Archives for October 2018

October 25, 2018

Cultivating Values

The journey to evaluating and cultivating values does not have to be as daunting as it seems.

One year ago, I had no clear values and no distinct way of understanding what truly mattered to me. I had heard major influencers in my life tell me that values are vital to living a successful life, yet nobody talked about how to define one’s values and align them with one’s passions.

For the longest time, I thought that if we are to live a value-aligned life, we needed to be vegan, minimalist, yogi, health-obsessed, and travel a lot to promote a message. It was silly to think this for such a long time, right? 

As ridiculous as it sounds, I had never explored the idea of values more because I was afraid to. I was terrified that new and refined values would change me as a person, and that I might lose people or things in my life, or have even lost opportunities. I was anxious that having quality values would create a different life for me—but what I didn’t realize was that having real, tangible values would change me and mold the best version of myself that I have ever presented to the world. 

When I began to research values, I originally wanted to adopt the values that other people had, instead of curating my own. I tried being vegan for a few months because everyone else was doing it. I attempted to be a fitness enthusiast because the models on Instagram had beautiful canvases. It got to the point where I even asked my parents if I could borrow the car for a few weeks so I could go on a road trip that I hadn’t planned out. 

After my parents had declined the idea for the road trip (rightfully so), I realized that none of these things that were attempted were for me. None of these “values” had stuck with me, because I wasn’t doing them for the right reasons. These experimentations were because I was feeling pressured to be someone I was not—no, am not. I felt the pressure to have multiple values all at once, when in reality, values take time to cultivate. 

This last year has been filled with genuine, intentional research to see what my values are. It started with an idea of what I cared about. My faith, the earth, animals, and my body. The next thing I had to do was see what could be done in my personal life to ensure that I was aligning with the things that I valued and cared about. It’s that simple! I wish someone had told myself earlier on that living a value-aligned life was so much easier than I ever thought it could be. 

I may not be a wholehearted vegan, doing yoga every day, or doing everything I can to save the animals or earth. Regardless of this, I am taking steps to becoming the person I have always wanted to be and living the value-filled, value-aligned life I have always dreamed about.

October 18, 2018

Big Decision, Clear Answer

Evaluating values and finding direction will lead to better decisions.

Recently I found myself facing a dilemma. Life had thrown up a big decision and it was one of those moments that would shape everything after it. An opportunity had arisen to move to Sri Lanka for a work opportunity with my girlfriend. We had grown weary of London’s sirens, tourists, and expenses and were ready for a change.

The move to Sri Lanka had clear upsides. It would open us up to an entirely different world—access to Asia, its foods, culture, weather, people—all steeply contrasted with the London life we had become used to. The problem was that we had already decided to move to Bristol, a relatively affordable alternative to London with a hugely creative and exciting culture.

Bristol or Sri Lanka?

A sofa or wild new experiences? Jungles or waterfronts? Monkeys or squirrels?

The problem with making decisions is that before you can decide what to do at any given moment, you must clearly know your priorities. The closer you are to this source, the more accurate, straight, and true your actions will be thereafter.

In order to come to a conclusion, we began the process of examining our values. We found that we had strong desires to cultivate space for ourselves, our things, and our hobbies (for me; cooking, for her; yoga) in a less highly strung city with a slower pace of life. We dreamed of a lounge to entertain others, our own bathroom and a fridge of a decent size—all things rendered difficult in London’s restrictive housing market and our recent full-time studies.

After much deliberation, the answer was clear. Bristol was the better fit for now. The Sri Lanka opportunity dried up but this did not matter—we had challenged our trajectory and values and in the process of doing so, we had learned more securely what we wanted out of life. Of course, our priorities will change, but in the present moment, I truly believe that there is nothing more important than knowing where you want to be—and making the move.

October 11, 2018

A Minimalist Office Space

How a minimalist setup can reduce distractions, increase focus, and improve efficiency.

I have worked in public education for 18 years, and three years ago I attended a professional development event that focused on decluttering one’s office and working smarter by focusing on the most impactful things at work. Little did I realize just how transformational this would be for me personally and professionally.

One of the first things that I learned was how distracting an office, filled with clutter and personal heirlooms, could be. Besides, do you really want to emulate your home in your office? Your work environment, regardless of its shape or size, is designed for you to produce work in the most efficient way possible. Personal trinkets all over the place will not help you get your work done, but it can certainly distract you and coworkers.

As I began my journey several years ago to declutter my office and eliminate useless paperwork that I had stored digitally anyway, I heard many coworkers say that my office looked “too professional” and didn’t look “homey” at all. Regardless of the varied opinions of my office peers, I was on a mission to give this a try. Several years later, it is in a state that I would consider minimal, or rather streamlined.

My office only contains those items that I need to do my job. Many of my coworkers say my office looks like a conference room, and now I tell that that was my point all along. My office is a space where I meet with people to get essential work done, and now that it is not cluttered, I offer my space to anyone in the office that needs a private meeting space or privacy.

So how has decluttering my office and using minimalism helped? In several important ways:

  • My office is easy to clean, looks professional all the time, and can easily be used by anyone when I’m not there. My office projects the image most employers want to see for their organization.
  • My focus and efficiency has increased significantly, as I am no longer searching for one thing in a big pile of papers. I have moved my analog, paper existence, to a digital one that I have available to me anywhere I go.

Minimalism spilled over into my personal life once I saw the actual value it afforded me in my professional life.

October 4, 2018

Minimalism is an Individualistic Journey

There is diversity in minimalism in spite of the ‘perfection’ that is portrayed online.

The other day, I went to a hair salon to touch up my short pixie style and I showed the stylist a photo off Pinterest. This photo was of a young woman's feathered pixie, and I told him that I wanted it exactly like the photo.

As he was shaving down the back of my hair, he pulled out his mirror and said, “Would it be okay if we went a little shorter in the back? It's not exactly like the photo, but I think it would fit your personality better. I’ve never done anything quite like this before, and you'd be the first person I’ve ever seen with this hairstyle.”

Though hesitant, I said yes.

We continued our conversation as normal, and as the hair styling went on, we made more alterations to the photo than I ever thought possible. With clammy palms and a lot of encouragement from the hairstylist, the result was something I have genuinely never seen before but fell head over heels for. He later said to me that he appreciates me having the courage to bring in a photo yet work with him to create a product that is better than the original inspiration.

It occurred to me on the way home that this is how minimalism works as well. We so often think that our version of minimalism has to be exactly like the photos on Pinterest, the YouTubers that have white walls and a perfect kitchen, or the nomads that live out of a backpack.

Minimalism is not set in stone. If it was, then we would all be walking around in plain t-shirts with no personality diversity. It is vital that each person’s version of minimalism is different. Part of the beauty of living with less is that each person chooses different things.

We all have our own ‘why factor’, reasons and benefits for purging our lives of excess. Your version of minimalism could be appear wildly different to another’s.

Do not be afraid to have clammy palms and move forward with something that you know is different. Create something within your space and life that you have never dared to do. Dare to make a better version of minimalism than the inspiration you are gleaning from. Dare to be true to yourself.

There is no “right” way to utilise minimalism. Find what works for you, and run as far as you can with it.