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It may have been a bad year, but it's not a bad life

It's that time of year, when we reflect, think about lessons learnt, and make decisions


THERE'S something about the passage from one year to the next that leads people to think about their lives. In the midst of all the festivities and revelry, it's also a time where we finally look at ourselves in the mirror and make decisions on what we really want.

Don't believe me? Studies based on Facebook's relationship statuses found that December is one of the peak periods for break-ups, and no, it can't all be blamed on the winter blues. My point is, this is a season for some major life reflections. That's why New Year's resolutions have never gone out of style, even if we never keep them.

In my column, I usually let the industry experts do the talking. But this year, allow me to share some of my biggest lessons learnt.

1. Jump first, and build your wings on your way down

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This sounds completely wild, but let me first say that I am referring to calculated risks here. This year, I switched teams - moving from the Content team that covered online and foreign news to news desk. I am also the editor of The SME Magazine, a supplement of The Business Times.

In the beginning, I fretted about every single thing - from my lack of financial background to my knowledge of SMEs. I constantly doubted my ability to handle the new responsibilities, even losing sleep in the process. I kid you not.

It's been a steep learning curve ever since, with me running after the last bus more often than I can count. It's been uncomfortable, it's been painful, and to be honest, there have been moments when I still wonder if I'm up to the job. But frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way. Every day I am being challenged and being forced to grow a bit more, and for that, I am grateful.

On a related note, I have done several stories this year on how women hold themselves at work. It's been completely eye-opening, to say the least. In my research, it seems that women tend to be more affected by the imposter syndrome, where they end up feeling like a fraud at work. Another study also found that women don't raise their hands for promotions or a new job unless they meet 100 per cent of the criteria, while men are confident applying with just 60 per cent.

So now my mantra to daunting new opportunities is this: Say yes first, even when you feel wildly unqualified. I have found that the biggest battle is always in the mind. If you can get over that, you can get over anything.

2. Know your non-negotiables

One thing I realised this past year is to draw boundaries around something that is important to you, and then protect it. This concept is nothing new, but it's something that I have only experienced for myself this year.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer described it as finding your rhythm, or what matters so much to you that you become resentful of your work when you miss it.

Actor Dwayne Johnson, better known as The Rock, calls it finding his anchor. According to him, his non-negotiable act is to hit the gym to train at 4am in the morning, even if he had a late night filming that ended at 1am. Even as the richest actor in the world in 2016, it is a sacred ritual that he keeps. In his Instagram post, he wrote: "You find it, you apply it and you protect it."

It is no coincidence that top executives all over the world protect their ritual. The higher the stakes are, the more we need to guard what keeps us grounded.

Call it your rhythm, call it your anchor - we all need this in our lives, whether we consciously realise it or not.

For me, frivolous as it sounds, it was sacrificing my exercise regime due to my erratic work hours. I had no problems with long hours or giving up on dinner dates with friends, but constantly having my work out plans derailed because of sudden work assignments left me feeling cheated and increasingly resentful.

But after a while, I realised that you don't just FIND time for what matters to you - you've got to MAKE time. In the end, I made the effort to rearrange my schedule, by going to the studio early in the morning before work starts proper. That way, I am able to keep what's important to me and yet not compromise on my deadlines.

3. Be obsessively thankful

Lately, I have seen a lot of cynicism in a lot of people who tell me: "Work so hard, in the end for what?" But getting jaded about work and life doesn't just happen overnight, it takes years of resentment and disappointment to build. It's the little grievances in your day to day that add up.

I know it's needless to say that there is no perfect workplace or a perfect employer, but we all need reminding that people are only human and they will let you down at one point or another. Pinning all your hopes and expectations on your career or your job will only leave you disappointed.

Even on the worst days, I tell myself this: It's a bad day, not a bad life. There's always something to be grateful for.

Now, I make it a point to celebrate little things at work and not be hung up about things I cannot help. I could beat myself up on every single silly mistake or criticism, but what good would it do? The hardest part is to brush it off and get better.

The other day it suddenly occurred to me that the Cubicle Files column is almost one year old. My very first piece came out Jan 2, 2016. Since then, writing this column has been the best part of my week, hand over heart.

If there is one thing that I'm most thankful for in 2016, it's all you readers who have been so encouraging and generous in sharing your stories with me. There is nothing quite like celebrating small wins to keep you going. It might not be much in the eyes of others, but it matters to you, and that makes all the difference.

On that note, here's wishing all our BT Weekend readers a very happy new year. So what lessons have you learnt the past year? I would love to know.