Because it’s the little things that make the difference
Happy New Year my friend. Welcome to 2020- the year that has been touted as the one where dreams will come true, where stars will align, and achievements will abound. I hope the past 18 days have been good to you and you are excited to rock n roll.
I am excited about this year, as I have often been about the years before this, simply because a new year presents opportunities for reinventing one’s self, advancement, progress, new experiences and changes. Without trying to be a grinch, a new year also comes with unpleasant challenges, unplanned heartaches and disappointments. But regardless of the ups and downs, it is truly an opportunity to live life to its fullest.
I didn’t get to write as much in 2019, but I got to witness new experiences that stretched and stimulated my mind. It was a year in which “I was truly a part of all that I met” (Lord Tennyson), and I immersed myself fully in everything the year offered me, something I am thankful for. It was also a high-quality one for me, simply because I lived lean in 2019- and what I mean by that is that I avoided a considerable number of frivolities and excesses. This included laying some habits that did not enrich my life to rest, such as procrastinating more than was necessary and making assumptions about things/people/life generally to name a few.
On the flip side, I pursued activities that enriched the quality of my being. I invested in my health, I became less flippant about physical exercise, started the practice of meditation, invested in my key relationships, sought clarity when things were hazy, spoke up when conversations were difficult, optimised my time and probed myself deeply to effect necessary changes in my career and overall quality of life- small acts which are making a huge difference in my life.
But having said all these, there is always room for improvement isn’t it? And as cliched as it sounds, there are still things I want to get better at, so in 2020, I’m literally building on these life enriching activities I got serious about last year. I’m adding a few things to the mix. These are not new year resolutions, but I’m simply building on the little things that matter. From personal experience, I have discovered that when I nurture the small things, the degree of personal satisfaction and the quality of life I experience is enhanced greatly. So, what I am sharing with you today is not any ground breaking, visionary or revolutionary habits, but simply a reminder of the basics, the simple things that matter. I wrote extensively about these here if you are interested. But for today’s ponderings, let’s delve further into the 9 small things that matter.
1. To let go of the weight of people’s expectations. This one can be tough, especially when you are used to seeking the approval of people to navigate your life, or if you’ve constantly lived up to and even exceeded peoples’ expectations- making it the yardstick for measuring your sense of worth. It’s even worse with the immense pressure social media presents, and the weight of people’s expectations can make you resent yourself or feel less than adequate. However, it is not sustainable to live under this burden, and at some point, something will have to give. So, decide to take steps in freeing yourself of the weight you are carrying- start with speaking up for yourself and setting the necessary boundaries.
2. To be less of a conformist. This has nothing to do with being a rebel without cause, but everything to do with following your own ideals, not being afraid to stand alone and not going with popular opinion. There’s a growing trend of being ‘labelled’ if you go against popular opinion, and it is unfortunate that many people, without knowing the real motivation other people are basing their stances on, jump on the popular opinion bandwagon and affirm group thoughts. They live vicariously, vehemently defending other’s people viewpoints when they have no inkling how the other person arrived at their perspectives. It’s quite sad. Don’t be so quick to conform, and as much as is possible, avoid groupthink. Whatever it is that you stand for, stand for it because the ideal resonates with you and you convinced your own self, not because of some anecdotal sanctity or because it is what ‘majority’ believes.
3. To challenge your perspectives and opinions to enable a better understanding of your world. This will make you broader minded. If you get micro aggressive when you disagree with people, or people disagree with you, then you pay lip service to the ‘agree to disagree’ mantra. However, it presents a perfect opportunity for you to develop your sense of rationality. There is a certain level of civility you attain when you are able to challenge yourself to understand other points of view, while maintaining your own viewpoint, without having verbal turmoil on social media platforms or in your own life. That is where you should strive to be- a place where you gain perspective on both viewpoints and enrich your understanding.
4. To walk away from unnecessary drama. Truth be told, there are some dramas that are necessary- the ones that help you speak up for yourself, where you learn to be assertive and set boundaries for people that keep overstepping them. However, some dramas suck the joy out of existence and are totally unnecessary. Often, we know when something is not good for us, so get better at running from these things in the new year. This one is pretty much straightforward.
5. To reduce complaints and negativity. Note that I said reduce. I am unsure if it is possible to go through life without complaining and not having off days that are just negative. I am not there yet if there is such a nirvana. However, it’s how you react to the negative situations, as well as the narrative you have about these situations that always make the difference. It’s a choice you make to stop yourself from going down that perpetual state of complaining route- so please as you acknowledge the dull and banal moments, as much as is possible, also look more on the brighter side of life.
6. To observe more in order to understand your environment. We are all in a hurry and it’s harming us. It’s a thing of joy to be called or labelled a multitasker nowadays, but in the process of multitasking, we’re becoming less observant. Yes, there are so many debates nowadays, stemming from what people have observed as going wrong. But often, we also don’t pick up on the cues around us that provide tremendous insight into the communities, workplaces and social places we live in, as our heads are mostly downwards towards our phones. As much as our smartphones allow us to engage in real time, these gadgets won’t replace the innate need for observation and perception that we all have. Everything and anything is online, but a lot of it is low content, and we consume these voraciously. Disengagement in real life has become so rife, filtering into the manners of operating- giving rise to avoidant tendencies such as ghosting in relationships and friendships. It prevents us from getting the best from people we connect with. Bottom line? Raise your head more to be more observant of the space/s you find yourself in. Observation helps with discernment, and discernment provides understanding.
7. To let life tickle you. Nothing captures what I mean here better than this famous prose by Kwame Nkrumah, when he said, “the task ahead is great indeed and heavy is the responsibility, and yet it is a noble and glorious challenge- a challenge which calls for the courage to dream, the courage to believe, the courage to dare, the courage to do, the courage to envision, the courage to fight, the courage to work, the courage to achieve- to achieve the highest excellencies and the fullest greatness of (self). Dare we ask for more in life?” To me, life is that challenge, and the delight I find in the challenge is the freedom to be and be continually challenged, to be daring, bold and adventurous. THAT is how life continuously tickles me.
8. To assume less and ask questions. Seek clarity. Assumptions are a blur and are often distorted. The only way true vision is derived is when things are clear, and clarity comes from inquiry, from being curious and inquisitive. This ultimately helps you change your mental models, helping you become less judgemental and more knowing. It’s a nice place to be in and it is one of the small things that matter, and will make a positive difference in your life this year and beyond. I am embracing this small thing more this year, I ask you to become more inquisitive.
9. To not live in fear. The fear of making the wrong moves, fear of making the wrong decision, fear of not being good enough, the fear of the future, the fear of being rejected, the fear of not having it all figured out, the fear of people’s opinions, the fear of change, the fear of success or failure, the fear of lack and not having enough, the fear of missing out etc. These fears are all crippling, and if you allow fear of any form to grip you, it will stall you on your life’s journey. Without any doubt, some measure of fear is naturally essential for life, but when the type of fear you have is one that impairs you, rendering you powerless from taking action, then you need to make amends. Overcoming your fear will start with small steps of action that go against what is naturally intimidating and fearful, but it gets better overtime. Seeking professional help also makes a lot of difference.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes of all time, the one from Ellen Sirleaf Johnson which says, “so often, it is the small decisions in life that end up shaping our future the most”. Here’s a toast to making the small things work this year, may 2020 be jolly and merry, with the stars aligning for you and me.
Catch up soon xoxoxo.