Getting to Know: Cat and Chrystle Cu of Cocofloss!

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unnamed-6Cocofloss is a product created by the sister duo, Cat Cu and Chrystle Cu. Cocofloss is a fun (and highly effective!) floss that is bridging the gap between a socially perceived arduous task, and a walk on the beach. Their vision imagines a future where everyone can keep their teeth for the entirety of their lives! Their reach is on the global scale, helping those at home develop good preventative oral hygiene habits, as well as those outside our borders, who may not have access to the tools and education needed to maintain a healthy smile. The truth of the matter is, flossing is not exactly exciting stuff… until NOW!

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Who are the imaginary minds behind Cocofloss? 

I’m Cat, and I started Cocofloss with my sister, Dr. Chrystle Cu! My sister is a tooth geek, philanthropist, and preventative dentist who graduated from Wellesley College and the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. I’m an entrepreneur, yoga-addict, and art-lover. I studied engineering at Stanford and worked in finance, art, and tech before joining forces with Chrystle to start Cocofloss.

What was the inspiration behind creating Cocofloss?

Chrystle is very prevention oriented – she’s that dentist who spends an hour educating each patient about their teeth and gums –  and Cocofloss embodies her dream to make taking care of your smile more effective and fun. Chrystle’s dream is for everyone to be able to keep their teeth for life.

I love how Cocofloss is geared towards making flossing a fun experience! What are some of your favorite aspects of the product?

I love the Caribbean-blue floss color. It evokes freshness and blue oceans full of possibility. And of course, it’s functional! Folks can see their progress flossing as plaque contrasts against the blue threads.

Which one is your favorite flavor? Are there any limited editions to try?

Watermelon! Just launched this summer as a limited run.

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What are ways that Cocofloss can incentivize people to develop good flossing habits?

Cocofloss delivers a flossing experience that’s both rewarding and fun!

When I ask a lot of young patients if they have been flossing, their main excuse is, “We ran out of floss in the house”. Tell us more about your 6 month floss plan!

Would you floss tonight if you knew more floss would be arriving tomorrow? Customer behavior suggests so!

If you guys have ONE piece of pro tip for people who can’t get into flossing, what would it be?

Flossing is an acquired taste. Floss daily for 21 days (the number of days it takes to create a habit) with Cocofloss and soon enough you’ll begin to crave it.

Would you care to share some of your favorite flossophies? 

Our flossophy:

Bliss is a life lived in balance – take an adventure and enjoy the familiarity of home, take something and give back something, set big dreams for the future and enjoy improvisation also, eat your cake and don’t forget to floss too!

I notice that you guys love to travel, just like me! I think it’s especially important that you’ve linked travel with having floss with you, all the time, when you’re on the go. Any tips on how to remember to floss during times when we are busiest and most on the go?

Keep floss in your bag so that you can floss whenever you feel like it and don’t be embarrassed to floss on-the-go! I’m often that awkward human flossing in public or on-the-go.

How is Cocofloss making an impact on a global scale?

We’d like to inspire folks to keep their teeth for life around all corners of the globe. To name a few, we’ve donated Cocofloss to communities in the Caribbean, the Philippines, and Mexico. The worldwide floss party is just getting started.

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I was born in the Philippines, so I share a connection with your mission. I, myself, personally returned home to Manila to give free dental care for a week. Can you share any insight as to how your experience was?

Chrystle:

The global tooth decay epidemic is so painfully real. What people need most is prevention and nutrition education. Unfortunately, sugar is used as a universal rewards across all cultures. We need to shift the way people think about rewards, and instead educate and reward with preventive tools like Cocofloss.

More on Philippines mission trip here (happy to discuss more also): https://cocofloss.com/blogs/cocofloss-life/a-note-to-the-kids-in-bohol-philippines

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How do you envision making preventative dental care attainable to all groups of people?

We’re using the internet and social media as vehicles for prevention education. Our Cocofloss website has free education for all, and we’re on a mission to make flossing something everyone looks forward to daily.

Where will Cocofloss go next?  

We have big plans to help folks find their smile wherever they go. Stay tuned!


A sincere thank you to Cat and Chrystle, who took the time to talk about what Cocofloss has to offer. If you’d like to read more about my personal experience with Cocofloss, check out my review here!

Recent Reads: The Circle by Dave Eggers

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Reading The Circle was like looking in a mirror, and realizing that you’ve become the person you most hate. There was only one truth, and it was nauseating to uncover. We live in a world where a particular system has been set into motion, one that makes it not only easy to cede our most personal information, rights, and freedoms, but also one wherein it’s almost expected of us to do so, in order to be considered normal, social beings.

Empathy is apparent even after a child is born. The way babies try to mimic other human’s emotions, the way children easily reflect another’s suffering or joy, these are evidence of the fact that our connection with other humans are a large part of who we are. Unfortunately, that social need is being used as a façade, underneath which a flurry of our most personal information is being exchanged, made public, and made known. We are voluntarily giving up our information in return for appearing social. We tag who we are with, where we are located, can track our closest friends, take videos of what we are doing, update our emotional and mental statuses, share our finances, and so on and so forth.

Actually, it seems to me that transparency is imminent, which can be good, but which also paves the path for potentially surrendering our most basic freedoms. What was so unsettling about reading this book was not the realization that the extreme, dramatized world that Eggers created is so close to our reality, but rather, the realization that we may be too far gone. The gut-wrenching part is that we, ourselves, are voluntarily helping to create this world every day, and I’m not sure we can stop it.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from The Circle by Dave Eggers.

“First of all, I know it’s all people like you. And that’s what’s so scary. Individually you don’t know what you’re doing collectively.”

“We are not meant to know everything, Mae. Did you ever think that perhaps our minds are delicately calibrated between the known and the unknown? That our souls need the mysteries of night and the clarity of day? Young people are creating ever-present daylight, and I think it will burn us all alive. There will be no time to reflect, to sleep, to cool.”

“It’s not that I’m not social. I’m social enough. But the tools you guys create actually manufacture unnaturally extreme social needs. No one needs the level of contact you’re purveying. It improves nothing. It’s not nourishing. It’s like snack food. You know how they engineer this food? They scientifically determine precisely how much salt and fat they need to include to keep you eating. You’re not hungry, you don’t need the food, it does nothing for you, but you keep eating these empty calories. This is what you’re pushing. Same thing. Endless empty calories, but the digital-social equivalent. And you calibrate it so it’s equally addictive.”

“And worse, you’re not doing anything interesting anymore. You’re not seeing anything, saying anything. The weird paradox is that you think you’re at the center of things, and that makes your opinions more valuable, but you yourself are becoming less vibrant. I bet you haven’t done anything offscreen in months. Have you?”

“Here though, there are no oppressors. No one’s forcing you to do this. You willingly tie yourself to these leashes. And you willingly become utterly socially autistic. You no longer pick up on basic human communication clues. You’re at a table with three humans, all of whom are looking at you and trying to talk to you, and you’re staring at a screen! Searching for strangers in… Dubai!”

“Under the guise of having every voice heard, you create mob rule, a filterless society where secrets are crimes.”

“If things continue this way, there will be two societies – or at least I hope there will be two – the one you’re helping create, and an alternative to it. You and your ilk will live, willingly, joyfully, under constant surveillance, watching each other always, commenting on each other, voting and liking and disliking each other, smiling and frowning, and otherwise doing nothing much else.”

We all know what’s happening. There is an awareness of the ways in which social media is eating us alive, swallowing our very beings, trapping our souls onto little screens. But we allow for it anyway. The far reaching consequences, the approaching implications, all of these are being masked by the jubilee we feel for being seen, heard, and known. We are made to believe that significance is more important than being free. 

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Play Pretend: A New Bathroom

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As thirty days of escrow continue to creep on by, I can’t help but daydream about all the fun we are going to have in our new place. Off course, not all at once and definitely not right away. Buying a home doesn’t completely absolve us of all other responsibilities! No, we’ll be making the home feel more like OUR home at a s-l-o-w pace, as if that wasn’t already expected. No need to rush in, all foolhardy. But for now, a girl can dream.

Currently, the obsession lies with the bathroom, specifically the one upstairs. It will likely be the first room that we plan a renovation for, with the hopes of tackling it sometime next year.  Why not right away? Because we believe in YNAB budgeting and maintaining a healthy balance between student loans and property ownership. Because we recognize that renovating any space is a WANT and not a NEED. Because sometimes, you just have to live with the selections of the previous homeowner, and still be grateful there’s a roof over your head, you know? Not in dire need of anything at all, the reno can wait, but my thoughts have a mind of their own. In an effort to source things ethically, here are a few products that I am playing pretend with. All products are either Fair Trade Certified, organically made, solutions for sustainable living, or have a social impact in third world countries. Some of them check off more than one box, too.

+ For clean butts and minimalist stylesTushy Bidet – I’ve written about a history of not using toilet paper until I was in my teens, here. Plus, friends rave about bidet living and I am pretty much ready to go back to a zero toilet paper life. For now, Who Gives A Crap has my back. But I still dream of a bidet for the sake of reducing my carbon buttprint. The US spends $6 billion on toilet paper alone. That crap is unsustainable. Additionally, in an effort to fight the Global Sanitation Crisis, Tushy has partnered with Samagra and has helped provide clean latrines for over 10,000 families. If you’re interested too, get 25% OFF all original Tushy bidets here! Plus, get Tushy towels for ONLY $5 with the purchase of any bidet. Ends 9/30.

+ For drying off after five-minute showersCoyuchi Towels – Fair Trade Certified and GOTS certified, these are loomed in India using organic cotton. For a no frills towel, I am looking at these guys, specifically in the slate color.

+ For keeping puddles off the floorCoyuchi Rug – A matching mosaic canyon bath rug, off course! Organic cotton and hand-woven, also in Slate. Why this infatuation with Coyuchi? Let me count the ways

+ For vanity above the vanitiesThe Citizenry Provdencia Mirror  –  Two matching mirrors over the vanity sinks. You’ve likely heard about The Citizenry by now, but these mirrors hold a special place in my heart. These mirrors were designed by Cristobal and Valentine, a husband and wife duo that lives in Santiago, Chile, and did you know that I, too, lived in Santiago, Chile for a bit? Citizenry gives people access to a market that they wouldn’t have otherwise, and in a fair trade working environment, these mirrors brought together multiple artisans from multiple backgrounds, such as glass, stone-cutting, and wood working. I want to support people from the city I once lived.

+ For the clothes that served usThe Citizenry Hamper – Hand–crafted from locally sourced palm leaves by master artisans in Guerrero, Mexico. Each basket takes three days to complete, from start to finish in a fair trade working environment.

+ To cover up – Ty Shower Curtain – A simple recyclable shower curtain made of #2 plastic material. Unlike other vinyl showers, it does not off-gas and it breathes, making it less likely to grow mildew or mold. Ty is made of 100% HDPE, one of the most common recyclable plastics and is PVC free. At the end of Ty’s life, you may recycle it locally or send it back to Grain to do the recycling. For the artistic, they also sell a customizable version here.

How about you? Any sustainable bathroom faves?

A Call for Movement in Our Sedentary Lives

I was sitting cross legged on the hardwood floors of my friend’s house, immersed in a board game that took three hours of our day and a hundred percent of my concentration, when one of us took the gold and the end of the game dawned on us, as well as a realization that our bellies have been grumbling for half an hour. As I pushed myself up, I felt that achey feeling in my hip joints, as my knees struggled with the unbending. My twenty-eight year old comrades were also having difficulty lifting limbs without cracking joints. It took a few seconds before the pain started to go away, as blood started to flow again. I’m not sure if you’ve ever felt this, but I feel this all the time. Even sitting in bed for an hour writing a blog post can trigger this spasm as I force my body into a new configuration.

A few months later, I read about how people in Japanese culture hardly have trouble at all with their hips and knees. I thought to myself, how could it be that an entire group of people in a particular culture could escape the achey pains that I attributed to age? As I looked more into the topic, I realized that these joints see a lot of movement in their lifestyle, since most meals are eaten on the floor with low tables, and beds are made of futons lying on the ground. Even Japanese worship comes in the form of kneeling and meditating on mats, rather than sitting or standing. Which got me to thinking, how does our sedentary lives affect our physical bodies? And down the rabbit hole I flew, constantly evaluating how non-movement in our everyday is slowly deteriorating our bodies over time.

Many of our physical ailments in later life are masked by medical terms. We give them a name, such as high blood pressure, and arthritis, and diabetes, and high cholesterol. Some say it is for lack of exercise, but I would like to dismantle that theory and say that it is caused by one thing: our lack of movement due to our sedentary lifestyles. We are humans, and our bodies need movement. It blows my mind that the common prescription by medical professionals is exercise. Exercise in the form of gyms and sports, an hour or two of our days before or after work, dedicated to, essentially, movement. But what’s the point of it all if it is negated by sitting (or standing) at a desk for 8 hours a day? We return back to being still, weighing down our joints, starving blood of flow anyway.

When you think about it, what a strange “need” exercise is. Growing up, my idea of exercise was composed of physical education classes (ugh!), gyms, yoga studies, tracks and machines; things that just don’t grow on trees. For this thing that we physically need, does it not seem strange that it doesn’t occur in nature? We know that the nutrients we need in food grows from a tree in the ground and is present in other living organisms which makes a lot of sense. The fact that the Earth contains what we need makes sense to me. But the fact that this exercise that I needed required factories and metal bars and air conditioning and music seemed a little bizarre. But that’s just it.

I don’t think our answer lies in exercise. I think it lies in movement. It also lies in the way we move. If we move in very stressful ways, trying to make gainz as some would call it, our bodies will be taxed. But constant gentle movement throughout the day can do us better. Why is it that we need to go to the gym? It’s so we can offset the rest of our lazy days. Think about how we moved as a species in earlier times. We moved to harvest our food, to collect water from a stream, to carry our babies. Now we have groceries, water filters, and strollers to do our work. It seems to me as if a life of convenience is the reason why we live sedentary lives.

Think of the implications of this one item: a chair. We choose to sit in chairs, rather than the floor. We go to the gym for an hour at a time to do squats. If we just get rid of the chairs in our home and workplaces, we would make this same squatting motion a hundred times throughout the day. Katy Bowman, a biomechanist who has been studying movement for twenty years recognizes the implications of this one piece of furniture. After the realization that movement is what keeps us healthy (not exercise), she has chosen to embrace couch-less living, futon sleeping, on-the-floor dining and barefoot walking. She has two young children, which some may argue calls for chairs, but they have no chairs at their home. She has chosen to implement these intentional addition of inconveniences for the improvement of their health. Creating a home that requires one to move is a way in which we can turn away conveniences and choose a healthier lifestyle for ourselves.

“If aliens came down and looked… it would be clear that we prioritize sedentarism, culturally… that that’s of value, so that we can maximize our time gathering income through the least amount of effort as possible. That’s actually our culture in a nutshell….As the culture, whether they are aware of it or not, buys into the idea that less movement is better, (aka: more convenience is better, because those statements are inter-changable), it becomes more and more challenging in our habitat to find movement because the technology is there before we can even request it”

-Katy Bowman

She has even gone so far as define these everyday movement as nutritional. We all know that we need food,  and we know that not all food is equal. There are more nutritional foods that our bodies need to be healthy. Likewise with movement. We all know we need some form of movement, but it has been sold as simply exercise. But our bodies need more than exercise. Movement needs to come in different ways, with certain frequencies, engaging multiple body parts. The fact is that movement should be elements of all parts of our day.

What happens, though, when we tell a group of people that they need to move more? An avalanche of excuses start to collect. Most frequently, the excuse that we do not have time in our day, which is far from the truth. We need to prioritize body movement more than work and money. What is the point of being rich and successful when your body ails you? I don’t know about you guys but I don’t want to be forty and creak like the floorboards of my grandma’s home. What we are talking about is not something unattainable or difficult to do. Take a few minutes each hour to do hand stretches. Make chairs taller so that your feet can’t reach the ground, and you can kick, kick, kick. Put phones far away from your reach, so that you physically have to get up and get it. Take an interest in fixing things at home for yourself, instead of hiring a handyman. Eat with your hands once in a while. Walk barefoot on the lawn. Bike to work, if you can. Take a walk on your lunch break as you eat a sandwich, instead of sitting in a break room watching TV. Take the stairs to the sixth floor of your office instead of an awkward elevator ride. Park your car as far as you can from the entrance of your workplace. Carry your babies on your back when you are traveling or running errands. Add inconvenience back into your lives, for health’s sake.

How the Mr. Debtist Implemented A Zero Waste Change at the Workplace

We all have potential to make change. I am a firm believer in one’s ability to be an influencer for others in the name of good. But I was still extremely surprised (and very impressed) when I learned that my own Mr. Debtist implemented a change of his own at his workplace.

As you all may know, Mike is a big coffee lover. He has a friend at work who owned his own coffee roasting company, and his coffee beans were featured at our wedding. Between the two of them, they alternate bringing local third wave roaster’s beans to work, making a batch of pour-over each day. Typically, each batch will result in left-over coffee, so they’ve made a habit of sharing the left-over with co-workers who are in need of a cup of Jo.

The problem Mike was seeing was that people kept coming up to them to fill up disposable styrofoam cups provided by the break room. He realized that their coffee sharing has resulted in 2-3 styrofoam cups entering the landfill each day. So one day, he spoke up. He said that he is trying to live a zero waste lifestyle and that he does not want to contribute more plastic to our environments. Because of this, people can only drink the left-over coffee if they bring a re-usable cup.

The amazing thing is that now, every co-worker around them comes with a re-usable mug. Maybe the free coffee was worth the change. But by simply speaking up, Mike has been able to implement a zero waste policy amongst his nearby co-workers at his workplace. It was a reminder, even for me, that we all hold potential. And that staying silent can do no good. So if there is some change you want to see in your own environment, remember that it starts with you.

 

The Student Debt That is My Privilege to Own

I frequently write on the blog about the effects that my student loans have on my lifestyle. Specifically, the weight of such a heavy thing to bear, and the astounding cost that it takes to pursue a dream career. It’s shaped so much who I’ve become, that I have even adopted the cheeky, and equally lame, pseudoname “The Debtist”. Amidst the writing, one thing in particular may have been misconstrued. That is, this whopping student debt, though extreme to say the least, is my privilege to own.

I never spoke about this before, but my mother wanted to become a doctor. It’s hard to say which came first. If she wanted to become a doctor and that’s what led me to decide on dentistry at a young age of eight years old, or if I voiced my dream to become a dentist which prompted my mom to share her own aspirations to become a doctor. Either way, one dream came true, and the other remained just a dream. My mom is a very highly motivated and smart person. She was the top student of her class, from kindergarten until high school, which, in the Philippines and in the 70’s, having a female as the top of the class was not a common thing. She was the first feminist I have ever met, and I would say that she was way ahead of her time. In the Philippines, there is no such thing as undergraduate school. After high school, you go to college for your chosen career and work right out of college. When it came time to applying for college, my mom applied to two majors: one was medical school, and one was engineering school. Why did she apply to both?

She was born to a family with eight children. Of the eight, she was the middle child. Despite being a relatively well-off family, providing for a family of eight with one working person in the Philippines is still not an easy feat. Money can be tight, at times. Back home, there was no such thing as student loans. In order to go to medical school, one would have to pay for the tuition costs up front, in cash, 100%. And medical school is very, very expensive. If my mom were to go to medical school, she would need to come up for the money herself, because her parents were busy trying to keep a family alive.

She remembers the story well, and every time she re-tells it, it makes my heart sink. She chose engineering as a back-up because it was inexpensive, and still a math and science related career, the two subjects she excelled at most. The day they found out if they got into their schools of choice, the results of the engineering school were released first. A list was posted on a school wall with the names of the students that were accepted. When she found out that she got accepted to the engineering school, she immediately accepted it and never looked back. She never did look at the results of the medical school, which were released later that day. I asked her why she never looked to see if she got in, and she says, “Why would I? There was no way I would have been able to go anyway. I might have just been sad my whole life knowing that I was accepted and could not have gone.”

Having student loans is the reason that I am a doctor and my mom is not. Although it does not cost half a million dollars to become a doctor back home, there lies an even bigger barrier, which is the lack of access to an opportunity to create an equal ground for all citizens. Student loans are a heavy toll, but they are what allowed me to pursue my dream in the first place. Because without them, I would not have been able to afford dental school, either.

I became a dentist because of a deep interest in helping others. I was recently asked in an interview whether I knew what I was getting myself into. Specifically, if I knew the cost of dental school prior to applying and if I knew the average salary of a dentist in my area that I would be making when I got out. My answer was no. It may seem absolutely foolish to enter a career without knowing those facts, but at the same time, I didn’t become a dentist to be rich. So to me, money was not at the forefront of my thoughts. The implication was that I did not know what I was getting into and this is why I am in this mess in the first place. But that isn’t true. Money was not my motivating factor, so I doubt it would have been a deterring one either. Money never made it into my life equation. The minute money dictates whether one pursues a dream is the minute that money wins. I was going to become a dentist so that I could help those in need, no matter the cost. Even now, I look at my loans and realize that 100% of my income goes towards paying for my education over the next ten years. Essentially, I will be working for free until I am in my mid to late thirties. However, I simply attribute that as a medical professional’s responsibility, to sacrifice a bit of our lives for others. Don’t get me wrong. The high cost of education still irks me, and I still question the value of the money that goes into the schooling in terms of what you get out of it, but I understand that this is just part of the process of becoming who I am in this particular educational system.

If anything, I have my loans to thank for creating such a meaningful and intentional life. I can’t say for certain that I would have ever created such a disconnect from material goods and money, or a heavier importance towards gratitude, giving, and general non-maleficence if it didn’t come from a necessity to live with less. The loans have forced me to live without the trivial things, thereby adding value in the form of the priceless. This is why the loans are so much a part of who I am, and why I am willing to identify myself as a Debtist. In the interview, I realized that the loans were misunderstood as something that is all-bad, but they are not. Instead, I am using them as my driving force for good.

I would like to thank my mom for being the inspiration that pushed me through with my decision to pursue dentistry. Even though I may not be financially free, I am grateful to have had the freedom to become whoever I wanted to be, with the understanding that being able to pursue the thought of financial freedom is a privilege in and of itself.

Thoughts on: The Power of Small Changes

I live my life through small changes. Every moment is a chance to traject the course to destinations anew. Wanting to make change can be disheartening, if expectations are misguidedly unrealistic. It’s easy to view change as a beginning and an end. The tendency for most is to skip over the middle. Thus, embarking on a journey towards a lifestyle shift can feel, at times, as if you’re going nowhere. Trust me, I know after making $84,000 in student debt repayment and just barely reducing the initial principal by $34,000. More importantly, trust the process, and never underestimate the power of small changes.

The tried truth of the matter is, there is a middle that we never see. Success stories aren’t as cool when we linger on the drudgeries. Passions aren’t so epic when we highlight the failures. No one is EVER going to sit through a TV interview of a millionaire explaining that he became a millionaire by being frugal. None of those are exciting stories, so none of them sell. But these stories are more helpful to those that are pursuing a dream, because they are closer to the truth. So when people ask me how I got to slow living, how I woke up from zombielike reverie and jumped off the hamster wheel, they expect me to say that some point in my life, some experience, led me to where I am now. But that isn’t true. I simply started to watch a lot of documentaries, read a lot of books, reflect on my experiences, and it wasn’t one particular book or documentary or even moment in time that resulted in an epiphany. It was the slow accumulation of knowledge that little by little, moved me in the direction of making small changes towards slow living. Even today, the journey continues. I can’t give you a one word Hollywood answer, a simple solution to your own search for a slower life. But I can stress the importance of the middle.  

We cannot expect results to be instant. More importantly, we cannot give up when they are not. Trusting the process means that we understand that by doing something (anything!), we are by definition, never standing still. I had a friend once ask me to explain how I seem to get so much done. “Do I have a to-do list? Is it made daily, weekly, or monthly? Do I set goals?” Every question was focused on an end. The answer is, I do create a to-do list. I create a monthly one at the beginning of every month, and I create a daily one for the days that I do not have to go to work. The monthly list gives me a general direction, but more importantly, allows me to reflect on what I want for myself in the near future. The daily list is only made on my days off, when I have so much free time that I want to make sure I do not idle away too much of it.

The same friend returned to me about two months later. I asked how his progress was with some of the goals and dreams he shared with me a few months ago, and his answer was “slow”. He placed a lot of them on hold, because he felt too much overwhelm. He reported that he had tried to make a list every day and to check it all off, but he could never finish as much as he wanted. The result was a lot of frustration at his inability to make change. This frustration then led him to take a break.

What I failed to mention to him, which I clarified at this later conversation, was that the list is there to serve as a light. I jam pack my list with all the things I want to accomplish, but I hardly ever get to check all of them off. The mindset differs in the fact that I look at the ones I did check off, and think to myself, “Look how far I’ve come.” As for the rest, they are re-written again for the next list on another time, another day. The ability to do this lies in the non-expectation of an end result. When I want an end-result right away, I too, feel frustration, stress, anger, and insufficiency. I’ve been there, many times! But that does no one any good. So instead, look at it from a place of gratitude. You were gifted with one additional day, and you added to your life in different ways. Forget that you didn’t get to the end. There is so much joy to be found in the anticipation of an end result, that more often than not, the end seems a bit underwhelming when we DO reach it anyway.

So here is a short, quick guide on how to implement small changes in order to achieve even larger ones, at a slow, steady pace.

  • Start with a list. As mentioned above, I write a list in the beginning of the month that I want to see myself accomplish. Something as simple as “Read Two Books” or something more complicated like “De-clutter my Life”. Obviously, the latter requires a bit more work. These more difficult ones, I break down into steps on my daily lists. For example, I would have on my to-do list “De-clutter the closet” on one day, “De-clutter the pantry” on another day, “De-clutter relationships” on yet another day, and so on. The most important thing is to act on these small changes, without expecting to accomplish the big change. Eventually, the small changes add up, and you’ll soon realize that you’ve accomplished the big one, even if it IS a few months down the road.
  • Let go of the list. Give yourself the space to NOT accomplish, and that will be more helpful than locking yourself in with the pressures that cause you to give up completely. Sometimes, we don’t finish, which simply means that there’s another time and place for that change to occur. Let it go, and revisit later.
  • Create mini challenges. I absolutely LOVE mini challenges. I do them ALL the time. Sometimes I call them my own personal social experiments. When I wanted to stop contributing to plastic waste, I started with the challenge of bringing a reusable bottle all the time. I then moved up to not using plastic grocery bags. And then I challenged us to not buy any plastic grocery shopping. Eventually, we graduated to the challenge of not buying take out foods which use plastic. We created the challenge of not using a straw whenever we order a drink. The funny thing is, all these mini experiments are small changes that end up sticking with us and changing our habits. We now hardly introduce any plastic into our lives, through the slow process of adding in one small change at a time. Imagine if we embarked by cutting out all plastic completely, and at once. Would we have been able to push through without feeling despair? Probably not! Creating mini challenges are an absolute fun, easy, light-hearted way to change a lifestyle.
  • Be Optimistic. I don’t believe in the word negligible. I am very optimistic about how far our actions can take us, as well as how we can change a world. Be optimistic and trust that the small changes you are making do have an effect, even if you can’t quite see it yet.
  • Let Go of the Expectations. Expectations could be the most detrimental part of the journey. It makes us feel as if we aren’t enough. Let all that negativity go, and just go with the flow.
  • Slow and steady. But mostly, steady. This is another way of saying, keep it going. Small changes are great in that they are akin to a snowball. Once you make a change, the next change becomes easier, and easier, and easier. Once we see the world in a different way, we become more open to different perspectives. Once we question how society raised us, we find less fear in questioning everything. When you ask the question, “Which is stronger, a rock or a river?”, it is easy to say a rock. But when you look at the way a river forms a canyon, and you can see how the steady flow of some small force can be strong enough, over time, to change a larger structure. Slow and steady wins a race, but mostly, steady.

 

Seeking Discomfort

We all know what comfort feels like. If you are reading this blog post, you most likely have access to a computer and the internet, and you have a place to sit in which to read this post from, which indicates to me that you probably have more than what you need to live a comfortable life. Comfort makes us feel more content, and contentment makes us feel happy. However, sometimes, I absolutely dislike being comfortable.

When I feel comfortable, I know I am not growing. I know that I am doing what I am good at or what I have experienced before. Typically, I am not doing anything new. I know that I am not pushing myself, or creating changes in a default society. None of these things make me feel comfortable at all. Thus, I am always searching for points of discomfort.

When you experience discomfort, you suddenly notice all the things you had that made you comfortable before. You become grateful for your life and the surrounding circumstances that keep you content. There is this moment where one realizes that other people may be in more unfortunate situations, which lends said person a small insight into their existing fortunes. Mike and I had an experience in New Zealand where we decided to do a three day trek through the Fiordlands. Unfortunately, on the day we set out, a massive storm came to pass. We were being jostled in the wind, drenched to the bone (underneath supposed water-proof clothing), and exhausted after being beaten down by Mother Nature on a six hour journey up a mountainous land. When we got to the lodge, we were never more grateful. The roof kept us dry, the showers were warm, and we were off our feet. Simple things became things of great pleasure, and were suddenly considered luxuries! So, discomfort can be good, because it reminds us true differences between basic needs, and excess wants. Our perspective is refocused and we are able to look at the world anew.

Aside from refocusing our perspectives to places of gratitude, it is also good to seek discomfort once in a while, in the name of progress. My boss always tells me, “I like being uncomfortable! It means something new is happening. It means I am learning, I am growing, and at the very least, I am trying.” I love that constant drive to keep moving forward, rather than standing still.

We all feel uneasy when we go outside of our comfort zone. It’s instilled in us from birth, to protect us as a species from potential harm. But all of mankind’s greatest achievements would never have been achieved if no one powered through that feeling of unease, sometimes for the sake of curiosity, sometimes for the sake of necessity. Thus, I am always in search of things that bring me slight discomfort. I don’t throw myself carelessly into questionable situations. I do not riot against society for the sake of rioting. But I ask questions. I put myself out there. I agree to do new things, always, even if I am afraid (also always). There is this misconception that great people become great because they are made of the right stuff. It’s easy to believe that they were born with some drive that the rest of us were not. It gives people the excuse to continue being, well, where they are. The truth is that they are made of the same stuff as you and I, filled with the same fears and the same doubts, born with the same small voice that shouts “Go with the flow” when they are pulled in an opposite direction. The separation lies in the fact that they know deep down that, failing at something is NOT worse than failing to try. And I feel a little bit of that, too.