January 2018, the start of the New Year and as with every new year, nearly everyone decides on making New Year’s resolutions. There is just something so profound about the new year that it motivates you to try new things. This year started out in that fashion also because the 1st of January 2018 fell on a Monday. To me, it was that proverbial Monday on which one decides to start a new habit, be more healthy, live in a more organized manner or start that savings account.
For me the year 2017 was exceptional in so many ways allowing still more avenues for gratitude, yet when it comes to re-designing my life, I did not make quite the dent that I had hoped for. Working for the IRS, New Year’s eve is more often than not, a late-hour-sitting at work night because it is the end of the second quarter, there a budgetary targets for the closing of the calendar year and therefore, the focus shifts. This year, however, I decided to make a change. I jotted down a list of things that I felt would make a very positive impact on my life, add meaning to it and would inspire me every single day and I resolved there and then to start the year by incorporating these informed choices into my daily life. I am glad to report success so far with today being the 13th of January, 2018.
Before I dive in and share my insights on the attempt at a well designed life, I would like to make a confession. I felt the need to state for the record that for me resolutions are not necessarily big revolutionary changes. This year, for instance, for me my resolutions were merely a way to live a more mindful life that gives meaning to the moments that constitute my time. I decided to share these insights so that maybe it will inspire a few people to add value to their lives in a way that suits them. This post will be split up into two parts so here goes the first one:
Becoming an Early Riser:
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to become an early riser. Irrelevant of whether it is summers or winters, I wanted to wake up at the wee hours of the day and just have some time to myself mainly to reflect. However, up until very recently, my love for sleep has not allowed me to accomplish this feat. Waking up at 6 AM these days and not feeling the need to go back to bed even after I come back from work, is a refreshing new way to live. That time in the morning when half the world is asleep, I just wake up and since its winters, spend some cozy time in front of the fireplace in deep thought or not. It completely depends on what my mood is and in all honesty, it is that time in the morning that really prepares me for the rest of the day. Since I wake up so early, I have also been able to offer the morning Fajr prayer and that little bit of spirituality to me is an assurance that the rest of the day will be perfect. This brings me to be second point.
Meditation is a word that has different meanings for different people. To me meditation is separate from my spirituality and is not my “me time”. I do not practice a guided form of meditation either. What I simply do is take ten minutes from my day/night and just calm myself down. A big misconception is that you need to calm yourself down only when you are angry. I feel like we need to calm ourselves down every single day simply because during all the hustle, we do not even realize how hyped up we become and how this causes a commotion in our brains. And when this happens, seemingly harmless situations can also cause anxiety and stress simply because your thought process is so crowded. I use the Calm app on my phone and turn it to one of those nature screen savers with the sound of the rain and reflect on just the blessings in my life, the things that I am thankful for. I do that for ten minutes and then write down that one thing I am grateful for that day and that is it. It is a small practice but it adds worth to my life and keeps me grounded.
Debt Free and Financially Organized:
Now this was really challenging for me. I am a shopaholic and I usually end up buying everything that I like. The result is that most of my credit cards are always maxed out and my savings account has never really kicked off. So this year, I decided to make a really adult decision and start off 2018 debt free. I have planned it so that by the end of January, there would be no outstanding bills on my credit cards and my savings account would have started off. My biggest recommendation in this post would definitely be proper financial management. Financial troubles can cause the worst kind of stress imaginable and debt is like wet sand. It just keeps sucking you in. What I do now is I keep a separate diary for my financials and just note down every expense, even the smallest $1-$2 ones. Then I budget it all out. So for example, before I decide to spend $100 on a new dress, I transfer that amount to my savings account and then a week later I decide if I want to take it out of “savings” and spend it on that dress to see if it’s really worth it and it usually isn’t. Clever isn’t it? And it is about time.
De-clutter your mind:
From the many years of life that I have gone through so far, I have reached a conclusion. Much of the tension, stress headaches and mild anxiety that we face on an everyday basis stems from a cluttered mind. For me, the principle of “clustered surroundings equals a clustered mind” has always rung true. However, an extension of this principle i.e., “a clustered mind is a clustered soul”, also stands true. A cluttered mind is the result of a) small tasks that we have pro-longed simply due to procrastination or lack of time, and these small tasks hover around our mind just taking up unnecessary space and b)things that we feel like we need to say out loud or write down to get them out of our minds. To address this particular issue, one thing that has helped me a lot has been to 1)keep a daily life planner where I jot down notes, to-do lists and all my plans, 2)making voice memos for myself especially while going through mundane everyday tasks like morning/evening skin care routine or driving back and forth from a grocery run and 3) keeping a journal to write down my thoughts no matter what they are and what subject matter they relate too. Somehow, combined together, these various approaches to taking a mind dump have allowed me to be more focused and a lot more positive in my everyday life.
Blocking out time for entertainment:
I am a sucker for Netflix binge watching, movie nights with junk food, long walks with my favorite music blaring in my ears and readathons especially those consisting of soul-food-cup-cake fiction novels. I am a strong believer in taking special time out for entertaining myself. For more than a year now, I am truly against the 9-9 work routine, then bed and then back to the 9-9 work routine. It is downright boring and poison for the lively soul that lives within my body. Netflix, movies and books define entertainment for me, for you it can be something entirely different. So my recommendation would be to block time out to entertain yourself – even if you have to sacrifice your sleep a little bit (wink wink).
Populate your 24 hours with meaning:
Now this particular change was something I was forced to do. I once sat down to calculate the amount of time I spend doing something productive out of the 24 hours I have in a single day. The result was unimpressive and actually left me a little shook. I was once listening to a motivational talk and a sentence caught me completely off-guard. It said that we often think that really successful people have more hours in one day when in fact they have exactly the same 24 hours in one day like we do. The difference is how they end up using these 24 hours and this obvious fact hit home for me like no other sentence ever did. From that moment onwards, I populate my life with information minutes, grateful minutes, laughter minutes, family minutes, personal growth minutes and finally pure bliss moments. I intentionally strive to give more meaning to the passing minutes of my life and minutes can easily turn into hours depending on the priority level of a particular action. More on this in a separate blog post.
Never Putting off Till Tomorrow:
This resolution actually stems from this very post. Initially, the plan was to split this long post into two separate yet significant posts and then to post both those parts in January so that it makes more sense. However, things kept getting in the way and I
kept pushing things to the next day with the result that this post is now going up as a whole, one, and in the middle of February, two; completely against the original plan.
I intend for this to be that last thing this year that I have put off until the next day and I aim to achieve more peace of mind this way. Because last year, one of the reasons that my brain just wouldn’t shut down at the end of the day was because of trivial things that keep piling up and therefore clog your thought process. Small actions that barely take a few moments – sometimes literally less than 5 minutes – but when left undone can honestly cause a real traffic jam within your brain. Since we were very young we have always been hearing “never put off until tomorrow the things you can do today”, and I have never understood its importance more than I do today.
Catch-up on your Correspondence:
You know how sometimes we intend to call someone and catch-up but this tiny task keeps getting delayed to the point where you feel it would now be awkward to call and then eventually it becomes one of those undone things that bear down heavily on your heart. What’s more is that this lax attitude often ends up forming a strange distance between you and a close friend or acquaintance. I don’t know about you but myself being an expert procrastinator, I have had to go through the deeply disturbing phase of ice-breaking with people who are close to me, one too many times. My solution to this and towards a healthy social life is to mark off on my calendar, a specific day every two weeks to catch up on correspondence, be it within or outside the country, be it an email, a Skype call, a phone call or a Watsapp message. I just get it over with now and try not to let life come in between me and the people who are important for me. This often results in me sending crazy self-videos where I am speaking to the person I intend to get in touch with and making a complete fool of myself but let’s not go there!
Do not Whine and Do not Compromise on your Integrity:
Either do it or don’t but do not, absolutely do not whine! It has to be the most negative thing on planet earth. I actually prefer slight gossip over whining but never whining! I am guilty of it too, there are no all-saints here (pun intended) but I am trying to rid myself of this habit and that is what I would recommend.
Similarly, do not ever compromise on your integrity. When you do something, do it well, give it your hundred percent, or don’t do it at all. Same goes for wishing someone, whether it is wishing them well in your heart or saying it out loud to the persons’ face, I am determined to never let envy stop me from whole heartedly appreciating someone for their achievement and wishing them well, even if they cannot hear it. And I will be honest, since the day I have been practicing this new habit, I have felt lighter and more peaceful inside.
Listening to my parents’ advice:
This is one of the most basic things but somehow, risking to sound like a bored-entrepreneur, I hate to admit that the rat race leaves one exhausted and with little time to seek advice much less heed it! For this new year, I have decided to let my parents in on many thoughts going through my brain and seeking their advice. I am fortunate enough that my parents have had an extensive experience working in the government sector and can advise me appropriately on every important matter and then some. For instance, I once opened up to my parents (actually whined like there is no tomorrow) about the amount of reports that we are expected to process on a daily basis. “It is like this with all government departments and whining about it will get you nowhere”, and it was this simplification that really made me realize how through whining I give importance to such trivial matters of everyday bureaucratic life and with this realization, a fog of sorts just lifted off of my mind. Just like that!
I am aware that this is a long post but these are truly things that have had a positive and purely bright impact on my life and this I decided to share with the hope that someone might find answers to their questions hidden amongst these lines. Run through the headings and stop to read if something captures your attention.