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The biggest challenge

n this post, I’m going to say a few controversial things that I’ve believed for a long time but haven’t had the courage to say outright. I think this blog (and me) has finally at a place in where I can confidently say how I feel. Not everyone will agree with what I’m about to say, but I guess you wouldn’t be reading my MS if we didn’t have something in common 🙂

I’m often asked what the hardest thing about minimalism is. In the beginning, I had no idea, various things were hard – getting rid of stuff I had gotten attached to, resisting buying things I wanted to, finding alternatives that were just as good … and so on.

But, after a few years I’ve gotten so used to such things and they’re no longer very hard to do. Over time, I’ve come to the conclusion that the biggest obstacle a minimalist has to overcome is to challenge the collective mindset that society has been based on since human history.

You’ve got to overcome always wanting more.

The constant hunger for more than we need is so deeply ingrained in our minds that we have come to think of it as human nature to be greedy and that there’s nothing we can do about it. There was a time when being greedy was good. It meant that you ate more than you needed to so that you can survive the winter. It meant you took more than you needed to so you wouldn’t waste energy walking all the way back. That time was the Stone Age.

But even today, how can one possibly imagine not wanting to live in a huge house? Who wouldn’t take a Ferrari if they got it free? Why would anyone pass on brand-name clothing if they had the money for it?

For us, the house-with-a-white-picket-fence (plus everything in and around it) is a symbol of achievement. It tells the world that we have ‘succeeded’ in the game of life. That we ‘won’.

It may be true for very few people, for the most part, nobody ‘wins’ when they get everything they want. Because there’s really no such thing. Even if you get the ideal house and car, there’ll be something else that you’ll want, like a more understanding spouse, better friends, fame or more leisure time. And when you get those, there will be something else that you’ll wish for like a special talent, clever children or a ‘beautiful’ body. Think about all of the people that look like they have an ‘ideal life’. It seems they have everything, but in your heart you know they don’t.

There are an infinite things you could want, but you could probably count the things you actually need to make you happy with just your hands.

The biggest challenge about minimalism is realizing that almost everything you’ve been told as a child isn’t necessarily true – you don’t have to succeed in school, you don’t have to be popular, you don’t have to find a job that pays well. I’m not saying one should live on the street or never aim high, but if only people could be just be content with what they have, instead of chasing lies like a donkey with a carrot on a stick, they may actually find satisfaction and lifetime happiness.

One you’ve realized this, the next biggest thing is making it your philosophy and living by it. We’ve come a long way from the greedy and uncontrollable animals we were in the Stone Age. We’ve upgraded to humans now, who can overcome this way of thinking and choose our own way.

So that’s the biggest challenge. I’m challenging it, are you?

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5 Lessons learned from a year of vegetarianism

For the last year, I’ve been on a vegetarian diet. I didn’t eat any meat (except for fish very occasionally) and based my diet on vegetables, rice and many other kinds of plant based foods. I made the switch by gradually reducing my meat intake during summer last year so that by the time I moved to uni, I didn’t have any problems cutting it out. Since I cooked for myself, it was very easy to buy ingredients and make whatever I wanted to eat (or not to eat).

However, unfortunately, once I fly for my year abroad, I will have to give it up. The reason why I can’t continue to be a vegetarian (as much as I would love to) is because it would impose a lot of difficulty on my host family. I think it would be too hard for my them to prepare a separate meal for me every single day in a country that pretty much bases its food pyramid on rice, fish and beef. I will try my best to eat as little meat as I can, but I also don’t want to ‘miss out’ on some cultural experiences.

Just a quick note, I’m not trying to convert anyone and I’m not saying eating meat is evil or any of that stuff. I’m simply just reflecting on the few things that I learned during my year of being a veggie.

lessons from the humble veg

1. Everyone has their reasons. I didn’t really tell anyone I was a vegetarian unless it was necessary, such as when they were making me dinner, or we if were going out for one. This was because if there’s one thing I can guarantee it’s that as soon as I tell somebody, the first thing they’ll say is “why!?“, after which I have to give my much rehearsed spiel of “it’s a combination of mostly health for me, but I also care a lot about the animals and the environment…” and so on. I’ve said it so many times that I wish people would just say something like “okay, cool” as if I had said “I don’t like the color pink” and be done with it.

I’ve learned that although I should be grateful that people are interested, many people simply just like to question your reasons instead of accepting what is.

2. Not everybody will understand. I used to like to eat meat, but I didn’t love it so much that I would defend it to my death. In the beginning, I didn’t know what to expect when people found out, but now I know that there are some who find it very hard to just be respectful about it. Some people were fine, they would ask me if it was okay for them to eat meat in front of me (to which I replied ‘I don’t care about other people, just that I didn’t eat it’). But some acted like I was trying to convert them or something and would immediately go on the defensive about it. “But those animals wouldn’t even be alive if it wasn’t for us!“. “It’s not our fault we’re on the top of the food chain!“. “But don’t you need meat for protein!?“. At first I would argue that all of these reasons were pretty much invalid but in the end I just gave up having debates everyday before my dinner and just let it go.

I’ve learned that some people, rather than be understanding, respectful or even tolerable about it, would rather argue their own point to justify their meat eating.

3. It’s not just leaves. Now onto the good stuff. Since becoming vegetarian, I’ve learned to cook about four or five times as many different dishes than if I had stuck with meat. I learned to use different types of rice, all kinds of beans, nuts and lentils, mushrooms, vegetables I’d never tried before and lot’s of seasonal fruit. I would have probably missed out on easy and quick ways to put together salads, soups, pastas and entire courses if I’d just stuffed myself with a burger and chips. As a bit of a foodie, all of these lessons were absolutely enlightening. (Also, yes, I did lose a lot of weight ;))

I’ve learned a lot about my body, what constitutes a healthy diet and about preparing food in general.

4. Willpower can be amazingly strong. Personally, I have always found it difficult to resist really fattening things like chocolate, cakes and desserts. So I don’t buy them. But when they’re in the fridge for the rest of my family whilst I’m at home, it takes an absolutely enormous amount of willpower for me to resist it. When I first started to give up meat, it was a little difficult and I would almost forget sometimes. However, I’ve noticed that over time, it became easier and easier for me to resist until I got to a point where I just didn’t feel like I wanted to eat any at all. It’s very rare now that I want to eat meat, and I never have cravings for it.

I’ve learned that the way to treat cravings is to not feed them and eventually they will die. Now if only I could apply this to chocolate.

5. Fresh and simple food is the stuff of life. Finally, I’ve learned that food isn’t something we should feel bad or guilty about. It’s fuel for the body, and fuel for the soul. It should make us feel happy and healthy. It should give us energy, not drag us down. Preparing food should be a joy, not some stressful routine we have to endure. We should eat foods as close as we can to how they’re given to us by Mother Nature, not canned, baked, boiled and fried until it’s barely recognizable.

I’ve learned to be more grateful for my food and what it really means to be closer with nature.

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5 lessons learned from 10 years of living by the beach

For me, the start of a new academic year has always been more significant than the start of a new calendar year. It will probably change in the future but having been a schoolkid/student all my life, September brings a much bigger change for me than January does.

As the end of summer approaches, I always begin to look forward to the next big step in my life. Last year, the ‘big step’ was moving away from home. This year, it will be moving away from my home country. I know I won’t be returning for a full year, so lately I’ve been reflecting on how much I’ve learned from growing up by the beach.

I mention the beach in a lot of my posts, and I like to use beach pictures for the illustrations because it has played such a massive role in my growing up. Just like any environment would affect anybody’s upbringing, here are some things I’ve learned from spending every spring and summer by the sea.

lessons from the sea

1. Perspective changes. When I first moved here, I was just a kid. The beach was so magical back then, all I wanted to do was make sandcastles and splash about in the water. As I grew into a teen, it became ‘uncool’ to do such things, instead, it was more acceptable to sunbathe because our looks were all we cared about during those years. It was in those times when I felt most self-conscious wearing a bikini, and even though I was not totally comfortable, it was worse not to wear one when everyone else was. Eventually, we grew up, built some self confidence and sunbathing/bikini days became barbecues, bonfires and drinks on the beach with friends.

I’ve learned that as we grow up, our outlook on even the same things change over time. Everything is in constant flux, nothing stays the same forever, especially ourselves.

2. Nature is beauty. From the first time I saw it until now, and every time in between, I’ve never grown tired of looking at the great blue sea melt into the horizon in the distance. I’ve never grown tired of watching the sunset or sunrise change the colour of the sky, painting it all shades of pinks, purples and oranges. I’ve never not felt soothed by the feeling of sand between my toes or the sound of the waves washing into the shore. Part of the reason why I love mediationso much is because I have such a great place to do it.

I’ve learned that Mother Nature is so, so beautiful.

3. Pollution is a crime. On that note, there’s nothing worse than spoiling all that because of pollution. In my eyes, pollution is laziness. Normally, I am a very liberal person and I wouldn’t think twice about letting people do what they want (as long as they’re not hurting anyone) but I’ve realized I am quite intolerant of this kind of behaviour. If you can’t be bothered to throw away your rubbish in bins just a few meters away, then don’t ‘bother’ coming to the beach at all. Also, although there aren’t any visible factories in the area, on some days, the sea looks more green/grey than on other days because of junk being thrown into it downstream. And although I still think it looks beautiful, it is never the clear blue kind of sea you see in brochures.

I’ve learned that if people weren’t so selfish, we would all be living in a much better world that would benefit everyone.

4. Fresh air is vital for health and growth. Another thing the beach has helped me do is get fitby running and cycling. When there is such a great and natural place to run everyday, I wonder why anyone would go to the gym (yes, people around here do!) to breathe in that recycled air-con air. I know not everybody lives by the beach, but I think that getting outside is very important when growing up. I was actually born in the city, but I still learned to ride a bike outdoors in the street. We spend too much of our days trapped in our houses/cars/offices/schools/work places that I think it would be good for everyone should try to go outdoors as much as they can. Also, I find the sea air quite healing, and perhaps that’s part of the reason why I almost never get sick (touch wood).

I’ve learned that fresh air is a gift that we should always be grateful for.

5. The world carries on. Everyday, the sun never fails to rise and set. The tide never fails to come in and go out.  The birds never fail to call every morning. There are some things that will never change (for a few million years at least) which shouldn’t be surprising except that I didn’t realize how much life will go on without me. Of course nothing would stop just for me, but I remember coming back to the the beach for the first time in a long while and thinking “It’s all still the same”. Although it was a little upsetting at first, I came to think of it as a reassuring thing that I can rely on at least some parts of my life to stay just like it was when I was a kid.

I learned that the familiar sound, smell and feel of the beach means it will always be my home.

Have you learned any lessons from where you grew up? I would love to know if I’ve missed out on anything. Please let me know in the comments!

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So what if I’m only human?

  • When people realize they’ve made a mistake, they say ‘I’m only human’.
  • When people feel like they can’t achieve any more, they say “I’m only human”.
  • When people feel like they’ve lost control of themselves, they say “I’m only human”.

But what do those words actually mean? That ‘being human’ is some kind of weakness? That it is a disadvantage?

What if there wasn’t anything “only” about being human?

Realizing that you’ve made a mistake means that you have the ability of self-awareness. Not a lot of creatures are capable of such a simple act that we take for granted. Animals can be disciplined or tamed, but they can’t learn from their mistakes like we can, and plants don’t know or care if they’re growing in somebody’s way. They just do whatever their instincts tell them. Self awareness is an invaluable tool so that we can learn from our mistakes and know how to do it right next time.

As humans we have the ability to push ourselves beyond what we are capable of right now. We have the power of imagination, and the power of dreams to fuel us. Who knew a hundred years ago that you would be able to grab almost any piece of information in the world by just waving your fingers? Where you put limitations today, might not be there tomorrow.

Bruce Lee  is one of my greatest heroes. Not only did he push his body to almost superhuman levels, he changed many lives with his philosophical teachings. He said,

If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality and into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

We shouldn’t underestimate ourselves. I just finished reading The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins and if there’s one thing I learnt is that humans are unique in that we can override our genetic programming that tells us to constantly eat, sleep and breed. We don’t have to be lazy, greedy or aggressive. Instead, we spend our time and energy doing greater things like educating ourselves, getting really fit and helping others.

And why should we help others? Because we’re lucky enough to have a conscience – an inner sense of what is right and wrong. We are capable of following a morality system that reduces suffering and increases happiness. We have the ability to control our desires and emotions so that some people don’t have to eat like dogs whilst others live like kings.

So on that note, yes being human is fantastic, but it doesn’t give us the right to lord it over other people or creatures. This wasn’t an arrogant horn tooting about how great we are. Humans have done incredibly stupid and harmful things throughout history. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. But for every warlord there was a saint. For every act of cruelty, there is an act of kindness. Yes, we do make mistakes, but we can achieve great things too, because we’re human after all.

making a not so small difference

Back when I was vegetarian (I’m currently on a teeny break whilst in Japan), one of the biggest criticisms I got was that by myself, I probably won’t make much of a difference to the animals or the environment, so what was the point? Why was I putting myself though all of those ‘inconveniences’ when I hardly made any changes to the very reasons why I was doing it?

But carried on being vegetarian anyway. And it wasn’t always easy, but I didn’t mind.

Why? Because I didn’t care that I didn’t make a big difference on my own. What mattered for me was that I wasn’t the one contributing to the things that I stood against. I may not have revolutionized chicken farming, or saved the world from global warming, but at least I wasn’t the cause of the death of a dozen chickens or however many gallons of pollution or waste that would have happened because of me.

The same goes for the reason why I choose to ride a bike instead of driving a car even though I can afford to. Or why I recycle even though it would be easier for me just to chuck everything in one bin.

Or why I’m a minimalist, not an over-consumer, even though it seems that the rest of the world is. People might ask how much of a difference do I think I’m making, living out my life this way. Do I really think just by doing this I can change the world?

Yes I do. In my own little way, I’m doing my part. Even if it doesn’t seem to be making a massive difference, that doesn’t matter to me. Just knowing that I am a part of it, is more than enough.

And let’s not forget to mention how much minimalism has changed my own world. It may not have made too much of a difference in the big wide world (yet), but in my own personal life, it’s taken me places I could have only dreamed of.

Real change doesn’t always mean a big flashy impact that will change the face of the world and humanity as we know it. Some of the strongest movements in history were done quietly, almost without anybody noticing.

First, I buy/drive/hoard a little less, then my friends notice I seem a little happier, so they give it a go. Then their friends do and then their friends and family do. Soon, entire pockets of people are leading a more minimalist lifestyle, in their own little way, without even realizing where it all started (I don’t even really know where it came from for me!). And before we know it, the tipping point comes and the world has changed for the better, even if just a little.

It’s good to know you don’t have to save the entire world to be a hero.

make your own rules

In a previous post, the biggest challenge I realized that I cannot please everybody with this blog. I’m trying to make a change and with change comes resistance. It’s not easy to suggest something different to what people are doing already.

People reading this may not agree with everything I say, so they tell me I’m doing something wrong or that I don’t know what I’m talking about. But these people don’t realize that minimalism is a difficult subject to explain because it is so easily misunderstood.

Obviously some ways are better than others, but there is no right and wrong way to ‘do’ minimalism. Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a religious book to follow on minimalism. To a certain extent, you actually can make up the rules.

make minimalism fit you

A lot of people buy dresses and suits off the rack. They see a design, style and size they like the look of and then they lose/gain weight to fit into it. They work hard to force their bodies to fit into a pre-cut piece of clothing that was made with only a generic size description in mind.

But then there are those that stick to how they are and they tailor the dress or suit to fit them. They don’t need to force themselves into clothes that were cut for other people in mind.

There is no cookie cutter rule for minimalists. If you don’t plan to travel much, then maybe having fewer than 100 things would be inconvenient for you. If you go to work or school several miles away, then perhaps you can’t ride a bicycle. If you have kids, then you can’t help but have some clutter with toys and school work.

You may not be able to do everything, but you should be able to do something. Even baby steps count. If having six pairs of shoes is minimalist for you (as opposed to the twelve that you would have had) then that’s minimalism for you. If you can only reduce your car use by one time a week, well that’s better than no change at all!

As I said, I’m not trying to make everyone happy. There’s a line. Of course you can’t just put one thing in the bin then go out shopping and call yourself a minimalist. But for the most part, it is true that what minimalism means is up to you.

Just to show how the rules can vary, people have ways of counting their things if they take up the 100 things challenge. I bunched all of my socks into one because I only have about five pairs anyway, whereas some people count them separately. Most people don’t count their kitchen stuff (some don’t have kitchen stuff!) and some don’t count things they need for work. Whichever way you look at it, it’s better than doing nothing about it at all and even small changes like forgoing a shopping trip takes you one step forward.

To get started, just do one small thing today. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Look in your handbag/pockets. Are you carrying any thing you don’t need? Why carry extra weight?

2. Boycott twitter, facebook or any other internet black hole for a week, how do you feel? Did you get anything useful done instead?

3. Grab a bag and fill it with clothes you don’t wear any more. Take it to the charity shop. You know which ones they are.

4. Sort through a pile of paper that’s been building up for the past few weeks. Recycle or scan – try to get it down to less than half.

5. Tip a drawer upside down and put back in only the stuff in it you’ve actually used within the past two months. Do you need the stuff that’s left on the floor?

6. Have you been saving up books to read? How long have you had them? If it’s been over a year, give them away to someone.

7. Instead of driving somewhere you can get to within 20 minutes of walking or cycling… walk or cycle it.

8. Quit a commitment to something you haven’t had your heart into for a while now. Clear your schedule for something you really care about.

9. If you collect old magazines, consider if you really need them. If you haven’t read them in a while, why are they taking up space in your house?

10. Instead of eating/going out, why not get together with some friends and make dinner? It’ll be more fun than you think.

My minimalist bedroom

Hello everyone from Japan! This is the first post of many I’ll be writing from the Country of Awesome. I just wanted to let everyone know that I arrived safely and I’m having an amazing time. I was a little afraid before that the extent of Japanese hospitality was a big fat lie, but so far it proves to be absolutely true. I’ve never felt more welcome and happy, something I desperately needed being so far away from home.

Also, I wanted to thank everyone for their well wishes from the last week’s minimalist suitcase packing post, I read them at the airports in Rome and in Kansai, which was really encouraging. I also want to thank those who donated, I will be forever grateful for your kindness and support.

So, without further ado, I would love to introduce to you my new bedroom…my new minimalistbedroom that is!

I had no idea what my room would be like before I came here but as soon as I arrived at the house and saw it I was ecstatic! It has wooden floors, wooden furniture and white walls. Compared to my old room, this one is much bigger, and yet I have less stuff to fill it with – perfect!

My room also comes with a beautiful black Yamaha piano – which had me smiling all day. I love to play, but at college I obviously couldn’t bring my piano, even though it was more like a posh keyboard anyway. For the first time, I have a really good chance to get back to something I started years ago and has stayed in my heart ever since.

Next up is my new desk, I absolutely love the simplicity of it. It’s sturdy and wooden, with two drawers. That’s it, no extra frills. It does it’s job as my new workstation perfectly. I also love that the chair is just a stool. I’ve been meaning to get a chair without a back because constantly leaning on one weakens the spine. One of the reasons why people find meditation so difficult is that they can’t sit upright for more than a few minutes before gradually slumping down – they’re too used to being supported by a chair. Also, because of the stool, I’m less likely to waste precious hours in Japan surfing the web.

There are two wardrobes in my room. However, the one on the left that you can see here is already being used for storage. Also, the top two shelves of the right wardobe is taken up by my host family’s holiday suitcases. And, one more thing, the bottom of the right one is being used for storing the futon (see below). If you do the mapping, you’ll work out that all I have is the middle of the right wardobe. But don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds!

These wardrobes are pretty deep and I could more than comfortably fit in all of my clothes with plenty of room to spare. The limited space fits me just fine, since it would discourage me to buy too many clothes which I can’t take back home with me anyway. As with most things, even though it’s small, there’s still much more space than in my old room!

And finally, there’s the futon. Oh. My. Goodness. I love it! I had heard that more and more Japanese homes are ditching the futon for framed beds so I couldn’t tell you happy I was to walk into a room without one! They’re so amazing I have no idea why I didn’t have one before.

For those that don’t know, a Japanese futon consists of a thick fold-able mattress, a sheet to cover it with, a duvet and a pillow. Every night, you would unfold the mattress, lay the sheet and pillow over it, flip open the duvet and sleep! In the morning, you would fold it away into a cupboard and you would regain the entire space of a bed in your room. If it sounds laborious, I’ve timed myself doing it and it takes less than a minute to do. Because of the futon, I finally have enough space to do yoga right here in my bedroom. I can also roll out the rug my host family gave me onto the floor and read, surf, play with the my the kids and study right here.

I can’t believe my luck, I’m still so excited (hence the overuse of ‘!’s, sorry about that) even though I think I’ve already phased out of the honeymoon period. Everything has worked out so perfectly with my room and my family, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Now, I’m looking forward to checking things off my list of 101 things to do in Japan. Here’s hoping I have a great year and it’s all uphill from here!

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5 lessons learned from repeated failure

Back in school I was never a failure. In fact, I worked so hard, I don’t ever remember failing a single pop quiz, test or examination. For almost the first two decades of my life, I had never tasted failure.

You know the saying “the bigger they are the harder they fall“? It is so true.

my driving story

My winning streak collapsed around me when I started driving. I sailed through the theory test and began driving almost two years ago. At first it went really well, I learned quickly and although I had little intention to actually drive a car in the near future, I quite enjoyed it. But the summer was ending and university was approaching. My instructor and I decided that I should try to pass the practical driving test before I left for university.

As the day of my first test drew nearer, I started to get more and more nervous. On the day, I was a bag of nerves, and I inevitably failed. Not miserably, but still a fail. I was so disappointed when the examiner told me I hadn’t passed. It took me a few minutes to even process his words because nobody had ever said them to me before.

But I booked another test as soon as I could. Knowing that most people pass the second time, I felt a little more confident. But a for a few nights before my test, I found myself unable to sleep too well. During the test, my mind was flying everywhere, trying to remember all of the things I’d been taught. I was distracted by the littlest things and could barely focus on the road when I was trying to look out for a thousand other things – traffic, signs, pedestrians, speed, space, gear… In the end, I failed again.

Because of uni, I waited a whole year before I did it again. I changed to a more experienced instructor and thought this time everything would be different. I was driving a nicer car and had spent a lot more money on more hours of tuition. I booked my test. My mum was so encouraging, I felt confident I would pass this time. During the drive, I made one mistake, and the whole thing fell apart. The worst thing was having to tell my mum I hadn’t managed to pass…again.

For a few weeks, I gave up. I didn’t want to drive anyway. I was questioning myself over and over again. “Why can’t I just do it?“. What was worse, my younger sister passed first time. Yeah, ouch. My self confidence was in pieces.

forgiving myself

But in the end, I had enough self-awareness to realize that people make mistakes. I picked myself up and became more determined than ever. If I fell again, I knew that I would probably give it up for life, but at least if I passed, it would be out of the way for the next 60 years. It was all or nothing.

I worked hard in my lessons, ironing out every mistake. I was a bit harsh on myself, but I needed it. I wrote down all of the things I’d failed on in the previous tests and made sure I would never repeat them. I soaked up every single word my instructor gave me. I made sure I got plenty of sleep the night before. And when the morning came a few weeks ago, I made myself a shot of coffee, gave myself a pep talk and walked out the door hoping I’d come back with a pass.

And I did.

I felt so relieved that I gave my instructor a massive hug and I was squealing on the way home. I texted my friends and spent the day smiling. Not because I wanted to drive (believe me, I’m not touching a steering wheel for the next 5 years!) but because I had gotten over a giant hurdle that had been a burden on my back for two years. I had gotten over my fear or failure and was rewarded for it.

5 lessons learned from repeated failure

1. It’s all you. You can spend days revising for an exam with your course-mates, but when it comes down to the day, you’re on your own. I hadn’t told my parents that I was taking the last test because I didn’t want to be distracted by their false encouragement (the kind that parents always give their kids – “just try your best honey!“) or even worse, I didn’t want to be motivated by not wanting to let them down. On the day, it’s all down to you – how much you’ve prepared and how you will react to the things that come your way.

I learned that most of the time shifting the blame onto others is avoiding who the real issue is with.

2. Forgiveness is magical. Letting yourself be human is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. A lot of the time, as people, we are too harsh on ourselves and expect robotic performance. ‘If we can’t accomplish something important, we’ve failed at life’ – it’s not like that at all. Accepting that we are good at some things and bad at others takes us a big step closer to changing it.

I’ve learned that hating myself accomplishes nothing. I should forgive, forget and move forwards.

3. Focus is key. If your mind is distracted by the one hundred and one things, you are not focussing on the task at hand. Yes, there are times you have to think about more than one thing at once, but they should all be related to what you’re doing right now. In the previous tests, I would be thinking about what I would do that day after I passed, where I would go etc. I wasn’t concentrating as well as I could have, which was definitely a factor in my failures.

I learned that focus and confidence at the right time and place can distinguish a pass or a fail.

4. Mistakes are lessons in disguise. When we make a mistake, we can either beat ourselves up about it, or take it as an opportunity to learn from them. In my tests, I never committed the same mistake twice. I made absolutely sure that I would never do any of them again. In the end, those who make more mistakes learn more lessons than those who were just lucky.

I learned that the biggest mistake is to not learn from your mistakes.

5. Persistence makes a difference. Finally, I’ve learned to never give up. If you keep trying and trying, one day it will happen. Don’t miss out out on stuff because it didn’t work out the way you wanted the first time you tried it. Sure, there will be ups and downs, but you should just just enjoy the ride. It’s much better to be on the roller-coaster, than just watching it.

I learned that the only real failure is simply giving up.

Related Posts

One amazing thing

The average human life span is around 80 years. In that time, we can achieve many things – from getting a nice house, a collectable car, or reaching a million dollars, to raising good children, having our own business, or doing some good in the community. Most of this stuff is pretty regular, some good, some not so good – all pretty ordinary.

But for some of us ‘ordinary’ is simply not enough. There’s something missing.

what the hell is a magnum opus

All of the men and women that have gone down in history, to be remembered after they have died for hundreds of years or more, all have one thing in common.

They did something extraordinary.

Some did extraordinary things, some created them. How they did it or how they got there is another story, but nobody can say that Martin Luther King Jr. doesn’t deserve to be remembered for his commendable leadership and world-changing speech or Shakespeare would have been remembered today if it wasn’t for his plays and sonnets that have stood the test of time.

A Magnum opus is defined as ‘a great or the greatest work of art‘ a writer or artist can do. But you don’t have to be a writer to achieve something extraordinary. Any of us can do something, all we have to do is realize how much it matters to us that we do something world-changing.

What it could be depends on you. It doesn’t have to be a big change and it doesn’t have to be the best, or the brightest, or the most of anything. You don’t need to make a million bucks or become famous. It just has to mean a lot to you. But don’t underestimate yourself and set your sights too low either, it’s going to be your life’s work after all.

It can be a single object you can make or an aim you want to achieve, or a set of them, it’s up to you.

So in our little lives, if only we could choose just one great thing, to pour our effort, energy and most importantly, limited time into, maybe, just maybe, we can really do it.

Only you can decide what matters to you and how far you will go. Even if you don’t know right now, that’s okay, because if this all sounds pretty amazing to you then you’ve taken the first step. Now ask yourself:

What is your magnum opus?

Whatever you decide, stick with it, because your greatest work is waiting for you.

kids, me and minimalism in the future

Minimalism and kids sound like polar opposites. A lot of people believe that having kids makes living a minimalist lifestyle impossible.

But does that necessarily mean that if you don’t have kids, then minimalism is easy for you? I don’t think so.

kids

At the moment, I only know what living a student/traveller lifestyle feels like. If you are either of those, then I would guess that many of my posts apply to you. Of course everyone is welcome, but if you do have kids, perhaps my version of minimalism doesn’t fit you. Of course it won’t, it’s different for everyone of all ages and circumstances.

I absolutely love kids. I teach them, I live with them, I take care of them. But as for myself, I want to travel, move around and see things before I settle down. Things are different if you have a house, a job and family commitments – your aims probably aren’t the same as mine.

But that doesn’t mean it is impossible. For the ‘other side’ of my kind of minimalism, I recommend Zen habits writer Leo who has six kids and minimalist father Joshua Becker who has written some perfect posts about this subject:

If you have a family,  I recommend you read their blogs too. They have shown me that it is perfectly possible to minimalize in some way, and that it’s not as simple as black and white – as in young people can do it but parents can’t – anyone can be a minimalist. It’s a tough truth to learn because too many people think that having kids gives them the excuse to give up or not even try.

me

It’s true that I don’t have to worry about my own kids, but that doesn’t make me a naive teenager. In fact, I have a brother who is eleven years younger than me, so I spent the better part of the last decade changing diapers, making school runs and dealing with toys, messiness and all the things they bring home from school (including the colds) in between my homework assignments, exams, clubs and social commitments. On top of that, even though I’ve been very lucky to be where I am now, it hasn’t always been easy and I’ve had to learn some harsh lessons on the way.

Just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean it was an easy ride for me either. There are things I have to worry about too. In any case, if a minimalism makes sense to you, then things like my age and where I’m from shouldn’t matter. I actually live the life that I talk about, and I have seen proof with my own eyes that my life has improved for the better. Good things have happened to me one after another because I have adopted a minimalist lifestyle – there’s no way I’m turning back now.

minimalism in the future

Will I still be a minimalist in 10 years time? Obviously I can’t predict the future, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to discard this lifestyle like a fad for a life of excessiveness, hoarding and debt. The reason I am minimalist is because it really makes my life better, and by consuming less, I have more time and money to help others in need too. These are my principles, like it is for people to be honest and compassionate – I don’t see myself ditching my morals any time soon.

Of course my version of minimalism right now will be different from what it will be in the future. It will change as I change. But that’s okay, because you’re supposed to be making minimalism fit you and not the other way around.

I have a good feeling minimalism will be with me for a long long time.