On mental health and listening

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I had a nice talk today about mental health with an old friend. My biggest takeaway is that I think the world needs to learn how to listen more.

Listening is a highly valuable skill. In fact, more than just a ‘marketable’ skill, listening should be a basic life skill. And yet it’s something very scarce in this noisy and highly audible world. With all the noise, do we ever, really, get the chance to talk sincerely to someone?

While I want to answer yes to that question, it’s just not that simple. I empathize with all the people having difficulty finding someone who would just essentially listen and not ‘listen to respond’.

We don’t always need answers. Sometimes, we just need someone who will listen to what we have to say. The world is complex as it is, and finding answers is not always the appropriate approach. Sometimes, asking the proper questions instead propels us to move forward more proactively.

Questions, I think, are extremely powerful. We ask questions because we are curious, driven, or want to discover or invent something. We ask questions because they fill us with wonder and excitement. We ask questions because we want to find out how to become better human beings.

If we lose the art of questioning, what sense of wonder would be left?

In mental health, asking questions can be very therapeutic, at least in my experience. You start to ask questions that relate to yourself. You ask questions that try to clarify what you are feeling at one particular moment. By having that main question in mind, you unconsciously map out your way towards finding answers while not being forced to do so.

And I think that’s the whole point of life. More than just finding answers on how to solve daily problems, asking questions gives us a sense of wonder and rewires our mind towards a certain goal.

The value of ‘baby steps’

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I’ve had this personal motto of doing things one a time. I don’t like doing several things at one moment because it ruins the quality of my work. So I do one ordinary task one at a time, with the hopes that it builds up to something relevant and impactful.

Taking your steps

Baby steps is a term that we probably hear quite often. In my own definition, it’s the habit of doing things one at a time and not overstretching yourself. It’s also a term that reminds us of our younger days when we were still trying to walk. Like a baby taking their steps, it’s akin to how we want to build up our own lives.

Our peers advice or tell us to rush and get that master’s degree, promotion, salary increase, special someone, family — what have you. But why the rush? Is it the ever-existent rat race? I think these are rubbish advice. I don’t understand the underlying motivation in those words.

So I looked onto taking baby steps. No more rushing and unhealthily pressuring ourselves. In the grand scheme of things, life is not something linear where you go a straight path. It’s an interconnected web of existence and personal discovery, loss, and rediscovery.

Taking your time

Like they say, time is our most valuable asset. When you refer to an asset, it’s something that you own and that it gives value to your life. And when you say something gives value, you hold on to that dearly. Which means — time is really the only thing we ever have.

I’ve been trying my best to manage my time wisely. I’m not an expert (is anyone really, ever an expert on time management?). I seek help whenever I have tasks that seem difficult to accomplish.

And the most important thing — it’s never really too late. Society gives us the illusion that you need to accomplish this or that at a particular age. But again, what are the underlying motivations for these words? We see so many people fulfilling their dreams at a very old age. It’s never really too late.

Taking your sanity

And of course — our sanity. We can accomplish so much in life and excel in virtually anything we put our minds into. But we also have to take care of our mental health. I think our mental health should be one of our biggest investments in life. We should nurture and make it grow in a positive light. We should ask for help whenever we can.

Whoever said life is easy? The fact that it’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous makes it exciting. But we have to find our safe space, search for our personal mission, and sustain our mental health along the way.