Recently I’ve had to pack my life into boxes, and I realized I’ve done that at least eight times in the past decade (AUS dormitories required us to clear the room every year so that partly explains the bloated number), but still…I realized that the process of packing can teach you a few life lessons if you pay attention to it.
1) One box at a time. While some people are into last-minute packing, I started one week before and just packed one box at a time. That made the task less stressful and daunting.
I don’t know who came up with the question in the picture above, but my immediate answer whenever I hear, “How do you eat an elephant?” is usually, “First tell me, why would you want to eat an elephant?”
But this elephant thing is a famous analogy for breaking up big and daunting tasks into pieces and focusing on each part one by one. It’s usually useful -with the right level of motivation. Sometimes it’s the low level of motivation that makes us start tasks on the last night before a deadline and then we realize that “Oh well, we don’t have time to finish it so…”
2) Books are heavy. I’ve always dreamt of owning a personal home library, but to have a personal home library one has to first have a permanent home. So an obvious solution to the accumulating book problem is not the easiest for book lovers, but we have to do it anyway; DONATE. For those who don’t know what to do with their books in Abu Dhabi, there’s The Book Shelter in the Circle Cafe in Khalifa City A, and from what I understood they have a branch in Dubai.
So we understand how heavy books can be physically, but the information contained within them can be analogous to weights for your mind muscles. It’s true that sometimes you have to plow through a three-hundred page book to get one single idea, but then that idea could transform your life…over and over and over again.
So keep reading, and for those who keep on packing their lives into boxes every few years, get a kindle. It’s a good investment.
3) Cleanse, detox, declutter…. Whether it is donating clothes, or getting rid of expired items, packing is always a good time for dumping some things into boxes and then dumping the boxes out. The life lesson is obvious here, get rid of whatever it is that is not working for you anymore. Sometimes it’s a habit, other times it’s a toxic relationship…be efficient and be relentless.
4) Don’t look inside other people’s boxes. It’s easy for us to compare our lives with the lives of others, especially with social media around. But comparing your life with that of others only lowers your self-esteem and makes you doubt your choices. So instead of peeking at what other people have in their boxes (figuratively of course), just focus on yours. Focus on your own roles, your own relationships, your own life. I’ve written about this before; the only person worth competing with is yourself.
5) Celebrate the small wins. Once you’re done packing, sit back, make good use of one of those boxes and use it as an ottoman as you sit back and put your feet up.
6) Last but not least, just let go. Packing teaches us how little we really need to survive, to carry over from one stage to another. It makes us really distinguish between the needs and the wants, the essentials and inessentials. We realize we actually can live without things we used to think we cannot live without…all we had to do was actually get thrown into a situation to try.
This image brings a smile to my face because of the contrast between the huge billboard ad and the man walking underneath it. On one hand, the ad tells you to wake up and save by buying a queen size bed with 2 free bedside table for around 1300 USD (or 4800 AED), while on the other hand, the man is awake (and could be actually saving – if not making money) by carrying cheap mattresses over his head.
Now I am not fully aware of the purpose of this man’s mattresses. Maybe he just bought them and he is taking them home (without having to spend money on the transportation). Or maybe he is taking them somewhere to sell. Whatever the purpose, I find it an interesting lesson about how there are some people in life who talk the talk without walking the walk, and others who walk the walk without talking the talk.
The other day I ran out of milk and had to take my coffee black. I remembered one of my friends who never understood those who drank their coffee with milk because milk masked the true taste of coffee. So I ventured and took a sip of my black coffee.
And I winced.
It was bitter.
But by the third sip my tongue had gotten used to it, and it made me think about how sometimes in life, a major crisis might hit us hard and blindside us, yet with time we learn to adapt the way my tongue adapted to the bitter black coffee. Such major crises – like the sudden loss of a job or the separation from a loved one – present us with an opportunity to stand back, take stock of the important things in our lives, fix our priorities, return to the drawing board and starting over from scratch. But more importantly such crises help reveal our true essence; who we really are. So when the clouds lift, we might realize that these events have helped us grow in ways we never imagined was positive, and it is only then that we learn to appreciate them.
As for the black coffee, it served its purpose well by inspiring this post, and after that I simply went back to having my coffee with milk. Some habits die hard.
So the other day, I was watching the cars passing by on the main street under our house – a strange pastime of mine – and I saw a guy riding a bicycle on the highway. Cars kept on appearing from view and disappearing as they rounded the corner, and the guy was cycling at a very leisurely pace. I wondered how he felt moving at a snail’s pace in the dust comparison with cars passing by at 100 kph at least.
But then again, can you compare the legpower of an average male with the horsepower of an engine? This guy made me see that sometimes in life, we really need to stop comparing ourselves to the people around us. Some may be prettier, smarter, have better jobs, or more friends, and we might be inclined to do preposterous things in an attempt to compete with them. But we need to remember that each one of us has a unique set of talents and qualities that makes us who we are.
Some might claim that comparing ourselves with others can be quite motivating, and it could be true to some extent, but at some point or another, frustration begins to set in, because wherever you are in life, someone will always be in a better position, and for every ounce of motivation we might get, we risk the chance of getting a pound of frustration, helplessness and worse of all, ingratitude and envy.
So sometimes it’s best for someone to make an inventory of their strengths and weaknesses, work hard to compete with himself, and be better than they were yesterday.
Hadeeth of the Day
عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : “انظروا إلى من هو أسفل منكم. ولا تنظروا إلى من هو فوقكم؛ فهو أجدر أن لا تَزْدروا نعمة الله عليكم” متفق عليه.
Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Look at those who are lower than you and do not look at those who are higher than you. That is more likely to prevent you underestimating the blessing of Allah on you.” [Agreed upon]
Hadeeth translation source: http://www.sunnipath.com/library/Hadith/H0004P0055.aspx