I’ve been on a bit of a journey this last year after reading a number of books, consuming myself in the world of self-help. I’ve tried out different ways of being efficient, productive and organised: work flows, daily routines, and de-cluttering (lessons from The Power of Less by Leo Babauta). I’ve taken on to new philosophies, with sayings that have helped me start a late music career: “Create your own luck” “It’s never too late” and “Find your tribe” (lessons from The Element by Ken Robinson). Although I must admit, I haven’t yet managed to follow the simple ‘1-minute rule’ (from The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin); if it takes less than a minute do it now… not as easy as it sounds!
It all escalated when my old university friend was coming stay with me for a week, after migrating to New Zealand. So having a staycation, I decided to fill up on books at my local library for the few days while she stayed with family before seeing me. I managed to find some pretty pointless books, one of which led me to doing 40-question-long quizzes with my family only to find that yes my dad loves money, my mum loves family, my husband doesn’t like quizzes and I love just about everything. So I almost never read “9 ways to feel fantastic” by John Whiteman, but thank heavens I had a few more hrs holiday to fill…it was (actually) fantastic!
I cheated though, as you’re meant to read a chapter a day, but being my usual impatient self I just read it right through. The writer talks about doing things to feel fantastic, each day (ideally): having balance from things like exercise, enough sleep, ‘personal space’, nutrition, and having momentum to move you forward such as achieving and learning.
The man got me crying with happiness. I was sat on the floor outside, having my ‘personal space’, aware of everything around me (and doing my best not to think about anything, past or present). I focussed only on my senses. It was really hard! You have to focus on feeling the sun’s heat, the breeze, watch the clouds, hear the birds…honestly 5 minutes of this is enough to make you smile all day long! I’ve been trying to get in nature more every day since.
It reminded me that I had once read about some research published ( in the Environmental Science & Technology journal) that said walking in nature for just 5 minutes improves your mood for the day, near water being the most mood boosting. Cue my latest obsession with lakes and rivers. Even a puddle would probably get me excited, as long as it was near a tree (also a bit in love with trees at the moment: they just sway there all happy and green, making noises in the wind, growing all the time).
But there was one lesson from John Whiteman that had me stumped for weeks – the dream list. You were supposed to write down about 10 dreams, and every day do one little thing towards achieving one of them.
My first attempt went something like this:
Travel, save, start pension, debt free, learn piano (properly), learn languages, put in French doors, have a built in wardrobe in the bedroom.
A week later (and a week later again), I realised I was not being honest, the second and third attempts went something like this:
Learn Chinese, learn to skate (outdoors), learn Parkour (running around doing gymnastic type things on buildings), do kung fu, travel more… and then some various task towards my singer/songwriter career (make another album, do more shows etc).
I finally sat down the other night, knowing that niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite right and wrote what had always been my dreams; before I had a house, or a family, or a career, or targets and tasks jotted down on a to do list and it went like this:
Be a Singer/songwriter (currently working towards, tick)
Be a Writer (am writing now, tick)
Be a Mermaid (I think a weekly visit to the pool, learning to dive, and maybe getting in the sea might be as close as I get to that)
Be able to fly (numerous attempts as a child jumping off walls, might take some more thought…)
Be a Martial Arts master (I have my dad to thank for this one, after all the kung fu films we watched when I was growing up. I’ve recently finished teaching Karate and will now be learning Kung Fu)
Be an artist (ok so painting my cousin’s little girl a hello kitty picture and making her a birthday card might be as good as it gets for me here, bar the odd bit of sketching on holiday).
Be a ‘proper’ Chinese person (born in England and being only half Chinese, I might have managed to hold on to lion dances at Chinese New Year, lanterns, dim sum, and my maiden name Cheung as singer Makala Cheung, but I want to learn the language. Ok, found a free website, now just got to do it!)
The point is, I don’t think your dreams really ever change much. Science might say we love being near water, but for me thinking about my dreams made me realise I love being in water (even the rain, minus hurricane winds). And that goes back to what The Element said to me about finding that thing, that thing that’s yours, that you just flow in and let go in and are your best and yourself in. And I know I haven’t quite got there yet, but I’m looking forward to a future of singing, writing, swimming, talking like my dad, and flying, or at least doing flying kicks!