I choose Joy

Instead of despairing at a dead end,

I will choose to forge a new trail.

Instead of saying “Things will never change”,

I will choose to change them.

Instead of avoiding,

I will choose to confront.

Instead of running away,

I will choose to fight.

Instead of giving up,

I will choose to give more.

Instead of waiting for courage, a sign, someone else –

I will choose to do it afraid, uncertain, and alone.

Instead of blaming others,

I will choose to take responsibility.

Instead of letting it rain on my parade,

I will choose to dance in the rain.

I will own my choices,

my day,

my abilities,

my satisfaction,

my happiness.

And I will choose joy.

No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. -C.S. Lewis

I might fail, but…

In trying to write something sexy,

I might sound clichéd.

But I’ll do it anyway.

In trying to say something smart,

I might put my foot in my mouth.

But I’ll do it anyway.

In trying to help,

I might make things worse.

But I’ll do it anyway.

In trying to explain,

I might confuse.

But I’ll do it anyway.

In trying to care,

I might be overbearing.

But I’ll do it anyway.

In trying to love,

I might get hurt.

But I’ll do it anyway.

In trying,

I might come across as trying too hard.

But I’ll do it anyway.

I might fail.

But I might learn something.

I might make some people upset.

But I might impress others.

Critics, failures, and curveballs are inevitable.

You can’t control them.

What you do control is the choice to do something anyway.

Making goal-setting sexy

This post is a response to Danielle LaPorte’s brilliant ‘The Burning Question‘ series. 

I want waking up to feel like fresh brewed coffee and a morning dip.

I want holding hands to feel like springtime in Paris.

I want coffee dates to feel like Rachael Yamagata.

I want Liverpool to feel like achieving first class honours.

I want my friendships to feel like Jason Mraz, home-baked goodies, road trips, and late-night talks at sleepovers.

I want learning to feel like my first plane ride, and understanding to feel like watching the sun rise above a sea of clouds below me.

I want exploring to feel like Owl City.

I want my body to feel like Sarah Walker kicking butt.

I want making money to feel the way a farmer feels when he surveys the fruit of his labour at harvest time.

I want family to feel like homemade ikan bilis pan mee, tent blankets, and torchlight shadow animals.

I want challenges to feel like Original Bootcamp and climbing Mount Kinabalu.

I want sleep to feel like Port Blue and bobbing on waves.

I want smiling to feel like dipping my toes into the sea and Colbie Caillat.

I want kissing to feel like deep, dark chocolate.

I want helping others to feel like muddy paws and enthusiastic, drool-filled licks.

I want my dream job to feel like walking through IKEA, the smell of new books, the whir of a coffee grinder, and a whiteboard + chalkboard covered with mindmaps in coloured ink and chalk.

I want my writing to feel like an old library with a roaring fireplace and hot tea, lovers sharing a dilapidated apartment in a gritty neighbourhood, and watching a beach sunrise.

I want love to feel like coming home after a long journey.

Feelings are magnetic. So it goes that if you generate certain feelings — and you have the power to create any feeling you desire — then you increase the power of your emotional magnetism. But we need to limber up, loosen the images and adjectives encrusted on our goals and most-desired states. It helps to get poetic, lyrical, and abstract. -Danielle LaPorte

The ultimate social medium

I fell in love with education the day a college lecturer I respected told the class:

Anything or everything I say may be wrong. Your textbook may be wrong. Don’t listen to me without questioning. Don’t accept what your textbook says without questioning. Don’t take things at face value. Question everything.

Since then, my experience in the academic world has been an extremely fascinating, extremely engaging, captivating one. Even outside the classroom, I doubt I’ll ever stop using the skills of thinking, learning, and engaging that I was taught in the classroom.

Likewise, what captivates me about Christianity is its alive-ness – how it has changed and evolved throughout the centuries, how it has appealed to people of all ages, cultures, and walks of life. Christianity to me is something I can engage with – sink my teeth into, wrestle with, debate, explore, question, test. It is not a dead-end religion.

I cringe, shrink away, and literally run in the opposite direction when anyone claims to have all the answers to Christianity. When any denomination claims to have all the answers to this mysterious, unfathomable God. When people try to define what makes a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ Christian.

I rebel when people tell me how I should live my faith out. And when people tell me that they don’t really know what being a Christian means, I tell them it’s good that they don’t know – because not knowing means having to find the answers. Finding the answers means wrestling with them. And wrestling with them long enough leads to sure, steady, unshakable conviction.

I fell in love with Christianity the day I realised God made himself human to talk to us. To have a conversation with us. To engage with us. Not to deliver a one-way broadcast of rules and ‘to-do’s.

As Jon Swanson says in his blog, Jesus is the ultimate social medium:

The Word has conversations, asks and answers questions, listens to what people are saying and responds.

That isn’t the image we often have of God. There is the rule-giver of Exodus and Leviticus, the declarer of Isaiah and Jeremiah. Those are images of a one-way broadcasting kind of media, cranking out 50,000 watts. That kind of a God may get our attention, but certainly not our affection. And that kind of God offers no affection.

But what if God becomes interactive?

In Jesus, in the incarnation, God allows comments. Throughout the Gospels there are conversations, interactions between Jesus and disciples and Pharisees and everyone between.

I believe and am convinced precisely because I am given room to doubt. To question. To wonder. I don’t want to blindly swallow ideas and ‘truth’ whole without taking the time and space to reflect on it, consider it, engage with it.

And this is why I write. To explore, to question, and to come to a place of belief. A belief that comes from doubting, wrestling, and finally accepting truth.

I don’t want something stagnant;

I want something alive.

I don’t want something manageable;

I want something that will catch me by surprise.

I don’t want to be talked at;

I want to be talked to.

My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt. -Fyodor Dostoyevski.

One-hat living

One-hat living is about authenticity.

It’s about having the guts to be transparent and honest enough with yourself that you can be transparent and honest with other people.

It means the way people see you at work, home, or play is the same.

It means being painfully honest about what makes you you. What makes you tick, what makes you feel alive, what makes you forget that time is passing.

It means finding the courage to say “No” to the things that don’t. To stop faking it. To stop telling yourself you “have to” live up to expectations.

One-hat living is scary. But it’s immensely fulfilling.

It means you don’t have to freak out when your circles of people overlap for fear that people will find out about another side of you.

It means people can trust you and vouch for you because they know that what they see is what they get. They know what you stand for and believe in and what you will not compromise on.

It means what drives and inspires you at work, home, or play is the same.

It means your work, play, and personal life are related to each other, contribute to each other, and nurture each other.

It means your values and goals are clearly aligned and you can pour all your energy and passion into one single, epic purpose.

How amazing would living like that be?

Now, you might be thinking, “You don’t get it – that’s not possible for my situation!”

Trust me, I get it. I’ve worked part-time and full-time jobs that did not make me want to jump out of bed in the mornings. I’ve done it for the money, as a stepping stone to move on to something better, to put a nice line in my résumé, as part of a contractual bond in return for a scholarship. I’ve pretended to be someone else to the people in my life because I thought that was what they wanted. I’ve felt like I was stifling and suppressing who I was. I’ve told myself and others “That’s life” and wrongly believed “That’s just the way things are”.

One-hat living is rewarding, but it’s also highly difficult.

It’s hard to truly, authentically be yourself in everything you do when you’re limited by finances, opportunities, obligations, or contracts. Some things are just out of our control.

But by no means should we accept those situations as a permanent way of living. They are not.

If anything, they’re meant to get you to a place of such discomfort and unease with living outside your calling that you start seeking ways to get out of that place. You start digging deep and asking yourself what really matters to you. You begin putting ideas and plans into motion to get yourself into a place where you live more from your heart. You seek out the right people who can help get you there.

One-hat living is not some unreachable ideal. Neither is it something you either do or don’t.

You don’t get there overnight. It’s a process.

A journey that will allow you to appreciate things more when you finally find yourself in a place where you can excitedly jump out of bed in the morning and wear the same hat all through the day.

A journey you can start today.

Working against our values only weakens us, professionally and artistically. When we are absolutely clear on our personal values, we are able to make choices based on principles. Decision-making is simple (or at least simpler). Strong judgment brings deeper meaning to our labor and elevates the artistry of work, giving us access to our best abilities. –Matthew E. May

Stop counting

I know I started this blog with counting. Counting the things that matter.

But there are some things we should stop counting.

Stop counting the hours at work.

Stop counting the sacrifices you’ve made for your partner.

Stop counting the times you’ve tried and got nowhere.

If you care about something enough,

you don’t count.

you don’t calculate.

you don’t fixate.

you don’t obsess.

You believe.

You pour all your energy into shaping and growing and nurturing it, and are so engrossed in doing so that the minutes and hours and days and years slip by and you don’t even notice or realise.

You invest as much as it will take. No effort or expense is too much.

If there’s something about it that’s not working, you work around it. You find a way to fix it. You are willing to stick at it until it flourishes and grows. Because you believe it will grow.

Don’t waste your time doing things you don’t believe in.

Obsessing over stuff that doesn’t matter is a subtle but deadly addiction.

If you can’t stop keeping score, don’t do it.

You were meant for so much more.

Why I write

To learn

I used to think prayer was just about God and writing was just about audience. Over the years, I’ve realised that prayer and writing are alike: they are just as much for me, if not more.

Each time I stop to filter out the millions of thoughts speeding through my head and select, one by one, the words to articulate my ideas, I learn a bit more about the stranger in my head – what makes her tick, how she sees things, how she relates to the world around her.

In fact, I often tell my friends in the middle of a conversation or lively debate that I’m hearing what I’ve said for the first time just as much as they are. Ordinary conversations over coffee spark much of my most inspired writing .

By putting ideas, concepts, and emotions into words, I discover new things about myself and my world that enrich me, and help me grow.

“I write to discover what I know.” -Flannery O’Connor

To share

There is so much good stuff out there on the Internet. Seriously. Videos, blogs, podcasts, a never-ending kaleidoscope of inspiration in all forms.

Why become just another voice in the many out there?

The same reason I keep going back to my favourite authors and blogs. A feeling of solidarity, of identifying with what someone else is describing, and of community, which grows out of sharing life with others.

I can’t count the times something someone wrote kept me going, helped me through a tough time, inspired me to grow, and spurred me to action. And I write out of the same hope that by sharing my life and my words, I can encourage, inspire, challenge, or even just remind others they are not alone.

The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours. -The History Boys, Alan Bennett

Because I have to

I grew up constantly writing – scribbling words on scraps of paper or typing them out in my trusty old Nokia 1100 when I had none. The Poet in me experiences the world aesthetically, finds beauty and stories in dark alleys and telephone wires, and writes to capture those experiences, while the Editor is always rearranging words in my head even as I’m saying them.

Writing comes to me naturally and instinctively, and every time I sit down to write, I get up feeling renewed, energised, engaged.

I write because I cannot not write. Because as the fluid motions of limbs and arms are to dancers, as bold, vivid strokes of colour are to artists, so are the swing and swirl of syllables and sentences to me. They are my window to the world – both my inner and outer world.

I am sure that some are born to write as trees are born to bear leaves: for these, writing is a necessary mode of their own development. If the impulse to write survives the hope of success, then one is among these. If not, then the impulse was at best only pardonable vanity, and it will certainly disappear when the hope is withdrawn. – C.S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves

What about you? Why do you do what you do?