maintenance, less storage, less jewellery and associated cases to take when travelling or moving, and less to choose from when dressing.
  • Having less jewellery to choose from. Means faster choices and therefore less stress, and always being in tune with personal style.
  • Being free of the urge to buy accessories on the spur of the moment, especially cheap ones. Means saving money, finding long-lasting satisfaction with the purchase, becoming a conscious consumer and being free of the lures of modern marketing.

How do I do it?

  • If you have nothing, go with it.
  • If you buy, choose a good quality piece of jewellery. It will look great and last a long time. This is going to be an investment piece or two or three to last you the rest of your life.
  • If you have loads, reduce your jewellery wardrobe. Cull the pieces that don’t fit your style statement. Sentimental? Keep a couple, photograph the rest and pass them to people who will love and use them daily.
  • When something breaks or wears, replace it with good quality that fits your style. (See point 2, If you buy)

The biggest “how do I do it”

Resisting the lure of today’s seductive marketing comes with practice. There are really two steps. The first is to know your style to the point where nothing flashy tempts you unless it’s really “you.” The second is to not buy, even when you feel the desire. Not buying is a destination for which minimalists reach. We buy less and less, learning and internalising that a purchase won’t satisfy any deep need.

Let me repeat this because it’s important: A diamond will not complete you. Another piece of jewellery will not satisfy any need you feel inside you.

… but I change my look all the time

Please go back to the very first, most important step of being a stylish minimalist. Find your style and you won’t need to change it. Happy days! Rest this part of your life and be at peace with who you are.

… but this sounds boring

There’s no denying the delicious feeling of a heavy ring or a jingly bracelet. How lovely to see the light wink and rainbow through a perfectly cut crystal. Try this: stop wearing it. Go without any jewellery for awhile instead of buying something new. It’s refreshing to go natural, and the jewels feel all the more special after a couple weeks or more of not wearing them.

Please tell me… what are your minimalist jewellery adventures, successes and failures?