Monday, January 2, 2017

Reflections and Wishes For The New Year...

It was timely, starting the new year fresh off reading New York Times bestselling author Neil Pasricha's (The Book of AWESOME)-- The Happiness EquAtion. Glad I soaked it up, as much of the content aligns with my own perspectives on how to live a happier, meaningful, simpler and humble life. Things I have been reckoning, packaged into neat chapters with relatable real-life stories. As I reflect on the past and look into the new year and beyond, there are three true happiness-shaping takeaways that best resonated me which I want to share with you:  

1. Turn What You Have Into Enough
2. Always Be You and Own It
3. Slow Down, Breathe, Look and See

I read that for more than a hundred years, we have been living in the age of More instead of Enough. It is a consumerist culture ingrained in us. We have grown up in a world where more has always meant better, a shift from a needs to a desires culture. We want new things even before the old has been entirely consumed. We see that easily with the rapid market replacement of new versions of iphones and electronic gadgets-- we want the latest and the greatest. I don't own a smartphone. My friends often ask, how does a food blogger, a lover of all-things-food not own a smartphone just for snapping up food photos alone- whenever, whereever? I have a five-year old mobile phone (to make and answer calls, to text, and no fancy features), a standard decade-old Fujifilm camera and an old B brand laptop computer to organize my photos. Are they less convenient than an all-in-one? Much far less. But my time-honoured devices work and they work well. I am happy to keep them separate. And I don't feel I need anything more than what I have.  They may not be the latest but for what I need them to do, they are the greatest. I am talking about gadgets here, but this translates into everything. Nicer clothes and more of it, blingier jewelry and more of it, fancier or faster car, bigger house with an even bigger backyard... When you are not content with what you have, you will always seek and want more. When will enough ever be enough?

Train the brain to turn what you have into enough. And you may realize that what you have is already great and you don't need more. 

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Ralph Waldo Emerson said, " To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." I so agree. Being you removes regrets from your life because you live the life true to yourself and not the life expected of you by others. Happiness is a choice, and there is nothing more authentic and gratifying than living a life where you are you, and be admired, respected and loved for who you are. I switched careers early on, into the world of food, and I have been following my passion since with abandon-- to be open to experience and embrace whatever opportune me. Was my parents on board learning I wanted to work in culinary after getting a degree in University, a diploma from College and then working at a well-paid, pension-covered government job? No, but my love and achievements in the culinary years that followed proved myself to them and defied my family's expectation of me. At the work front, had I always been forthright with my opinions, held my ground and debated my ideas to be heard and considered? Flat out, No. I look back and wish I was better at that, more confident in sharing even my quirkiest ideas during my corporate tenure. I second guessed speaking up and often settled with the majority because it was easier. I loved the work I was doing but I was not confident in being different. Only when I left, started my food blog and created projects on my own terms did I feel I was being, communicating and doing the real me. It was so freeing! As Gandhi famously says, "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." Absolutely- 360 honest being, through thoughts, words and actions. Hurray! I finally felt I was in the driver's seat, able to express myself authentically without the confines of family and work culture expectations. And with that I was able to savour my greatest ideas and turn my efforts into passionate accomplishments which I take deep pride in today. 

The feeling you get following your heart is not always comfortable at the beginning, but it's always comfortable at the end. Be You- wierd, warts and all, Own It and Be Cool with It.

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Neil Pasricha says, "Creating space is the secret step to freeing yourself from the oppression of your busy life." I recall in my thirties, how I thrived on being busy. People asked me how I was doing, and I'll respond enthusiastically, "I'm so busy!" As though busyness defined my mood, indicating how important and productive my time/days were. My calendar was never chockful short of work and appointments-- I held a full-time job and part-time and stand-by ones, I was going to part-time culinary school, I volunteered at countless food events, I had endless meetings with friends at restaurants and coffee shops to discuss big ideas, sometimes about food, sometimes not, being there for anyone and everyone especially when they had problems... it was non-stop, it was go, go, go and go some more. Fast forward to getting older, having three kids, I now work as a freelance culinary consultant and food writer, I create my own projects and am a Food Revolution ambassador, part of a global fight for real food, and food education for all campaign (something I deeply believe in and champion). I am surely not any less busy than back when but the key now is that I know to prioritize my family demands while allowing myself time and mindful space to do the things I love. "Fuel your brain, and let it run wild by removing access points. Close the doors, and lock the windows, but answer the bell," exclaims Neil. Ding! The bell is my family. Ding! The bell is my closest friends. Ding! Ding! My passions and my work. It took a long time to learn the importance of guarding my brain, and energy from unnecessary distractions, but I'm definitely getting better at it. I will always continue to love giving random acts of kindness for people I know and to strangers. But because I am an empathetic person by nature, it is that much more crucial that I don't deplete my reserves by delving deep on just anything, with anyone and everyone. I risk myself of being drowned with nothing left for me. I make a point to regularly nourish my mind and restore my energy with conscious yoga and meditation. To be the best I could be for the people and things that matter, and to know when to walk away from people and things that don't. It takes a lot of courage yes, but your mind, body and soul, and your universe will thank you for it.

So slow down, breathe, look and really see. Take care of you-- your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship in your life. There is only one you, ever. Cherish your time and You! :)

Calvin and Hobbes

In the spotlight of all this, reflecting who I once was and the appreciation of who I have become, I am ever so grateful for my life right now with everyone and everything in it! I wouldn't have it any other way and I have my family, friends and readers to thank from the depths of my heart. Thank you always for your support from the moment we met and since the launch of Susan's Savour-It! Wishing you and your loved ones a HaPpY NeW YeAr with everlasting love, health, passion and happiness! Cheers and kudos to finding your own happiness equation! I'm looking forward to having more of these life conversations whether it's eating and living better, cooking healthier, and leading a life rich in experiences rather than in materials. Be well, Be happy and talk to you soon!

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