I was inspired to write this post just yesterday, when I just got comfortable on my yoga mat ready to begin a routine with my favourite Youtube yogi Adrienne (by the way, this “Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Relief” is one of my favourites). Feeling content that I have had time for yoga almost every day since I started recovering from Covid19 (read about how I coped), I was in awe of the gratitude evoked. This appreciation was a mini celebration for myself for living a life focused on the essential stuff. Out of the many ideas that have sprung up on my list, I decided to write about this first.
My routine in Italy now may seem very mundane for many of you, but I am actually really proud of myself. I am able to experience the satisfaction and calm that comes with living a life focused on the essential stuff. My simple life now has three main components: my job, relationships with family and close friends back in Singapore and quality time with my partner. This current life is what I envisioned for myself, after experiencing burnout and intense stress from a demanding portfolio and juggling numerous commitments.
A focus on the essential stuff: my work
When I was incredibly swamped, competing priorities and trying to be available to everyone drained me out. I had always wanted to develop my clinical skills at my previous workplace. But I spent more time on administrative, policy work and training. I often wondered how life would be, if I took a pay cut and simply focused on what energises and inspires me: providing therapy for individuals.
A focus on the essential stuff: my social life
Playing a supportive role in mental health services within the organisation also had me speaking with anyone who reached out; I was ready to be there and avail my listening ears to co-workers and friends, close friends and family. It was exhausting. A conversation with a mentor had me reflecting on my social circle and how I wanted to show up and for who. Saying yes to somebody meant that I was unknowingly saying no to somebody else who could matter more. I had to learn to focus on a smaller group and use the time for more authentic and deeper connection.
A focus on the essential stuff: romance
Being busy with work, volunteering, family and friends left me with no time and energy to consider developing a romantic and intimate relationship with any potential partners. I had pretty solid
reasons excuses for not dating: I was socially engaged, independent and BUSY. Not that I wasn’t happy on my own. I just didn’t know any other way of being. I was getting too used to being in my comfort zone, on my own and ignoring moments of loneliness. Keeping my heart open and being available to tend to anyone compatible who swings by, was actually what I wanted deep down.
My current routine focused on the essential stuff
I took a leap of faith and left my job without a backup plan. Eventually, I was able to set up my own private practice and shore up training to equip myself with skills to bring my clinical skills online.
Now, my days are filled with providing counselling sessions for individuals, making calls to my parents and occasional calls and text messages with friends and spending quality time with my beau. I feel peace and I smile with contentment when I think about how my calendar reflects my priorities. I took a big pay cut, but I also cut away work that frustrated and drained me. Like doing more and more to fulfil KPIs. Or spending time emails that I didn’t enjoy writing and which people didn’t enjoy reading. Or attending meetings where members were only interested in pleasing the chairperson. I have less money, but I consume less too. Making decisions are easier too, because knowing the essential stuff keeps me focused on what matters.
Unlearning beliefs that don’t serve me anymore
My life focused on the essential stuff means that I have more resources spared, especially time and energy. Sometimes, I would ask myself if I should do more because I have more. I may experience guilt for working at a slower pace and generating lesser. In such moments, I would ask myself where that guilt was coming from. Was the guilt fueled by beliefs that no longer served me now? “More is better”? “Rest only after you worked hard”? “You are worthy if you are productive”? Nah. Maybe they served me in the past, when I was in school, when I was in a fast-paced organisation, but they are not relevant for me now. AND, it’s OKAY to do right by me and those closest to me.
A book recommendation: “Essentialism”
If you are interested to learn how you can focus on the essential stuff, I would strongly recommend Greg McKeown’s “Essentialism”. I follow him on LinkedIn, listen to his podcast and I’m subscribed to his newsletter. He is a great teacher about focusing on what matters (he has a new book “Effortless”!!! .
Certainly, I am blessed and in a privileged position to be able to do what I do. But I also celebrate the actions I have taken, the choices I have exercised to put me exactly where I am right now. I believe that everyone of us would have some choices, small or big, that we can make to focus more on the essentials that serve our spirit and improve our well-being.