I don’t typically do a countdown of sorts to welcome the New Year. Recently, however, I came across an interesting school of thought called The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. Watch his Ted talk here. Witty presentation and entertaining as hell, too.
According to Achor, we have a twisted view of happiness and success. Our brains are wired to think that if we work harder, we become more successful. The more successful we get, the happier we become. That is our current formula for success and happiness. After years of research, what he found out is that our brains work in reverse! When we train our brains to be positive, we are more productive, more resilient, and yes, more successful.
So what does this have to do with me? (or you, for that matter) Well, what this simply means is that we underestimate the power of positive thinking. Note that the operative word is train, which involves a conscious, wilful effort towards achieving it. One of the strategies Achor highlights to start creating the ripple of positivity is to list down the things you are grateful for every single day. And this is how I want to start the year – light, positive, and just plain thankful for the awesome year that was.
On average, one year gives us probably around a hundred noteworthy experiences – good and bad, pleasant or otherwise. I have narrowed mine to seven. And since my goal for this post is to be as positive as I can, here are the seven best experiences that made my year awesome and memorable in different ways.
Swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob. Oslob is a quiet town in the southern part of the Cebu province. Well, it used to be quiet until word got around that whale sharks (butanding, in the local language) were spotted in the beaches. Oslob became a sensation. Everyone wanted to go there to see the whale sharks, including yours truly. So several of my work colleagues and I packed our swimming gear, cramped ourselves in a rented multicab, and drove around 2 hours to Oslob. And it was beautiful. Just like a lot of Cebu towns, it was rich in cultural heritage. The whale sharks did not disappoint, either. The experience was breathtaking and a little scary – swimming just meters away from live creatures bigger than you with nothing between you and them but just water. And those mouths! Oh my god, I think if they really wanted to, they could suck you right into their mouths. I had this irrational fear that they would gleefully chomp down my legs, but thank God, it never crossed their minds. As we were leaving, my heart sank when I saw chips of paint on their mouths from bumping into the boats. I just wish there was a better way of taking care of them. We drove back to the city that afternoon and as we were driving along the south road properties area – as if on cue, fireworks lit up the sky. Amazing. Seeing the colours engulf the black night in smoke and light. That would have been a perfect ending to a beautiful day. Until the engine of the multicab conked and wouldn’t start. Epic fail. We were stuck for about an hour until help came along. Nevertheless, it was a great day and we had a pretty good laugh about it.
Writing my bucket list. A bucket list is simply a list of things you want to do or experience before you die. I never thought I’d make one for myself. But the whale shark encounter in Oslob really inspired me, along with the realization that the clock is ticking and there are so many things I still wanted to do, experience, or make out of this life. Some of them reasonable. Some of them just plain crazy. But who cares, right? My life, my rules. I once wrote a post on the difference between existing and living. Writing my bucket list made me look into my own heart and define for myself the kind of life I want to live. My bucket list is my personal manifesto, a promise to myself to not waste this life, and a declaration to live out my dreams. You see, life is so random that I want to put a little more deliberate-ness into this random-ness. I don’t know if it makes sense to you but it does to me. And strange as it may sound, I have a really good feeling that going after each item in my list will teach me a thing or two about life and living. So I am quite the excited little kid. And the world is my playground.
Learning how to drive. I wanted to learn how to drive for a number of reasons, the most ridiculous of which is getting another valid, government-issued ID in the form of a driver’s license. On a more serious note, I wanted to learn how to drive so I don’t have to keep asking my brother or my father to drive me to where I want to go. Also, one of my items on my bucket list involves driving so learning to drive is simply a means to an end, not the end itself. Anyway, I took driving lessons last year and learned the basics. A little more practice and mastery should do the trick. So for now, it’s a work in progress.
Taking up a crash course on film. The last time I dabbled in film was during my college years for my thesis. I love watching films. Creating one is a different story though and requires a lot of patience and hard work. The filmmaking course was offered on a scholarship. I got in, attended the classes, and produced a 5-minute film about Mega Cebu.
Auditioning for a musical play. Another item in my bucket list. The thing with a bucket list is that once you put each item into writing (and does not remain as some vague idea in your head), you have signified your commitment to doing everything your power to make it happen. If you are gunning for a life with no regrets, this commitment might be the extra push you need to keep going despite the frailty of your convictions. When I woke up in the morning of the audition day, I wanted to get sick. My feet were cold and it felt as if I drank a dozen cups of coffee. I was nervous and jittery all over. My heart was in my throat and my mind flew somewhere else. Anyway, to make the long story short, I walked into that audition and went as far as the final casting audition. I’d have to say I enjoyed going through the process. It was all very new and exciting to me. In the end, I didn’t make it to the play but I have ABSOLUTELY no regrets. Well, until next time then. J
Traveling to Shenzhen, China. In 2011, I traveled to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Davao. I thought for 2012, I’d lie low and save for a major trip in 2013. But I guess I got lucky. Our team decided to hold our teambuilding exercises in Shenzhen, China. I always feel ecstatic when I travel. And who doesn’t? It’s an adventure, a trip outside of your comfort zone. It means meeting new people and immersing yourself in a new culture and a new way of life. Geography can be very limiting. Yes, I am referring to the physical boundaries that separate nations, cities, and towns. Traveling gives you the opportunity to look at life in a different lens. It liberates you from your own narcissism and ignorance. Plus, you get to learn about yourself or the people you’re traveling with.
Getting inked. Safe to say, I did not end my year with a bang. It was more like bzzzzzzt. A buzzing sound like that of a bee, except that it came from an electronic needle that stung my flesh over and over again. Getting a tattoo is an item on my bucket list. People have asked me why the hell I wanted to undergo such torture. I guess it’s my own way of testing my limits; in this case, my tolerance for pain. Tattoo, check!
The bar has just been raised and 2013 is going to be a tougher year – because playing it safe in the status quo is a dangerous thing. I hope my 2013 will be bold, risky, and adventurous – in a positive way. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. I’m taking it easy, one milestone at a time. I super love what one of my favourite writers, Jeff Goins, says: "Some of the best things in life cannot be planned. They can only be enjoyed. So go. Live. Be surprised."