When we fill our hearts with gratitude, we realise how much we have. When you focus on what you have, you don’t spend time thinking about what you don’t have. The constant focus on wanting to accumulate materials or external validation can never result in true happiness. There is so much gratitude in meeting so many beautiful people this year, and there have been many thoughtful conversations and meaningful moments. It’s incredible to talk with people with such beautiful minds and souls. It’s important to remember that nobody’s life is perfect, no matter what it seems. A person could appear to have everything on the surface, but feel empty within, and vice versa. Everyone is walking on their own journey, similar to how each book has its own stories in each chapter.
When I was younger, I honestly felt that everyone seemed to have a normal life. This comes down to the way we are told to present ourselves in society. As you grow older, you realise that sometimes we all really don’t know what’s going on, and that’s okay. That’s the joy of life, because if every moment was predictable it would lose its excitement and adventure. I absolutely love to smile, but I also know how easy it is to hide behind a smile and how easy it is to appear happy through hard times. This is why we truly mustn’t judge things from the surface. As I spoke with friends, we talked about mental health, and how incredibly common it is. In a way, the pressure of appearing to have a perfect life, is not authentic and true to the self.
Comparison is the thief of joy, as it can create a feeling of inadequacy and lowering of self worth. On the other hand, it can be used to motivate oneself if you desire, but where we place the focus and intention is important. What we perceive as success and happiness can be vastly different to one another. However, I really do think that the relationships we have with ourselves, and those around us hold a lot of purpose in our lives. There are so many layers to every person. Nothing perfect is defined by the way things look. Not with materials, travel, clothing, makeup or career. Nobody is perfect. The long lasting happiness in life comes down to the way we’re feeling inside.
During my teenage years, I prayed that I could be more confident, outgoing and speak my mind freely. When I entered my twenties, I accepted myself for the qualities that I have that simply are a part of who I am. I’ve really accepted being an analytical thinker, spending time alone to recharge and thinking before I speak. I learned that confidence is not defined by being loud, and that it comes from a sense of security within yourself. For a number of years, I thought there was something wrong with me, until I read the book Quiet by Susan Cain. I became familiar with the terms Introvert and Extrovert. Often, the different parts of ourselves are some of our biggest strengths. It is important to note that Introversion and Extroversion are not one singular characteristic. Every individual will have varying levels of both. Sadly, the word introvert has negative connotations attached to it due to societal expectations. However, in order to thrive and exist in the world we need a balance of both.
As an introvert, you may have a small handful of people in your lives that you feel completely at home with. You may engage enthusiastically in deep conversations rather than small talk. If you are quite a deep thinker, writing can be one of the most therapeutic, relaxing and satisfying things. You may enjoy being in calm environments, such as being surrounded by nature, reading at a cafe or sitting by the beach. That’s not to say one doesn’t like socialising, but it simply means the time spent socialising will vary. There are weeks where I may see a few friends for tea, and other weeks where I’m catching up on doing things on my own. I enjoy meeting new people, yet I also crave the need to be able to connect with someone in conversation. The way we express ourselves are all so vastly different. As someone who enjoys listening to other’s stories and experiences, it’s a precious moment to find a friend who is also just as interested in hearing yours.
There is a certain level of comfort when we realise that in those moments that you might feel alone or misunderstood, there are those who too feel the same. We find connections in moments of vulnerability. I have found that there are only a handful of people in my life who see me completely, and those who will naturally only see certain layers of who I am or who they think I am. It may never be the complete picture, and that’s okay. Does that mean you aren’t being authentic? I don’t think so. I don’t think we have to bare all ourselves to anyone we encounter in order to be authentic. In the comfort of loved ones, you feel you don’t need to hide anything. When we are our complete selves with those close to us, it’s because we have established a level of trust and security. It’s in the silence and solitude where we can take a moment to breathe and pause. It’s in the time alone that we can recharge, reflect and stay in touch with our creativity and our true self.
The video below by Lana speaks beautifully about the many experiences that Introverts may have.
The ability to take action, maintain persistence and take time to do difficult things can lead to progress and development. We can consume, listen and read a lot of good advice from people, books and online. However, if we don’t take it into action then the desire and ability for change will never manifest into reality. Fear is something that can take over each and every one of us to varying degrees, depending on the situation or when facing something new. It can be those moments that can enable us to grow tremendously when we face it head front. For example, you may have certain goals that you really want to achieve, but fear can stop you from taking the first step. It’s a matter of taking the first steps out of your comfort zone. It’s important not to rush, as the delay in a reward can make us work more carefully and use our time wisely, and when we do receive it it can be far more satisfying.
Mindless Consumption The action of scrolling down your phone, watching anything on the television, eating food without much thought or buying clothes that you won’t wear are forms of consumption that have the lack of being present and are simply an action taken for passing time. They don’t necessarily add certain value in our lives, as we are a passive consumer. This is common, and we are all part of it in some way or another.
Instant Gratification A certain level of comfort and habitual action can come from instant gratification. It can be predictable and desirable and feels good. Food is an obvious example such as a chocolate cake. Although, an example that is increasingly common and infiltrates our daily lives is social media. We have more options, voices, content, feedback and noise online. Our brains are constantly stimulated when we consume digital technology.
Digital Detox Taking time away from your phone and minimising the apps you use can allow you to spend less time using, watching, sharing, posting, reading and looking at notifications. Your time is precious, and using the time to do things that are valuable to you is important. As algorithms, content recommendations and advertisements tend to cater to our interests, it can be good to take time to read, watch or engage in conversations where it challenges our views to look at things from different perspectives.
Chocolate and Carrots After watching this video, it says that the brain will compare the chocolate and carrot, and nine times out of ten the brain will go to the chocolate as the better option. Unless you’re a rabbit like myself and would choose the carrot. However, it shows how the brain will go to the one that gives the bigger dopamine hit and allow us to consume. Consuming is the easier option, and doing is more difficult as you need to move and exert and apply yourself. Which can be more difficult. It takes time and energy.
Art of Slow We are bombarded with an extreme amount of endless options. When options are limited our time to make decisions and choose are immensely lessened. The art of slow is taking a step back to read a book and really absorbing it in. It’s being mindful and present in your daily life. Taking those moments to do nothing. We need time in solitude and peace to recharge and reconnect with ourselves. Take those moments to walk in nature, meditate, learn something new or spend time cooking a meal.
Am I better than I was yesterday? Taking a break from consumer culture can allow us to come back more productive and focused. If you are thinking about something that’s constantly on your mind, just go for it and do it. Take time to also do difficult things, and embrace the frustration. If you experience those moments that feel slow, you learn, become more patient and become more resilient. Am I better than I was yesterday? What did I learn, what can I change, what am I grateful for, and what did I do well and maybe not so well. Where can I improve and what were some of the highlights?
No matter where we are in the world, it’s the state of mind that you’re in that determines the life you want to live. When you’re filled with gratitude and love, you appreciate what you already have. Whereas, if you’re filled with fear, you can feel a sense of lack and worry. The experiences you have, the people you surround yourself with, the places you travel to, the books you read, the food you eat, the music you listen to, the thoughts you feed yourself and the lessons you learn. Life is unpredictable. It reminds us that living in the present is all we truly have, and that the past and the future can often rob us of enjoying, embracing and accepting the moment.
“People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…”
“They don’t find it,” I answered.
“And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”
“Of course,” I answered.
And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
The title is an excerpt from the book, The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” This reminds us of the importance of seeing beneath the surface. We can never really know anyone, not many people, so deeply that we can understand the experiences and layers they have experienced. We live in a deeply visual world and images have so much power and influence. However, the things that truly matter in our lives, are things that can’t be seen but are felt. They are the experiences we have, not the materials. They are the relationships we have, not the status.
The life we experience is ultimately the one we feel within. It makes me think of how a person can be externally happy, but they could be going through an incredibly tough time. It makes me think of how a person can seem serious and may not always smile, but they can also have the biggest heart and kindness through their actions. It’s important to not judge a book by its cover. Nobody is perfect, no matter what it seems, and no matter what it looks like from the outside. It doesn’t matter how much you earn, what clothes you wear or how big your house is. It matters how you treat others, your sense of character and values. Those parts of you, whether that be your intelligence, compassion, wisdom, humour, or enthusiasm, are what make you you.
There are many lessons in The Little Prince. One of the lessons that stand out to me, is the topic of love. What is truly important can only be felt and seen with the heart. This world needs love. We can do many things and never be joyful, but perhaps our happiness could be found in one simple thing (“in a single rose”). Our eyes may indulge in temporary beauty and what lies on the surface. The temporary satisfaction won’t give us a sense of long term contentment. The true beauty of a person comes from their heart. Whatever you do today, remember to look with the heart.
Connection is an important part of relationships, and having a sense of community can affect our well being. True connections are incredibly valuable. It’s been a few months since I stopped using Facebook and Instagram, and the relationships that are the closest are the ones where you are engaged and in contact regardless of your online presence. They are the ones you will message or call on the phone every day. I really value close and long-term friendships, and I found that often on social media we are viewing and sharing to people we don’t have a close connection with. The aspects of privacy, mental health, phone use and what value it has on my personal life were just some of the areas that made me remove several social media apps.
The people who care about you will make the effort to be in your life.The people that really matter will make the effort to call you and personally invite you to events or to catch up. It’s not the frequency of contact or quantity of friendships, but the time spent. A natural part of life is that people come and go in our lives. Those who are meant to be in our lives will be there.
Your productivity levels will increase. The ability to sustain focus for longer periods of time will become a habit. Social Media can be distracting and take away our attention. Phones have caused us to have shorter attention spans. I remember as a student how distracting social media can be, and how much time can go by if we spend our time on it.
Decrease in anxiety and online noise and distraction. My mental health greatly improved, and so much time will be in your hands for things that add value in your life, rather than scrolling mindlessly. There was something about Facebook and Instagram that really triggered my anxiety. Our phones can be a form of escapism. There is an overwhelming amount of information online.
Spending time doing the things you love. Time spent on your favourite activities, hobbies and time spent with the people you love. In the past few months, I love to spend the early morning going for a jog or reading a chapter of a book, whereas in the past one of the first things was to turn on my phone. Time offline means that I put more conscious time in achieving my goals.
Conformity, validation and acceptance. I think about how I really value the opinions and views of those close to me, regardless of if I agree or disagree with it. However, I find on social media there is a lot of external validation from strangers which can have an impact on ones authenticity. True validation and acceptance is through accepting yourself.
The time spent on my phone is minimised. More or less the phone is mostly used for texting, calling and replying emails. I check my phone far less, whereas when I previously had several social media apps, I’d check it more often because there would be notifications that most of the time weren’t important. Excessive screen time is unhealthy, and takes us away from the present.
The value of privacy, and realising that most people don’t truly care about you. We are essentially the products on social media platforms. It’s hard to define privacy in one definition nowadays. I am quite a private person, and would rather spend time sharing certain things with those close to me. Most people are friendly, but there really are only a handful of people in our personal lives who truly care about us.
Body image and unrealistic expectations. There is a layer of social media that can feel unrealistic. We only catch a glimpse, and even then we can’t really know someone without engaging in conversation and spending time with them. To an extent, social media can shape perceptions of body image.
Being present and focused in my own life. I’m not sure if I’ll be back on Facebook or Instagram, but it feels good to be fully focused on my own life. I do miss the days before social media where there was a sense of mystery in our lives. No one’s life is perfect, even though it can seem that way online. Spending less time on our phones can create space for us to be present in our daily lives.
Comparison can cause us to create a false image of ourselves and those around us. When comparison can be a benefit is when it enables us to become a better version of ourselves, whether through improvement in our skills or behaviour. However, comparison can also bring us down and hinder us from reaching our full potential. Nobody’s life is perfect, no matter what it seems. Comparison is the thief of joy, as it can create a feeling of inadequacy and lowering of ones self worth. On the other hand, it can be used to motivate oneself if you desire, but where we place the focus and intention is important. What we perceive as success and happiness can be vastly different to one another. I do really think that the relationships we have with ourselves, and those around us hold a lot of purpose in our lives. There are so many layers to every person. Nothing perfect is defined by the way things look. The long lasting happiness in life comes down to the way we’re feeling inside.
Social media has caused a heightened frequency of comparison through ones lifestyle and appearances. However, the concept of the perfect body does not exist. We can choose to show people what we perceive as our good side, but underneath the layers of ourselves are parts that others may never see. Comparison causes a false reality through showing the surface of what we desire, but it makes us forget to appreciate who we are and where we are right this moment. Gratitude reminds us how much we have and it reminds us the blessing of our experiences, the small moments that bring us joy and the things that are truly important in our lives. It strips away judgment towards ourselves, it minimises the feeling of lack and it makes us more appreciative and positive. The danger of comparing ourselves to others, is that it makes us forget to acknowledge that everyone goes through their own challenges. The surface doesn’t always reflect what’s within.
Comparison can also cause unrealistic expectations. Ones happiness is not determined by when you have arrived to a certain place. It isn’t a case of “I’ll be happy when…” Contentment and satisfaction in life, is being able to accept and acknowledge where you are, right here, right now, even when things aren’t going well. It builds resilience. Some of the most successful people have failed many times, but through their persistence they have achieved their goals. Learning through ones failures is focusing on how you can grow as an individual. If your attention is constantly focused on others, it would be hard to spend the time working on yourself. How do you measure your self-worth? Our self worth can be reflected in how we treat others, how we treat ourselves and having strong values that guide the life you want to live.
Your confidence ultimately comes from within. How you see yourself can have a massive impact on how you view the world, and how you treat those around you. Also, what are the most important things to you? Why do they matter to you, and how do they add value to your life? The things that temporarily boost your self-esteem won’t add long-term value in your life. It’s interesting how often we can be incredibly encouraging, kind and friendly to others, but incredibly tough and critical towards ourselves. We can hold certain expectations and standards for ourselves that if we don’t achieve, it can feel like a failure. We have to accept ourselves at our best and our worst, because you are the one person who can completely rely on yourself. The constant need for external validation, approval, acceptance and praise from others means that you care too much about what others think of you.
If I see someone that I love going through a hard time, I want to be there to listen, comfort and embrace them. I want them to be okay. However, when I’ve gone through a bad period of time, there have been times where I get incredibly hard on myself. I tell myself I can do better. We really need to be kind and gentle towards ourselves. Perception creates our reality. How you perceive things is the lens which you’ll see things. Most comparisons are surface leveled, which can cause quick judgment, assumption and assessment on a specific situation, person or experience. There are many aspects of comparisons that can come from those two seconds of what we see, but it may often not be the reality. When we accept ourselves, we exude a natural confidence. Comparison can be good or bad depending on whether we allow it to benefit our own positive self growth. We can use comparison to motivate ourselves, but it’s important to not let it lose sight of our true self.
After watching The Farewell at the cinema last year, it was an emotional film. It also made me reflect the thoughts that came after watching Crazy Rich Asians, and how powerful films, books, photography and art can really tell these stories that make us reflect on our own personal experiences. There have been many interesting stories growing up in New Zealand, and knowing that often I will first be viewed as an Asian woman. I was reading from Old Asian, New Asian, the words: As the ethnic makeup of New Zealand continues to change, the nature of our race relations will continue to impact the very real everyday experiences of those who live here. We are in a position to build on the rich exchanges that have already taken place, but we need to keep talking.
Being born and raised in New Zealand, I grew up feeling never quite fully Kiwi, and yet when I visit Taiwan, I’m never quite fully Taiwanese. I also didn’t grow up in the city, and lived on a farm which meant that I was often one of the only Asians in most settings. New Zealand is very isolated from the rest of the world. However, I do find that the understanding of Asian culture and knowledge is limited in many ways despite the population of Asians being significant in New Zealand. I hope this will change. In understanding, truly understanding, we create empathy, we have an open mind and we can learn from one another.
There are aspects of values from Asian and Western culture that I can and cannot relate to. In being open, we have to have respect, compassion and be there to listen to stories. I think in sharing experiences, it can allow one another to have a sense of connection and understanding. I can appreciate conversations where you do not feel assumptions, judgments, prejudice, stereotypes and false beliefs, but rather a genuine interest in wanting to understand more about Asian culture. Some things I’d like to mention, is that it’s okay to reach out for help in terms of seeing a counselor, doctor or psychologist for your mental health. There is a stigma in mental health in general, but also in Asian culture it tends to be something that can be kept quiet.
From my personal experience, it helps to see someone who can have the cultural understanding. It’s also important to connect and have conversations with people from all walks of life, because this creates a sense of open mindedness and understanding. I find language is also really important in connecting with people. That’s why it’s so important to treasure and speak your mother tongue. The beauty of living in New Zealand, especially in cities such as Auckland and Wellington, is that there is a diverse mixture of cultures. Living between two cultures is a blessing, as I am grateful for growing up in a household filled with Asian food, language, customs and traditions while growing up being surrounded by nature, lakes, mountains and never ending skies.
When I’m standing in the underground train station in Taipei, I can’t help smile when the music comes on to announce the Train is coming. It’s been such an incredible year, and I feel blessed to have met so many beautiful kind people, having thoughtful conversations and making wonderful new friends. There’s been a lot of lessons that have really been more on my mind, such as: the art of truly not giving a f*ck what others think, the importance of focusing on what adds value in your life, surrounding yourself and investing in positive, motivated people, having critical thinking and questioning the information you consume, embracing being your freaking self, that you choose your attitude regardless of the situation, the importance of not settling in a relationship, allow yourself to feel and embrace discomfort, how emotions can distort reality, what you place focus on is how you will feel and what we feed our mind and the thoughts we think is essentially the world we create for ourselves.
I was reflecting back to the start of 2017, listening to the speech This is Water, by David Foster Wallace. I highly recommend having a read or listen to it. There is power in having the ability to choose, which can strengthen our perception of what we are capable of rather than narrowing our abilities. David Foster Wallace highlights that Liberal arts fundamentally teaches us how to think critically as we advance into the adult world. Critical awareness allows us to be less self-centred and reinforces our self-control. In our daily lives, we tend to put ourselves at the centre of the universe. We are the person that feels, observes and experiences the world around us. Wallace says “Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.”
Instead of placing ourselves at the centre of the universe, we can choose to see things from different perspectives. When we walk we often let our thoughts take control, rather than consciously taking control of our thoughts. It becomes natural to think about our own problems and prioritise them as the most important. This can cause a confinement that builds an invisible barrier around us if we do not learn to be aware of the world outside of ourselves. Becoming aware builds empathy even when we feel frustration in our own lives, as it creates an understanding that some people are going through hard times. Critical awareness and exercising control of how and what you think, is an incredibly powerful ability to pouring thoughts that have substance and meaning.
The mistake in how we often perceive things are that things are just the way they appear from our mind, as it would immediately dismiss the importance of seeing things from different angles. The most obvious things are often right in front of us, regardless of how they may appear. An example that Wallace uses is the story of two young fish, who swim along as an older fish swims past. The older fish says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” and eventually one of them looks at the other and says “What the hell is water?” There is a sense of ignorance and confusion that the fish are not aware of their surroundings, and have developed a limited and narrow view. We see things from the experiences we’ve had and the worldview we possess. Yet, in order to have an open mind, there’s a need to question, understand and see things from different perspectives.
In this case, the two fish were metaphorically in their own space, unaware of the water surrounding them. There is a choice in recognising these things, but we often live through our days blindly looking past them. It becomes a learned ability over time. The water also symbolises the space we move in, such as the air we walk, breathe and live in. We can see these realities when we learn to switch on the ability to see them, which makes us present and conscious beings. Wallace says “Banal Platitudes can have a life or death importance”. The seemingly obvious and boring aspects of our lives are suggested to have a life or death importance because they are the moments that remind us that we can choose how to react, how to feel and what to think. This gives us an inner power that we lack control of when we ignore it. However, we do not often become conscious of this ability, as we swim by like the young fish, without realising that it is there right in front of us. In this instance, it is not about the capacity to think, but about the choice of what to think about.
When we see something as banal, we feel that it is such an ordinary aspect of our days, that it does not deserve the attention as it lacks interest. I believe that ‘banal platitudes’ are important, even if something seems obvious or dull that it is right in front of our eyes, banal platitudes reminds that we can create value and meaning in those obvious statements. We have seconds, minutes, hours of moments that we can give value to by viewing them as meaningful and significant. The deliberate effort to be aware opens our eyes to see things from different perspectives. We have a choice in widening our horizon in what we see, by being conscious of the world around us and becoming curious individuals. Rather than blindly walking through life, we have the choice to address and observe situations, as well as the ability to choose how we perceive things. This can make those seemingly boring moments have significant meaning.
The critical awareness we have causes us to be less self absorbed in our own lives and needs. It almost makes us look through a lens where we see the world as a whole, rather than a lens that restricts our visions to the narrowed reality we imagine. This honestly makes me think of the use of phones. I really want to strive to use my phone less when I don’t need it, in order to embrace being more and more present and to cut out distractions, because as I look around I really think we are becoming slaves to our phones. When we choose to be aware of our surroundings and situations, we become more accepting, patient and tolerant. We place a focus on paying attention to what we deem important, rather than allowing our thoughts to sway towards unnecessary and often negative voices. Becoming aware of our ability to choose and giving time to focus our mind intentionally determines how we want to live our lives.
One of the best things I saw today was a guy whipping out his big bulky flip phone, and proceed to click away and text someone. I’m definitely someone that still feels it’s nice to not use the phone when I’m with friends or at a dinner table. Although, it has become a norm to have our phones present in many situations, occasions and at almost any time. Checking notifications, taking photos and messaging people. One of the ways I’ve found helpful in using my phone less during the day, is deleting apps on my phone, putting it on silence or leaving the phone at home for a few hours. Out of sight, out of mind. It makes you feel more present and feel more engaged in your day to day moments, without the interruption or distraction of a phone. I love going for bush walks and being in nature, and I find the best moments are the one’s where you’re truly present in the moment.
There is now more of an urgency and ability to receive information instantly, that we lose that sense of patience, waiting and receiving news a little later. The silent moments can be interrupted with digital devices. It’s a wonderful tool, yet everything requires balance and moderation. When I took away that aspect for most of the day, I realised that at the end of the day, I can check everything in one go. My messages, emails, notifications and so on. It took away this sense of needing to check my phone, even when I didn’t need it. It made me more observant, present and just embrace the art of doing nothing and just being. I realised how much my phone can sometimes give me slight anxiety and urgency, take away precious time and that the less I use it, the more I feel focused on tasks and the more I don’t allow it to fill up to much space in my day.
I do miss the days where phones weren’t such a huge part of our lives, that when we left home it would only often be the keys on us that we need to remember. There was a sense of interaction that is not as common now. I remember talking to strangers more and making friends through the same silence, and simply breaking it. However, now it’s easy for many people to avoid the silence by using their devices. Many of us attend to a notification straight away, a text is replied immediately and there is ongoing online noise. I think to simply minimise one’s use of their phone is to consciously decide to. You could remove apps that you don’t use often, or aren’t hugely important. You could leave the house one day without your phone, and note how you feel during the day. Presence is truly key.
When I am using my phone, I spend most of it reading news online, from politics to arts and culture. We consume and share information, but there is definitely an increasing saturation of information online. When you realise that you don’t need to capture this moment, message someone about something right this very moment and escape the silence, you enjoy the moment. I like to take those moments to just pause, go for a run, read a book, pat the cats or play the piano. Everything is more enjoyable in the long run when it’s in moderation. There is also less desire to share things, as I find the line between what is private and public is becoming increasingly blurred. I really value privacy and in person contact, and engaging in conversation in person. There are endless things to enjoy without the presence of our phones.
In the digital age, the question of privacy seems to be ever changing, as large corporations have an increasing amount of information on individuals. Reading Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier, was eye opening and makes you ask a lot of questions in regards to privacy, technology and social media. However, Social media is a tool and a platform, and it comes down to how we are using it, and what we are using it for. In a sense, surveillance is not simply the cameras on the street or in the shop, but in our daily spaces.
Direct, personalised and targeted marketing is increasing, as algorithms are able to track what we have viewed, searched, liked, shared and purchased. Someone dear to me mentioned the book 1984, which I am currently reading and find it really interesting. However, at the time it seemed unlikely that it may occur, that Big Brother would be watching a person’s every move, but it seems that it’s the reality today. On one hand, we can decide what we want to share, and on the other hand, whatever information is searched, posted and clicked online is always recorded. The sense of mystery in ones life is not as apparent.