defragment.me

One Strong Belief: You create your own reality

Am participating in the #trust30 30-day writing challenge , I was hesitating earlier because I didn't think I could commit for all 30 days, but to me, again it is some, better than none. :) This post is in response for the prompt of today.

I have plenty of strong beliefs, but if I have to pick only one life-defining belief, it would be, "You create your own reality". I actually wrote a blog post (check it out if you want more background) about it two years ago and even though now I am about to be on medication for chronic depression, my belief has never wavered. In fact, I think it has gone on to be stronger.

Till today, I am still believe that my choices define my own reality. Reality is relative. You may think I am nuts, but Einstein made it a theory like more than a hundred years ago. Scientists know that the perception of events depends on the observer. I don't think we have to be geniuses to know that this is true.

This single belief has driven me to take risky but worthwhile decisions in my life, it is also the same belief that has driven me to seek help for my chronic depression. I *want* to be healthier and in a better mental state to continue creating my own reality. I do not want my life to be defined by the state of the world's economies – I want to live out of the matrix.

You don't have to share the same belief, but I prompt you to think about it with an open mind. We are what we believe ourselves to be, we do what we believe we can accomplish. If that means you believe that you can fly to the moon, so be it. Why not? Someone has already done that decades ago. If people didn't think reality could be constantly re-defined, why would we have space shuttles or even that satellite that transmit your digital tv signals to you now?

If people wait for science to provide evidence to prove that things can be real instead of doing it anyway and inevitably proving it along the way, what would the world be right now?

Make your fantasies real. I have made some of mine. If someone like me, who have suffered from suicide ideation, chronic depression, low-self-esteem can do it, I think, anybody can. If you don't believe in your own dreams, how would anybody believe in yours?

All the best. :)

Re-conditioning myself for inner-peace

The post would actually be titled "Re-conditioning myself in pursuit of happiness" until I made a recent discovery that happiness is a choice, not a pursuit.

The perception of happiness

People do all sorts of things to pursue what they perceive as 'happiness'. In the Singaporean society, 'happiness' generally (I repeat, generally) means earning enough money so that they never have to worry about having to cope with the rising standards of living. When I was younger, 'happiness' means the freedom to do whatever I want. Money, I thought was secondary. I was insistent that freedom does not neccessarily have to come with money. Back then, even as a kid in school, I was already the odd one out. My peers were very concerned about getting straight As in order 'succeed' and 'be happy'. Nobody told us that academic success is not equivalent true happiness and success. On the contrary, we kept getting drilled about the importance of being part of an academic elite in order to survive in Singapore (at least, in my experience).

I was determined to be happy. I have already disappointed my parents when I didn't do well for my O levels, and I sought the middle-ground, entering a polytechnic to study IT when what I really wanted to do was to go to a design school. I dropped out in the middle of my course after realising that I will never be able to graduate as long as data structures gave me a headache, resulting in more disappointment from my family. That resulted in me feeling even more that I should make it up to them. This pattern continued throughout my twenties as I tried hard to seek 'a good job' as defined by society. If I could not be the lawyer they wanted, perhaps I could at the very least try to climb the ladder as a designer.

I spent my twenties caught in between trying to be happy and trying to make it up to my parents. Or you can see it as trying to be myself and be weird, or trying to be 'normal' like everyone else. I swung between the two as there was never a period I could be happy without feeling guilty, or trying to be normal without driving myself crazy.

I thought I left it all behind when I made a big step to be self-employed, mistakenly thinking that being self-employed would mean freedom. I stopped caring whether that would please my family or not, it was something that I really wanted and needed to do.

In a conditioned state of fear

What I didn't realise was, the conditioning that existed in my mind/psyche was far deeper that I have thought to be. As I progressed further into my business, my worries about the future grew. What if I stopped getting business? What if I don't make use if the opportunities presented to me now? What if I didn't save enough to buy a house? What if I can't pay rent? What if my parents get old and they need money from me? What if one of them fall sick? What if I fall sick?

I was setting myself up for failure. Even before anything started to happen, I was already 'preparing' myself for all the negativity that can happen to me. And I assure you, whoever that is reading this, that probably 90% of us have the same fears going through their minds all the time.

That is why many of us stay in jobs we don't love. It is better to be unhappy than to be poor, a lot of them think. As a friend once remarked, she would rather cry in a mercedes than in a public bus.

And that is why, even myself, as much as I try to pursue happiness consciously, the conditioning of my mind has weighed me down very much, subconsciously. Most of us are brought up to seek stability and security, even if I seem to be a 'free-er' spirit that most of my peers, I cannot help but think about the house that I should buy, the money I should be earning, the 'success' I should be chasing. This affected the way I ran my business as I subconsciously sought stability (lots of cashflow! ;p). I made awful decisions accepting projects that I shouldn't, or working when I should have rested. I took my work too seriously, because I was very afraid to lose my 'freedom', and my work suffered as a result as I over-analyzed everything since I was afraid to produce work that was mediocre. I lost my love for my work.

Consciously or subconsciously, I was falling back into my old pattern of swinging between trying to be myself and trying to be normal. I was still trying to seek the middle-ground by not having 'a proper job' and still being able to make my family proud of me. I was still trying to make the invisible 'deadlines' that we seem to have – by 30 you should have established a career, by 35 if you haven't, you should be totally ashamed of yourself.

Why?

Why should we place all these deadlines on ourselves? Why are we conditioned to pursue things that society deem acceptable? Why do we make our children and youth feel so guilty when they try to be different? We do we shake our heads at people who want to have a change of career in their mid-thirties? And why can't old people find love?

Why do we accept these 'rules' as part of reality?

Why am I taking life so seriously? If you believe in one life-time and that you either make it or not with one chance, perhaps you have enough reason to be serious about life. Me? I believe in multiple-incarnations (this is going to be another post) and I find it hard to reconcile within myself when I am weighed down by the supposed practicalities of life. This is how conditioned my mind has become. Fear of failure.

Re-conditioning

I have found a great divide between my beliefs and the conditioning of my mind. And that has been creating a lot of noise in my consciousness. No wonder I never could quieten my mind. It seemed to be always anxious, always analyzing, always debating. It doesn't have to be this way if I simply have faith. I was very afraid to waste time, to make wrong decisions, to experience pain when things go wrong. Yet the other part of me is constantly trying to remind me that I should be doing what I love, I should choose what makes me happy over what makes me stable. I gradually realised that my unhappiness was caused by the inability to make peace within myself.

Considering that I don't believe in hell, one-lifetime, judgement (as you know it) or punishment after life, what is there to be afraid of? I don't even believe in 'right' or 'wrong'. I find it really amusing that I am in constant anxiety about my life even though I hold such strong spiritual beliefs. Okay, at least it is amusing to me now.

There was a mildly controversial comment made by Joi Ito at Echelon 2010, apparently saying that he does not hire MBAs because he would need to untrain them. Similar to the sentiment that some startups find difficulty in hiring Singaporean talent because of their apparent inability to be flexible (am not trying to criticise, I am just stating true feedback). That is sort of what I am consciously doing to myself now. Reconditioning my mind to incorporate what I believe in and not what people has conditioned me to believe in, which will probably be a long but necessary process.

Digressing a little. the Singaporean Government often states that many of our local talent go overseas, never to come back. And they are trying so hard to make Singapore a creative hub. I find it hugely ironic. Perhaps it is time for them to take a long hard look at our system. Or maybe some courageous soul can attempt to improve the system. Only if our bureaucracy would allow these courageous, idealistic souls to make a difference. Many times, they want us to make an effort, but they don't allow the effort to be made (Once bondedOnce bonded, reloaded).

Finding inner-peace to be happy

So, I realise I have been going about pursuing happiness the wrong way. I thought that by gaining or acquiring something, happiness follows. Usually it is only transient. Especially if you tie happiness to achievements or possessions. Your human nature will always want you to achieve something bigger in order to experience the same level of 'happiness'. For me, I came to the epiphany, that true constant happiness comes to me when I achieve a state of inner-peace – being at peace with who I am, what I am doing, what I have, etc. When you're truly happy, you don't need external events to provide that source to you. You see happiness in everything. Whether is it that the grass is green instead of yellow, or that I am looking at a 24in lcd screen, or that I get to eat dumplings. Knowing myself (sorry I cannot help that cynical side), I wouldn't say I will remain in this state consistently, but I will strive to.

I think that is the most important in life. The effort and process, and the non-attachment to results. Enjoy the journey anyway, whether it is long, tiring or painful. You can choose to be happy in spite of anything and everything. Similarly, you can be unhappy even if you seem to have everything but you cannot be at peace.

We all have choices

I never used to believe it, but we all have choices. I held a pretty deterministic view of life. I believed failure or success was pre-destined.

Choices define our lives. It defines us so much that many of us live in fear of making the wrong choices.

Me? I admit I was a pretty stressed out soul getting really angry and upset with myself for the choices I have made in the past. However, somehow I never got angry with myself for too long, because I believe everything happens for a reason. Making poor choices leads to valuable lessons and accumulated reasons, making good choices leads to increased faith and happiness. Therefore, in my opinion, there’s really no such thing as a bad choice. Success or failure, we are all learning along the way. Sometimes, you just take a while longer to get to the destination, but they always say, it is the journey that matters.

Here I am, staring at the vast ocean through the window of my room. Wondering about myself and my choices. Reflecting on my life and the path that I have chosen. My life could have turned out really different, but do I want the difference?
Baan Krating Balcony View

Sometimes it is really difficult. Seeing peers acquiring assets and attaining career success. I am human after all and sometimes I wish I don’t have to worry about money, I can afford to buy a house and a car, and I can have my parents living off me. Which could be possible if I have chosen differently.

Over the past one year I have met incredible people in different interpretations of the word. Through the hard work I have put in I have had the opportunities to work in a couple of big-name companies. Even if I didn’t want the corporate life, I could have been working in a very successful startup, earning the sort of keep that will not only keep me worry-free financially, I could probably afford to buy almost anything I wanted (I don’t go for luxury goods so that’s not that difficult to fullfil).

I also gave up the opportunities to work with people that I admire. On projects that may not be fulfilling financially at the moment, but definitely potentially life-changing.

I gave all of that up.

To find myself again, so that I can be myself.

I don’t deny I think of all these things wistfully, I think of the car I could have bought, the house I could have saved up for, the smile of my parents if I were to give them that fat red packet.

So when people tell me that I’m ‘lucky’ or ‘cool’ because I am ‘free’ to travel around and enjoy breathtaking views, I don’t really know how to react.

Because most of them will not know all that I have given up to be where I am today. And it is really not easy. I give people the impression that I am simply a ‘heart’ person and I make decisions like these with a snap of my fingers.

Nobody knows the nights of insomnia and all those tears behind my smile.

A friend of mine once told me, there are two ways to change the world. One is to become rich like Bill Gates and start contributing massively to charities, the other is to be like Mother Theresa, giving your whole life to everyone else without expecting anything in return.

I can never be the Bill Gates sort of person, neither can I be Mother Theresa. Who am I kidding?

But I hope and wish that by being true to myself I can somewhat encourage more people to be true to themselves as well. By writing openly about my issues and hurt I can let a few tortured souls realise that they are not alone in how they feel. By being idealistic I hope to remind some people of their ideals again.

They are all lofty wishes, but I hope and wish and I try. I never thought that I could change the world, but I thought that the very least I can do is to be the change I want to see in the world.

Perhaps the act of giving up to be where I am now will never allow me the same opportunities again. Perhaps it will bring me even more opportunities when I am ready. All I know is that I try my best. I believe if I try my best and do what I truly believe in, satisfaction will eventually come.

I believe everyone has a different role in this world. Once in a while there comes a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates to shake the world. Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, Gandhi. There are the ones who give up personal time, family, love, just to create a product, a mind-blowing film script, or a book that will influence the minds of society.

But there is also the housewife that does her chores and brings up her kids the best way she can, giving up any form of career and ambition. The man that works in a boring 9-5 job faithfully for 30 years just to support his family in the best way he can. The woman who spent 25 years of her life walking around America without a single cent just to prove that compassion exists.

We all have choices. Sometimes these choices may not seem to be worthwhile on the surface. Sometimes nobody will see the value or understand the choices. Sometimes it is difficult to live with our own choices. All the what could have beens.

I think we just do our best. We all have different priorities. The easiest way to make a decision is just to ask yourself whether you will regret this on your deathbed.

Till date, I think I haven’t made any choices that I would regret on my deathbed. But I think I can do better. I want to make choices that I will be happy with on my deathbed.

As I was writing this post, I put a “do not disturb” sign on my hotel door, and a hotel staff quietly puts a change of fresh towels and water quietly on the table at the balcony. This is a simple act that many expect or take for granted. I manage to catch a glimpse and I saw her placing those items with her utmost care quietly, with a small smile on her face. She left without knowing that I was looking, or that I was touched by her simple gesture.

Our choices often create ripples of repercussions without us knowing. Good or bad, you get to choose.