Doing It All

 Circle time with the girls of Maasila home.

Circle time with the girls of Maasila home.

Throughout the month I lived in Pondicherry to volunteer and work to establish our partnership with the NGO team through Crown + Bliss, I was at the same time managing my creative teams and ongoing projects for Unbound Productions. I had an art director working with me from Tokyo, a copywriter and designer based in Toronto, a designer based in Portugal, and clients in Toronto and British Columbia and soon to be New Delhi, India. Most people would assume the workload of one company is enough to sustain the schedule of one individual, but to me, I knew my goals for the year were lofty and immersing myself only in one area of passion wasn’t enough. I say passion and not work because when I left for India back in November, I told myself that my life moving forward was going to be focused on creating a reality where my livelihood was based on passion and not “busy work”.

I’m the kind of person to take on as much as I can and only when I start to feel overwhelmed do I know that’s my threshold and it’s time to stop saying “yes”. Through good time management and organization, I’ve learnt over the years that my capacity is that of two people. Despite this being a positive, it does have major fallbacks. Without realizing it, I have a tendency to burnout and as a consequence I become extremely unmotivated and unproductive. Before this burnout occurs, I’ll go a full day and not eat or drink water because I’m so consumed by the work I’m doing – this isn’t healthy. Pondicherry was a test and lesson for me. To teach me how to live a balanced life that allowed me to hone in on my drive and do it all, but do it all in a healthy way. Everything with me is an extreme, I don’t know how to do anything with mediocracy. The moment I check-out and my effort is mediocre, this is my queue to move on and let go. I don’t believe any aspect of our lives should be mediocre. I don’t believe in settling. So, why should you?

 Yoga on the roof of the art gallery.

Yoga on the roof of the art gallery.

To assume that every aspect of your life is always going to be pleasant and fulfilling is a false sense of reality. But to know that the majority of your life most of the time is happy and fulfilling – that’s a win to me. We create our own reality, our own happiness, and our own fulfillment. It isn’t anyone else’s responsibility. Once we realize this, life becomes a lot easier to navigate. We then take things as they are and not what we project them to be. When we are able to look at everything objectively, we remove the irrational emotion and we become pragmatic individuals who aren’t unhealthily attached to material items and people.

The art gallery in Pondicherry that I called home created the perfect environment to help me learn how to instill balance in my life. I knew very clearly how I wanted to spend my time in general, but being on the move constantly didn’t allow me to exercise this was of living as easily. I had the opportunity to instill good habits, so as much as possible, I tried to do so. Every morning the first thing I did was sit for 20 minutes and meditated. Only after that would I pick up my phone and respond to emails and messages. Before sitting down for breakfast, I made sure to have at least 30 to 45 minutes of physical exercise – whether that was practicing yoga or going for a bike ride. I would then eat undisturbed and focus on enjoying what I was consuming. I slowly rebuilt my relationship with food and was eating not only for necessity but for enjoyment. In-between breakfast and lunch and then lunch and dinner I would divide my time between my businesses and volunteer initiatives. After dinner, I worked for 2 more hours before “turning off” and enjoying what was left of the day in whatever fashion I fancied. This routine in a way forced balance. I knew that when I left Pondicherry, I wouldn’t be able to have this structure, but I was hopeful this rigid routine would help to create good habits and a foundation for when I was immersed in the craziness of life. Previously, my life was a pendulum; where one aspect of my life was successful another area suffered. It was time to find that middle ground – that balance, that sweet spot. Once you reach that sweet spot, you’re operating at an optimal level and the world is your oyster. Learning to maintain that sweet spot takes constants work and reflection. Not to mention, being honest with yourself and adjusting where necessary.

 Taking a break and watching a son and father clean mussels on the pier.

Taking a break and watching a son and father clean mussels on the pier.

 Working from my cellphone from a beachside pool in Pondicherry, India on a Wednesday afternoon.

Working from my cellphone from a beachside pool in Pondicherry, India on a Wednesday afternoon.

Some people have enjoyment when they cook, but to me, cooking has always been out of necessity and not because of passion or interest. Cleaning and laundry is the same. Therefore, having wonderful staff at the art gallery to take care of these essentials allowed me to focus on what was important to me: self-care, volunteering, and my businesses. I’m sure some people would say that having this help is a luxury, but that’s only because an assumption is being made. The assumption being that you have to have or make lots of money to have these things taken care of by someone else. But that’s not the case at all… For less than $30.00 a day in India, I was able to have everything taken care of – this included the cost of my accommodation. The reality is the cost of living in North America is extremely expensive which puts pressure on everyone to continue to make more and more money. The need to make more money, takes away the focus of what is truly important to live a happy life.

I’m not suggesting everyone should move to a country where the cost of living is affordable like it is in India, that’s not a sustainable reality or even a desire for everyone. But what is attainable is to reflect on how we spend our dollars and if our spending habits are contributing in a productive way to our long-term wealth and future. For instance, at the end of every day I tally up how much I spent – this includes rent/a mortgage and my cell phone bill. Even if I don’t leave the house for an entire day, I’ve still spent money because of automatic reoccurring costs – don’t forget your Netflix subscription. When I was in Pondicherry, I was able to get my overall cost of living down to $39.00 a day. And this was me not wanting or needing anything – I was comfortable. I could never make this happen in Europe or North America, it’s just not feasible. Once you reflect on how much you are actually spending each day, your spending habits start to change and you think: “Hey! Maybe I don’t need that $5.00 coffee every day. Maybe if I made coffee at home 3 days a week which would only cost me $0.20 a cup, those extra dollars I would usually spend on buying coffee out can go into my long-term savings or that epic adventure I’ve been talking about doing but never could because I didn’t have the money”.

I believe in living in abundance and not wanting for anything, but in order for that to be a reality, you need to be smart about how you’re distributing your resources and how you save. My mother from a very early age taught me the importance of saving for a rainy day. And that’s one of the most valuable lessons everyone should learn - especially as our world continues to get more and more expensive.

It’s easy to jump to the conclusion of: “This is my situation and it is what it is and that’s that”. This could be our relationship with money or our relationship with our own happiness and fulfillment. Only when we think this way, is our potential limited and we stay where we are. Dream big and create your own reality. What’s stopping you?

 

Natasha AquinComment