• Cass Lau

I'm just gonna work on this ONE THING for 2021...

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

I’m writing this down at a bar aboard the Quantum of the Seas, enjoying a Coke Zero in the Deck 3 Casino while I wait for my roommate to gamble his money away on Odds and Evens. It’s a strange but quiet reprieve from socialising, and from following little girls everywhere and keeping them entertained.

The biggest question that i had even as i came on this trip was, “should i get the wifi package?” (A/N: you are pretty much incommunicado on board unless you pay S$30/day for unlimited wifi on board).

If you know me, I am usually nose down looking into my little black mirror. Whether it is replying messages, curating posts, reading up on new content... for the rare times you catch me with my head up, you can buy a lottery ticket.

This chronic looking-down-syndrome did not snag me "text-neck" diagnosis from a Chiro, but got me into a couple of tiffs with people I care about. You see, of late I have been anything but present, particularly in business discussions and difficult conversations. It got so bad, to the point that I had gotten into an argument about the value of the time I spent with people I care about because I would have moments of sudden silence because I would be messaging someone about something I had suddenly thought of mid-conversation.

“What’s the point of you being here if you’re not really here?”

I felt remorseful when I heard these words, but that did not stop me from repeated offences of the same.

I get easily distracted with many thoughts flitting through my head at any one time. And when I catch a thought, it has to be resolved otherwise I find it even harder to focus on the matter at hand. Usually, as I listen to the person I am with at any point of time talking, a random thought would occur to me, to settle an issue that had not been previously resolved. I would then pick up my phone to type at message I had forgotten to reply, pay off a vendor that I had not yet paid, search an item that I would need for merchandise... the list goes on.

In doing so, I realised that i was not able to focus fully on the conversation at hand, and would ask questions repeatedly to make the other person feel as though they weren’t being valued because I had missed out a detail by hearing and not really listening.

It’s not like I meant to do these things (*pinky promise*).

I had unconsciously picked up a habit from my mum, (which wasn’t a bad habit) when I watched her entertain clients to no end. In her work engagements, small talk was a common occurrence, more so than real talk. Being in a business school and going into the corporate world surrounded by people whose priority was “to cast a net as wide as possible”. NETWORKING was the buzzword, rather that forming deep relationships, and efficiency in handling tasks at hand, I became inclined towards conversations that would help me get through awkward moments and would help me to weave in and out of various social circles. I could be talking about one person’s kid one moment at a party, and turn my head around to chat with someone else about his or her travel plans when that person walked by.

🦋SOCIAL BUTTERFLY-ISM: was a skill I had honed for a long time and I was incredibly proud of it. I was known to be able to click with people in whatever group they were from, someone who could “bring groups together”. Then I started working for myself. In this line, sincerity was seen through intense and deliberate listening, a skill I cannot profess to have.

However, as I grow in this season of my life, I realise that I must demonstrate my intention to build relationships in greater measure than before. Things that I say or do or think, must have follow-through if there is commitment involved.

It wasn't like this was completely new to me. I knew I had this problem even whilst I was at work. And while I had made minor improvements at the end of 2019, with dedicated time to meditate, once my projects picked up and the pandemic hit, my plans were thrown into the wind.

Maybe to some extent I avoided confronting the potential truths I might uncover in the quiet of meditation. I was fearful, so running from one thing to the next kept me on my toes, and it kept my mind busy.

The case for presence

The case for being present is strong, but the steps to exercise that state is but a mean feat. I know that something needs to be done because my excuse to be distracted with "I'm so busy" was starting to affect the relationships I had with the people around me. Many of my projects were left half-baked, and to start on one required more push with inertia spread out over multiple projects.

1. Better at getting things done - Contrary to popular belief, humans cannot multitask. I cannot multitask. The moment I pick up my phone to reply an email or a message, the rest of the world is blocked out. When I'm completing a project, the 10 minute social media distraction derails my train of thought and I may miss out a detail in my posts. I reckon I'd make less mistakes if I just focused wholly on one thing at a time.

2. Building real relationships - Listening, is a rare gem in the world nowadays, and the world needs more listeners. The message that listeners send is "I really want to know what is going on in your life, because you matter to me." A listener is that person who cares when every one else passing through your life doesn't seem to. None of that "small talk" business. I've had great listeners in my life, and I'd love to be that person to them too.

3. Less stress - There is a hamster wheel that is often created when we flit from one "urgent and important" task to the next. We become trapped in a cycle, and there seems to be no way out. An oft heard phrase would be "let's take this one step at a time", when in reality, so many more things could have been anticipated and planned for.

What then, can I do to practise this habit?

The baby steps...

#1: Be intentional - A social media detox is in order (ironic though as I am typing this on my phone)!

Devices away (?) I put that "(?)" as my doubtful attempt at committing to this statement. Alright how about this... Only if I absolutely have to send a message, I would be polite and inform the person I am speaking to that I need to check my phone for a wee moment. Otherwise, phone goes face down. Oh and taking food pics of course.

#2: Do one thing at a time - Do my best to finish one thing at a time, cross it off, then move on to the next.

Most of the time, this haphazard approach to launching into multiple projects (and not finishing any one of them) comes with a random thought that pops up in my mind. In dealing with these thoughts I should WRITE THEM DOWN, and shelve them for later, then proceed to complete what I had set out to do.

So how do we stay present? The first thing to recognize is that, try as we might, we really can only do one thing at a time, so we ought to do that thing wholeheartedly. Most of our time is spent in the past or the future, rather than the present moment. What we end up doing is passing through that moment on the way to somewhere else and, in doing so, we miss the moment. That's how life ends up passing us by — we do it to ourselves.

(5 ways to be present)

#3: Breathe - Culling out time to meditate and reflect on the week. Getting all the scraps of what has been done or that needs to be done out of the way... literally CLEARING MY MIND before attempting to go into the day/week/month/season ahead. (7 benefits of meditation)

I'm not going to go from 1 to 100 in January... So do forgive me if I'm a tad slow on the pickup -- my timeline does not flow with yours. And please please for the love of all things good, do not heckle at me with a "I thought you wanted to... but you aren't living up to it..." refrain because it'll just get on my nerves. Do trust that I am doing my best! (of course if I haven't shown any improvement by April I give you the license to poke me to get back on track."

I could go on with this 4eva.

But let's get this over with.

Happy New Year, and may love for the people around you and yourself overflow in 2021.

Be Present 🙂

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