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Lifestyle Changes You Don't Necessarily Have To Adopt

by Rachel Yeoh. |

How is 2020 treating you so far?

Well, let’s not pretend everything is going smoothly and as planned. Not with the bushfires, rumours of wars, COVID-19 and the impending economic crisis.

However, during this time of turmoil, we can do a personal development activity. We can question the goals we set at the beginning of the year; which also happens to be the beginning of a new decade. I create goals every year but little did I know that those goals were an outcome of peer pressure.

Have you ever watched a YouTuber encouraging everyone to wake up at 5 AM every day to boost productivity? Or followed an Instagram influencer who advises her followers to travel because travelling teaches you many things you cannot learn otherwise? Or has a friend tagged you in a post where you have to join her on a mission to read 30 books this year?

Surely, I am not alone.

After years of living in guilt for not reaching my yearly ‘goals’, I realised I don't have to put myself through this. I don't have to follow goal suggestions just because it works for other people.

Here, I debunk some popular lifestyle changes you don’t necessarily need to adopt.

1. Read more books - You don't have to

I imagine all the bibliophiles staring me down because of this statement; but let me have my say, okay?

I love reading. In school, I used to read two to three storybooks each week (sometimes during History and Moral lessons). I continued devouring books until the real, unfiltered life caught up with me. In recent years, I’ve tried to catch up on my reading but always failed. In the end, I’d feel so guilty and wondered why I could not just commit to reading like I used to anymore. I mean, smart and successful people read loads of books, right? Does that mean I am on my way to be a failure?


Reading books should be a pleasure, not a necessity. Why take the joy out of reading by putting a quota? 

I believe that to be successful, you must be willing to learn; and there are so many mediums of learning. I know for a fact that I am consuming more content than I have ever done before. I learn new skills via YouTube, listen to talk shows and people debating about ideas via podcasts, I read dozens of articles on the daily, and I uncover stories by having meaningful conversations with the people I meet.

If you feel pressured to read more books, shrug it off. First world problems require first world solutions, babe!

2. Wake up early - You don't have to

As one who wakes up at 6 AM almost every day, I do not believe everyone should follow after my footsteps. Why? Because our body functions differently. 

So, why do some people stress about waking up early?

Because it is said to improve productivity.

Does that mean productivity only happens in the morning? Not true. If it was so I would wake up at 4 AM! You are only as successful as the schedule you put yourself on.

6 AM is the time when my mind starts running, my body starts waking, and my tummy starts growling to be fed with good food. All this, without the influence of coffee. 

In a media-saturated world, many influencers are calling for you to follow them. How about following your body instead. It does not matter if you are an early riser or a night owl; make the most out of it. Remember, it is not what time you start that determines your success, it is how much you accomplish at the end of the day.

3. Go travelling - You don't have to

Pandemic or not, travelling does not have to be a top priority. Even after this disaster is over, it is not urgent to pack your bags and leave for a faraway place, just because it is fashionable to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling. However, in recent years, I see the glorification of travelling as if it is something essential. It’s like ‘TADAAA, I’ve got a new fridge magnet to say that I have successfully travelled to this location on earth.’ 

Guys, travelling is not an accomplishment.

Instead of looking to learn and get cultured outside the Malaysian borders, why not do it within? There is still so much we don’t know about our neighbours and the people we share a country with. 

Other than the excitement of being in a new place, experiencing new things, and learning new things about a particular culture, has it made you a better person? If anything, I have developed a teeny bit of anxiety about not using the money to save up for my future.

Dave Ramsey, an American author and finance guru once said, ‘If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.’ You can afford a lot of things, does not mean that you should get it. You can still travel, but many are living like they don’t have the option not to.

4. Make more friends - You don't have to

‘Wah lao, so sombong.’ (tr: Wow, so arrogant.)

I experienced a major personality change in my mid-twenties when my extroverted self became introverted. From living the life of a party, I began to like being on my own. I became really lazy to meet new friends (much less make new friends). I preferred to huddle with the people I am comfortable with. At first, I thought I was getting into the bad habit of wanting to be exclusive. I later found out that it is okay to be with people I want to be with. I don’t have to be friends with the whole world.

After manoeuvring through people for almost 30 years, I kinda know the ones I can lean on and trust. With this in mind, I also want to invest in the quality friendships I already have. I also began being comfortable with myself and the validation from everyone else is not as important anymore.

If you don’t have close friends you can rely on, then put yourself out there and be a good friend. If you feel like it is a chore to keep up with your friend-list and feel it is a duty to make more friends, cut yourself some slack. Focus on yourself and be a good friend to the people who have always been there for you. Plus, having few friends does not make you a loner, don't let anyone preach that to you.

5. Create goals - You don't have to

You could, but it is not a must.

If you know what you want to achieve in your short term and long term goals, go ahead. However, what is most important is the system you create to achieve that goal. The great thing about systems is, you still can abide by it even without a goal.

What is a system?

It is something you do daily that forms a good habit.

For example, you want to lose weight - that is a goal. It can be a vague or specific goal, but a goal nonetheless. A system is when you tell yourself to skip carbs during lunch and go for a 30-minute run every weekday evening. Even if you don’t have a goal to lose weight, following that system will keep you healthy.

Another example would be going for Crunchin’ Mondays. It could be a part of your system too, where it becomes a habit for you to meet and set the tone for the month. Putting your mind on the process instead of the destination will bring you further in your self-development than you’d imagine.

So if you have ever failed to reach goals that you have always wanted to achieve, don’t get caught up in guilt. If you don’t have a goal, start with a system.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you feel like you are forced to do something that feels like a trend, and is not necessary, don't do it! You do you, work on your potential by doing what’s most effective for you.

You can also learn more about the writer on Instagram.

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