One of my clients asked me the other day, "Arna, why are you so damned organized?"
I had to laugh. First of all, I'm organized in chaos. Secondly... well, let's dive deep shall we?
Back in Time
I remember when I first moved to the UK, I had to get a national insurance number (NI)... (TFN for Aussies). It was a process that took about 4 months. It's no easy feat, and involves an interview at a shabby office downtown. The way I was treated, I don't know how non-English speakers do it. I was trembling in my fake Ugg boots as they spoke down to me, making me feel as small as humanly possible. Now, at this time I was a poor uni student trying to get by. I didn't have much. I wanted to get a job so that I could support myself.
I wasn't able to get any job because I didn't have my NI yet. It was a bit of a weird cycle of looking for jobs, getting them, and then losing them because I couldn't confirm when I would get my NI. When you get turned down from not just 1 but 2 dream part time jobs as a 19 year old university student... it does something to you. It changes the way you look at the world.
Am I bitter? Not anymore. I put that to bed a long time ago. But am I a fighter? Yes. Do I have more sensitivity towards wanting to avoid that shame/fear spiral? Yes.
My body is wired not necessarily to avoid pain, but to avoid the shame/fear spiral. Nowadays, if I can pay for someone to deal with bureaucracy, I do. Because I don’t like going back to that. But, like with my accountant, I will do everything I can to make life easier for both her and me. I do monthly check-ins with my money, I am taking an online course to learn how to use Xero. I have all my receipts automatically saving in a folder.
When mindset coaches tell you that our bodies are wired to avoid pain… you should do a study on Taiwanese culture. We are wired to endure pain because we have a bigger goal to achieve.
Growing up in Taiwan post-White Terror into the birth of a democracy created a lot of chaos in the atmosphere. Tradition called for working hard. Toiling. The Mandarin lessons at school all had folklore describing the hard work that people put in. Every story was one of sacrifice, one of toil. The mama cat works very hard to catch mice for the baby cat. The farmer that also worked on his neighbor’s fields so we could afford to send his children to school…
It’s commonplace to put others before yourself. To sacrifice your happiness for others, particularly those of your elders. Even Confucius reminds us: the most minimal you can do is to support your parents (financially & spiritually).
In society it is almost normal to emphasize how much you’re giving up. You hear it in the way people speak, you see it in the way that they interact. It’s quite fascinating to watch when you can detach yourself.
And why is this? Because we have more common goals than other societies do. We have more filial piety (meaning: respect/devotion for our elders). Common goals include: marrying well, getting a good job, supporting our parents. Driving nice cars. Buying a bigger house. It's… honestly? It’s really showy. It’s very materialistic and I struggle with that mindset.
Regardless of the materialistic attitude, the common goals are all quite uniform. One sacrifice for the greater good is still very prevalent. Hence why Asia has been dealing with the COVID pandemic so well. We all wear masks, get our temperatures checked, etc, because we know that this is more important than our “freedom to not wear a mask” or “our ability to get a hair cut”. And as a result, the virus spreads at a far lower rate and is even entirely eliminated in some countries (*ahem* Taiwan).
While I’m not proud of all aspects of Taiwan, I have much to be proud of. And this attitude of “bigger picture” helps me with a lot of things. I come off as agreeable and kind because I don’t need to have my way all the time… when, really, I just don’t have a strong attachment to my own needs before others. I don’t mind watching a crappy movie because I’m not strongly attached to watching, well, any movie.
To come back to the bigger picture goals, I have used this particular concept of bigger-picture thinking and applied it to my own life:
My bigger goal is to serve as many people as I can through my talents. My bigger goal is to understand myself better so I can work to the best of my ability for others. My bigger goal is to empower women to be their unapologetic selves.
I’ve been watching a LOT of Hamilton lately (thank you Disney+) and I am haunted by one particular line: “History has its eyes on you”. It’s so powerful. I’m pragmatic enough to understand that maybe I can’t change the world, but I can change the world for many people. When I look back at my legacy, at the imprints I made, I want them to be one of positivity, strength, and unbridled joy. I don’t need a statue or even my face on a $10 bill. But I want to leave behind a positive imprint.
And so I endure. I endure the monthly tally of the crazy shit I spend money on. I endure the weekly tedious tasks of keeping my laptop desktop clear. I endure the crippling self-doubt that still creeps in time to time. I endure the fear my ego triggers in me. I endure the difficult lessons learned. I endure the eyerolls of others when I put myself first. I endure the jokes about my alter ego: wonderwoman. I endure it all. Because I know what lies on the other side. I know what bigger picture I’m fighting for.
Get Crystal Clear
When you are crystal clear on what it is you want, you are more willing to put in the work. When you are fired up because you can clearly articulate and visualise your results, you will make that damn spreadsheet and you’ll put in the extra hours. When it’s so clear, you can almost taste it (like I can almost taste my Audi Q series), that’s when you get really fired up and ready to work.